Overall, Ben Roethlisberger’s return to the offense this season has been spectacular. He’s been managing the game, making plays, running the show that’s totally transformed the Steelers’ unit from where it was a year ago. About the only blemish are the unusually high number of tipped passes by defensive linemen, including one that led to an INT Sunday against Tennessee. Talking with the media Wednesday, Roethlisberger explained why that’s happening.
“I just got out of Coach Randy’s office,” he told reporters via the team. “We were talking about some things and that came up. Obviously, when you do the RPO game, the run-pass option, the ball is going to have to come out quick because it’s a run kind of play. You have to get the ball out quick. Sometimes, the blocking is not there. Sometimes when you’re throwing a lot of the underneath stuff and quick routes, the ball has to come out of your hands quick, and it’s going to, obviously, be a lower pass. Coach Tomlin says all the time, “If you’re not going to get home, get your hands up.” I think that’s what we are seeing a lot from defenders when they think they’re not going to get home or they think the ball is going to come out quick, they’re just getting their hands up.”
No quarterback in football is releasing the ball quicker than Roethlisberger who does so in about 2.3 seconds. It’s one reason why he’s getting sacked as infrequently as ever, something we wrote about Tuesday. Defenses know that too. So there’s an extra focus on getting in the way of throwing lanes and expecting the quick game. That’s what DL Jeffrey Simmons did this past week.
Sunday’s game versus Tennessee wasn’t the first time it’s happened to Roethlisberger. The Broncos also tipped multiple passes. And in 2018, a year where Roethlisberger also got the ball out quickly, batted balls were an occasional problem.
Still, Roethlisberger isn’t worried about the issue long-term.
“That’s creating some tipped balls, but we’re not too alarmed with it yet.”
It’s unfortunately a byproduct of the team’s mindset. There’s pros and cons to virtually everything you do on the field. Hold onto the ball longer and you increase sacks and fumbles. Get the ball out quicker and you increase the chance of passes getting tipped. On the whole, Roethlisberger’s rhythm throwing has produced more good than harm and it’s a big reason why he’s still playing football at 38 years old.