Nobody in the NFL blitzes more frequently so far this season than the Baltimore Ravens do (even more than the Pittsburgh Steelers, though they are second). The good news is that Ben Roethlisberger has been one of the best quarterbacks in the league so far this season in facing the blitz.
Via Pro Football Focus, Roethlisberger has faced a blitz on 69 dropbacks so far in 2020. He has completed 43 of 67 pass attempts for 506 yards, averaging 7.6 yards per attempt (compared to 6.4 yards per attempt when not blitzed), throwing five touchdowns to one interception, with a quarterback rating of 105.7. He has only taken one sack against a blitz and thrown one ball away. He has also had three passes batted, but has suffered six dropped balls.
Count offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner among the many who are far from surprised by the fact that a 38-year-old quarterback who has been a starter for 17 years has learned to handle the blitz over the course of time, as he told reporters on Thursday.
“I think has so many perspectives, so many opportunities to have seen it. There probably isn’t much he can say is actually new in football that would be new to him”, he said, via transcript. “He can be surprised. Sometimes you get unique looks that challenge a protection scheme, but as a general rule, I think, self-preservation to some degree, you know he wants to get the ball out of his hands”.
“He doesn’t want to hurt the team by taking sacks, potentially holding the ball a little too long”. He added, and as we’ve discussed, he is getting the ball out quickly this year (as he has for the past several years). “I just think that experience, he’s got so much of it. Again, you’re not going to fool him. You may beat someone individually and get pressure, but as a general rule, there isn’t pressure that puts him in a panic situation”.
The news gets better, as the opposite is true for the Steelers’ opponents. While Pittsburgh blitzes the second-most often in the league, Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson has struggled more than almost anybody else in the league when facing the blitz.
Via Pro Football Focus, Jackson has been blitzed 58 times on the year, completing 28 of 49 passes for 268 yards, averaging 5.5 yards per attempt (compared to 7.7 yards when not blitzed) for two touchdowns and two interceptions, with a passer rating of 69.1. Compare that to his quarterback rating of 92.5 when under pressure, and you see that it’s not just about the higher instances of pressure, but of the look itself that the blitz presents.
Jackson is still a young quarterback about to make just the 29th start in his career. Unlike Roethlisberger, there is plenty he hasn’t seen. And Keith Butler will no doubt be showing some of those things to him in Baltimore this Sunday.