Not long ago, Matthew Marczi wrote a fantastic piece here on Steelers Depot examining some of the hard numbers around Ben Roethlisberger’s deep ball.
Indeed, Marczi is correct in his assessment: Roethliberger has only attempted 30 deep balls this season, wherein deep balls are defined as pass attempts that travel, at minimum, 20-yards through the air from the line of scrimmage to the point of reception.
That said: I am big on context. By examining this year’s deep ball stats, and by subjecting Roethlisberger to the “eye test,” it is easy to say that his ability to connect with his receivers at 20-plus yard clips is lacking.
But, how does this year compare to previous years?
By using deep ball data from Pro Football Focus, and the R programming language, one can quickly visualize Roethslisberger’s deep ball stats over the last nine seasons (minus the 2019 season due to his season-ending elbow injury):
Indeed, Roethlisbeger is just below the average accuracy of his deep ball attempts over the last ten years, minus 2019. However, 2015 is a crazy abnormality, statistically speaking. If you were to take his 2015 deep ball accuracy numbers out of the equation, his 2020 numbers would largely be on average over the course of the last nine years.
Of course, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Deep ball accuracy is one thing. The real question is how many deep ball attempts were required to achieve that accuracy rating from PFF?
With some quick changes in the R programming code, we can explore Roethlisberger’s attempts vs. accuracy against all other quarterbacks:
Over the course of the last six years (minus 2019), Roethlisberger was one of the leaders in the NFL in deep ball attempts – again, those balls that traveled at least 20+ yards from the line of scrimmage to the point of reception. As well, he has largely been right at the league average for the accuracy of his deep balls over that period of time.
That said: he is behind the curve in deep ball attempts this season. Aaron Rodgers, of the Green Bay Packers, is currently leading the league in deep ball attempts with 50, with 21 of those being completions.
However, despite being below the league average in deep ball attempts, Roethlisberger is just a touch below the league-wide average in the deep ball accuracy metric.
At the midway point of the season, Roethlisberger is basically right in the middle of the statistics based on his deep ball. On an individual level, he is actually behind the curve on his season average for deep ball attempts but is still on track to remain at the same accuracy level.
For more daily advance metric insights on the Steelers, be sure to follow me on Twitter: @BradCongelio.