Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has attempted more than 50 passes in each of the past two games. The offense has 34 combined points to show for it. But the offense also has about 14 or so drops to show for it as well, and three or four passes batted down at the line of scrimmage.
In all, he attempted a throw 53 times tonight against the Washington Football Team. He completed 33 of them, and he did throw for 305 yards, completing touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson and James Washington, though one of the passes that he had batted down was also intercepted, squelching a comeback attempt with just minutes to play.
Although he didn’t always get the help that he needed from his skill players—and that includes the run game as well—Roethlisberger shouldered the blame in the Steelers’ first loss of the season. “I need to be better”, he said, something that would become something of a refrain in his postgame remarks.
“I need to deliver us into plays that are best suited for situations and things like that. Starts with me. I need to be better”, he added. Asked about the fact that he didn’t practice much during the week, he said, “I didn’t play good football. Regardless how much I practice, don’t practice, I need to be better for this team”.
Truth be told, we can’t completely ignore what Washington did. They forced the Steelers into a lot of negative plays, even in the passing game. So much of their game is built around short passes and their receivers’ ability to churn out yards after the catch, even through contact, but they did a good job of minimizing that tonight, more than perhaps anybody else has so far on those short passes.
And their defensive front in particular played well. Even though they did not get a sack, they probably gave Roethlisberger as many pressure looks as he has seen in most games this season. Having an inexperienced backup at center doesn’t help with that, but the point is, he was throwing off-schedule more than has been the norm.
One play in particular that Roethlisberger knocked himself for, though, was the late 4th-and-1 pass on a route down the field to rookie running back Anthony McFarland working one on one against linebacker Jonathan Bostic. He defended the play, but said that he needs to make a better throw.
What he really needs is more help from his supporting cast, starting with catching the balls that are catchable. That hasn’t been happening enough in recent weeks, and it’s probably not a coincidence that these have been their two lowest-scoring games of the season.