There was a time — a long period of time, really — where Ben Roethlisberger was among the most-sacked quarterbacks in football. Now, he’s one of the least. It’s the #1 reason why he’s still playing at age 39. He shifted from “Backyard Ben” to “Ball-Out–Quick Ben” (I’m still working on the nickname) and has had among the lowest snap-to-throw times the last several seasons.
In 15 games last season, teams sacked Roethlisberger just 13 times, by far his lowest in a season, and a far cry from the days teams dropped him 50+ times a year.
But now Roethlisberger has a chance to join a very exclusive club. If he is sacked 15 or fewer times in 2021, he’ll become one of just five QBs in NFL history to do that in consecutive seasons. Here’s the current list (minimum 400 attempts).
Peyton Manning (2008-2009)
Joey Harrington (2002-2003)
Dan Marino (1987-1990)
Joe Ferguson (1980-1981)
Pretty good company to be part of, though I have no idea how Harrington got on that list. But he’s there, and we’re all reminded of how infrequent defenses got to Marino — he did it four years in a row. An absurd streak.
The Steelers’ offensive line has undergone a massive transformation this offseason. Maurkice Pouncey retired. Alejandro Villanueva remains a free agent. The team brought in B.J. Finney and will surely draft one, and probably two, offensive linemen in this draft. But their mission will be the same. Protect #7.
Since 2015, Roethlisberger has been sacked, on average, once every 29.7 pass attempts. From 2004 to 2014, he went down once every 11.8 attempts. I don’t know if there’s any QB in history with that kind of stark contrast.
Of course, it’s fair to argue there’s value in Roethlisberger getting sacked a little more often, funny as that is to say. Roethlisberger’s quick-release has partially limited this offense. The lack of a vertical attack was a missing component last season. More success downfield will probably lead to a couple more sacks. But the trade-off of netting some chunk plays is arguably worth it.
Still, these stats show how much different of a quarterback Roethlisberger is now, versus the beginning of his career. There are lots of people responsible for that change. Todd Haley, Roethlisberger himself, even Randy Fichtner. If it wasn’t for altering his style, Roethlisberger would’ve retired years ago, and now can join an exclusive club as a result of his longevity.