Depending on where you look on the back of his trading card, Ben Roethlisberger had an awfully good season for the Pittsburgh Steelers last year, throwing 33 touchdowns to just 10 interceptions over 15 games. Those are good numbers. The rest of the numbers are no better than average. Some are rather concerning.
How much of those concerns can be addressed by tweaking and adjusting things outside of Roethlisberger’s control — as well as simply being another year removed from major surgery on his throwing elbow?
NFL analyst Warren Sharp is not proselytizing for a return of prime Big Ben, but he did recently suggest to Poni and Mueller on 93.7 The Fan that he expects Roethlisberger to look better than he did last season, if only by degrees.
“If Ben is a little bit healthier than he was last year and is in a much more effective offense from a play-calling perspective, then I think he will look better this season,” he said, adding that he also believes the schedule the Steelers play will work to that advantage.
“My metrics currently show that you guys will be playing some pretty bad defenses this year,” he said, adding that the schedule among the other factors leaves them in a pretty good place to see some improvement from Roethlisberger, but it’s a modest commitment.
“I’m not like, kick Ben to the curb tomorrow, but we have definitely seen the glory years are in his past,” he added. “I don’t know what we’re going to get out of him in the future, but I believe with the new offensive coordinator, he will look a little bit better this year than last year.”
That’s not a ringing endorsement by Sharp for Roethlisberger this season, by any means. But perhaps it’s enough if accompanied by strides in the offensive line and an upgrade at the running back position, paired with a continued maturation from the team’s young wide receivers like Diontae Johnson and Chase Claypool.
The number that really sticks out from last season is Roethlisberger’s 6.3 yards per pass attempt, which wasn’t due to a low completion percentage. His 65.6 percent might not be upper echelon, but it’s more than efficient. It certainly wouldn’t account for such a poor number there.
You have to look at the advanced passing data to see that his average depth of target on his pass attempts a year ago was just 6.9 yards. His average completed air yards was just 4.6 yards, finishing the season with just 3.0 average completed air yards per attempt.
What does that mean in layman’s terms? It means that not only is he throwing a high volume of short passes, but his inefficiency on deeper passes completely drags the figure down altogether. The lack of a play-action passing game doesn’t help matters, either.