Stop me if you’ve heard this before: Pro Football Focus laments Ben Roethlisberger’s ability to throw the football down the field.
It’s no secret that Roethlisberger struggled to consistently connect on deep shots in 2020, one year removed from reconstructive elbow surgery. He was pretty strong in that department early in the 2020 season before fading down the stretch, which is understandable.
But according to Pro Football Focus analyst Steve Palazzolo, Roethlisberger needs to be even more aggressive in 2021 if the Steelers want to make up for a perceived regression on the offensive line and in the secondary.
Let it fly 🚀
Big Ben needs to be more aggressive downfield in 2021
— PFF (@PFF) June 5, 2021
Palazzolo, speaking on the PFF NFL Podcast with Sam Monson, stated that though Roethlisberger was one of the worst in the NFL last season completing passing 20+ yards down the field, there could be a regression the opposite direction this year with the veteran gunslinger, which could really open up Pittsburgh’s offense.
For Pittsburgh to have a shot at contention in 2021, it all comes down to Roethlisberger’s downfield aggression, according to Palazzolo.
“It all comes down to Big Ben being more aggressive,” Palazzolo said. “And I know the easy narrative is he’s regressing and you know, he’s old and he can’t throw the ball down the field anymore. And last year it was true. He only completed 30% of his passes at 20 plus yards. It was terrible. It was one of the league’s worst for us, but those are the stats. Those are the numbers that you look at that even for an old Big Ben, they tend to regress the other way and he could be more aggressive and make plays down the field and let Chase Claypool make plays. So if Big Ben actually improved his downfield passing and he did it more often, that would be the one thing that might offset the Steelers getting a little bit worse on the offensive line, a little bit worse in the secondary, is Big Ben dead aggressive. Throw the ball down the field, let Chase Claypool become a star. That is how the Steelers can have a good 2021 season.”
Roethlisberger was actually quite aggressive in 2020 throwing the football down the field, putting up the league’s sixth-most attempts of throws of 21+ yards, according to the Deep Ball Project, a monster of a contextualization by Brickwall Blitz’s Johnny Kinsley.
Being aggressive isn’t a problem whatsoever with Roethlisberger — especially last season. The problem was the lack of success, so once again it feels like PFF is missing the mark with the veteran.
It’s not about being more aggressive taking shots down the field, letting guys like Claypool make plays. It’s about being more efficient, having more success completing those throws, which all starts with Roethlisberger being more accurate, giving his guys a true chance to make a play on the football.
Roethlisberger doesn’t need to up his total of deep shots like Palazzolo is stating. With a full off-season to rest his arm (rather than working through rehab), we could see an improved Roethlisberger when it comes to completing throws down the field. That will be the key in helping open things up offensively for the Steelers, not some narrative that they need to throw the ball down the field more often in 2021.