Advanced Stats: Roethlisberger Vs. Rudolph: Comparing The Steelers Quarterbacks

Steelers Data

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mason Rudolph got his first playing time of the season due to fellow quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missing the game on the COVID list. While this was less than ideal and wish Roethlisberger health and quick recovery, I wanted to take this opportunity to look at some data on Rudolph’s performance and look at comparisons and takeaways for the Pittsburgh quarterbacks.

First, let’s look at the following data points from Next Gen Stats for week ten league-wide, when Rudolph stepped in for Roethlisberger:

  • Completed Air Yards = Vertical yards completed on a pass attempt at the moment the ball is caught in relation to the line of scrimmage
  • Intended Air Yards = Vertical yards intended on all pass attempts in relation to the line of scrimmage
  • Aggressiveness = Amount of pass attempts a quarterback makes that are into tight coverage where there is a defender within one yard or less of the reception or incompletion as a percentage

In week ten, Rudolph landed below the mean in both air yard data points, ranking 17th out of the 28 quarterbacks with a 4.7 completed air yards number and an 18th rank for intended air yards at 6.5. In comparison, Roethlisberger’s season averages are 4.4 completed air yards and 6.8 intended air yards so not a huge difference with the one game sample from Rudolph but his higher completed and lower intended air yards are something to note. Rudolph ranked 13th in aggressiveness with a lower 60% completion percentage that ranked 18th, compared to Roethlisberger’s 65.6% completion percentage on the season. Also found it interesting that Rudolph had the third fastest time to throw number of 2.39 in the game, nearly identical to Roethlisberger’s 2.38 number that is the fastest average time for the season. Their air yards to the sticks numbers are nearly identical as well, Rudolph at -2 and Roethlisberger at -1.9.

Here is a table view of the comparisons:

Roethlisberger (Season) 2.38 4.4 6.8 18.4% -1.9 65.6
Rudolph (Week 10) 2.39 4.7 6.5 18% -2 60

Now let’s look at On Target and Bad Throw percentages from Pro Football Reference:

  • On Target % = Percentage of on-target throws per pass attempt, excluding spikes and throwaways
  • Bad Throw % = Percentage of poor throws per pass attempt, excluding spikes and throwaways

As we can see, the Steelers quarterbacks land very close to each other on the graph with a slight edge to Roethlisberger in both data points. Both are above the mean in On Target % with Roethlisberger at the mean in the league for Bad Throw %. Of course Roethlisberger’s larger sample size is important to take into account, but found it very interesting how similar the majority of the data points were for the Steelers quarterbacks.

The data points where I saw the most differences were completion percentage and adjusted net yards per pass attempt (ANY/A). Roethlisberger has a 6.01 ANY/A number for the season while Rudolph posted a 4.34 number for week ten! To review, here is ANY/A defined: Passing Yards – Sack Yards + (20 * Passing TD) – (45 * Interceptions)) / (Passes Attempted + Times Sacked).

Lastly, I also wanted to look at expected points added (EPA) for the quarterbacks by week:

This graph gives us context to how the Steelers quarterbacks have fared for the team, and how they have stacked up with the league. Comparing Rudolph’s performance with Roethlisberger, the former posted the lowest EPA number in the week ten tie against the Lions at -0.28 while the latter’s lowest mark was -0.25 in week four against the Packers. Roethlisberger’s week five game against the Broncos was his highest mark at 0.35, one of four positive EPA performances on the season so far. I also found it interesting that neither Steelers quarterback has strayed too far from the line of 0 EPA, considering there have been less than ideal performances to say the least.

It will be very interesting to watch the injury report for the remainder of the week and see which quarterback ends up facing off with the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night. What are your thoughts on the Steelers quarterbacks in 2021 so far? Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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