By Jeremy Hritz
As you have read on The Steel Study, I have been in the process of writing The Big Ben Project, which chronicles the career of Ben Roethlisberger from his beginnings in Findlay, Ohio to current day in 2021 with the Pittsburgh Steelers. As part of this process this season, I will be conducting a weekly study that examines Roethlisberger’s performance against that opponent to gain an understanding of how he has historically performed against that team, and what his output was in those contests. Using that information, in addition to the current contextual information related to the week’s specific contest, I will project Ben’s performance and statistics for the week, and follow up as to how the projection aligned with what Roethlisberger actually produced. The goal of this process is to understand Roethlisberger as a quarterback and what factors influence his play and output.
The Steelers take on the Buffalo Bills away in week 1 this season, and it is going to be a tough contest for the team. The Bills competed against the Chiefs in last year’s AFC Championship Game, and established themselves as a perennial championship contender.
While the Bills do not possess an elite pass rush, their coverage on the backend is excellent, led by 2x Pro Bowl cornerback, Tre’Davious White, and safety duo of Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde. In 2020, the Bills surrendered an average of 246 yards passing per game and averaged 1.68 sacks per contest. On the ground, the Bills gave up 119 yards per game, while in terms of points, they gave up 23.4 points per contest.
In 2020, the Steelers played miserably against the Bills, losing 26-15, including Roethlisberger throwing 2 interceptions, 1 of those returned 51-yards for a score. More importantly, the Steelers only rushed for 47 yards on 17 carries, which averaged out to 2.8 yards per carry. This awful showing in the running game allowed for the Bills to concentrate on the Steelers short-passing attack and render their offensive output ineffective.
Roethlisberger’s Career Passing Logs Vs. Buffalo Bills
|2010||@ BUF||W 19-16||20||33||60.61||246||0||0||83.6||5|
|2016||@ BUF||W 27-20||17||31||54.84||220||0||3||37.8||0|
|2020||@ BUF||L 15-26||21||37||56.76||187||2||2||65.9||1|
Roethlisberger is 4-1 in his career against the Buffalo Bills, including 2-1 away, and while that is a solid winning percentage, statistically in the passing game, he has not been great. Against the Bills he has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns, and he has never had a passer rating higher than 83.6 against them. In all of the contests in which he led the Steelers to victory, he threw no more than 34 passes.
Roethlisberger’s Career Passing Game Average Stat Line
Roethlisberger’s Projected Output vs. Buffalo Bills
As I mentioned earlier in the article, the running game last season against the Bills was non-existent, and its performance Sunday afternoon will have a significant influence on Roethlisberger’s game. All offseason, the running game was emphasized, and now, the first opportunity to see it on display has arrived. As a result, I expect the Steelers to limit the number of times Ben throws in this contest and be more intentional and game plan specific to Matt Canada’s focal points against the Bills. Factor in the quality of the Bills’ defense and the inexperience of the offensive line, and I believe the Steelers will be conservative in their aerial attack, choosing only in spots to push the ball down the field with the deep pass. Look for 1-3 play action shots from Ben, especially if the running game is successful.
It’s not going to be a statistical masterpiece, and there will be roadbumps, but Ben will be efficient enough. His stat line for the afternoon projection is…