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 Raiders are coming off of a dramatic victory against the Baltimore Ravens in which they won in overtime, 33-27, on a walk-off touchdown pass to Zay Jones. While the Raiders offense had its way with the Ravens defense through the air, it struggled in the running game, making itself one dimensional. On the flipside, the Raiders were able to contain Lamar Jackson as a passer, holding him to 235 yards passing and sacking him 3 times; however, the Ravens pounded in the run game, accumulating 189 total yards rushing, and a 5.6 yards per carry average. This defensive performance was sketchy and similar to what occurred last year for the Raiders when the team was a sieve and hemorrhaged yards at an alarming rate. While the Raiders gained 491 yards, they still gave up 406 total yards to a pass-challenged offense, and while the Steelers didn’t exactly instill confidence last week against the Bills, that Buffalo team has a defense light years ahead of the Raiders. Yes, I know Maxx Crosby was relentless in rushing Jackson, but this contest is in Pittsburgh, and this is a hungry, chip-on-the-shoulder Steelers team.
Though the Steelers did not establish the running game like I believed they would last week, they are not about to abandon that concept. I fully expect this contest to be run-dominated by the Steelers, limiting the number of passes, but in considering the ineffectiveness of this Raiders defense, there will be opportunities for Roethlisberger to exploit this defense both in the intermediate and deep passing game. (I can already envision the busted coverage and a streaking James Washington or Juju Smith-Schuster hauling in a monster of a bomb for a touchdown).
Roethlisberger’s Career Passing Logs Vs. Raiders
|2006 (Away)||L 13-20||25||37||67.57||301||1||4||61.7||5|
|2009 (Home)||L 24-27||18||24||75||278||2||1||123.3||1|
|2010 (Home)||W 35-3||18||29||62.07||275||3||0||127.8||2|
|2012 (Away)||L 31-34||36||49||73.47||384||4||0||123.2||1|
|2013 (Away)||L 18-21||29||45||64.44||275||1||2||70.1||5|
|2015 (Home)||W 38-35||24||44||54.55||334||2||1||84.8||1|
|2018 (Away)||L 21-24||25||29||86.21||282||2||0||130.2||1|
Roethlisberger is 2-5 overall against the Raiders, yet he is 2-1 against this squad at home, with his most recent victory at home resulting in a shoot-out in 2015 in which the team won 38-35. Roethlisberger averages 300+ yards in his contests against the Raiders, and is also good for 2 interceptions to 1 interception, in addition to an average of a little over 2 sacks per game.
Roethlisberger’s Career Passing Game Average Stat Line
Last Week’s Projection Vs. Actual
I was close in my projection for Roethlisberger last week as you can see above, with the greatest discrepancies occurring in completion percentage and yardage. I expected much more from the running game on Sunday, and that never materialized, which resulted in slightly more passing attempts, though a lower yardage output than I expected. Roethlisberger, though he made the necessary big plays in the 3rd and 4th quarter, was rusty. What was also noticeable about Ben, and this has been characteristic of him from previous seasons, is that he is a slow starter, and it took him several series before he looked comfortable against the Bills. The Steelers cannot continue to afford lethargic starts, and this will need to improve for the team to continue to compete.
Roethlisberger’s Projected Output vs. Raiders
This is not going to be an easy game for the Steelers, and in fact, after watching the Raiders Monday Night contest vs. the Ravens, I am a bit unsettled. However, while the Raiders offense can be prolific, its defense can be exploited, both in the running game and against the pass. The Ravens had their way in the running game with a piecemeal running back room, and the Steelers will be looking to get Najee Harris into a groove. This mindset will once again keep the Steelers balanced and not put the onus on Roethlisberger to throw the ball 35+ times. Even still, Ben will have to throw to loosen up the defense early, and he’ll connect on a homerun pass for a touchdown, and from there, as the running game is able to settle in, the passing game will become a secondary part of the offense. Historically, Roethlisberger has put up some big yardage against the Raiders, and he’ll get over 300 with multiple to chunk throws to the likes of Chase Claypool and company. And unfortunately, with a learning offensive line, I anticipate Ben to be sacked at least 3 times, but he must hold on to the football as to minimize the damage.
All things considered, Roethlisberger’s stat line against the Raiders will be…
|My Projection Against Raiders||21||31||67.7||301||2||1||107.6||3|