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.
Roethlisberger has undoubtedly struggled this season, and following the loss to the Bengals, the critical voices were amplified, signaling the end of his career and that he no longer could play the NFL game at a high-level. While much of the blame for the poor performance of the offense falls exclusively on Ben, a young, inexperienced offensive line, a talented but unreliable receiving corps, and a anemic running game are also at fault. Globally, this Steelers offense is under a malaise that they must shake if they are to stay competitive in and win football games.
With the immense pressure Roethlisberger is under, he has been hesitant and gun shy, and that has surfaced in his decision-making, as he is unloading the ball quickly and checking down to Najee Harris prolifically. Seemingly skittish and fearful of stepping up in the pocket to let the play develop, and understandably so, opposing defenses are able to prioritize the short passing game, knowing that Roethlisberger is unwilling, and in many cases, cannot throw the football down the field. The solution? The line has to sustain their blocks long enough for routes to develop down the field, and the running game has to pick up to pull the pressure off of Ben, so that the outcome of the game doesn’t rest only on his shoulders.
In my first few predictions, I have consistently predicted the under in terms of Roethlisberger’s attempts, as I was optimistic the running game would be able to get going. That hasn’t been the case, and Ben has attempted on average 43 passes a game, which is entirely too much. Roethlisberger’s current attempts and completions are well over his career averages, and this needs to change if this season is to turn around for the Steelers. This will begin and end with the running game, and in order for this team to have a chance to win this weekend, the Steelers have to effectively run the football.
Historically against the Packers, Roethlisberger has excelled, minus the heartbreaking Super Bowl loss in which we will always remember the Rashard Mendenhall fumble. In 3 regular season games, Ben has thrown for over 1000 yards, 9 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions, and notably, he has not lost. He has averaged 26/39, 340 yards, 3 touchdowns and 1 interception, and while three games is not a massive sample size, historical trends, for whatever reason, tend to have predictive power of future results.
The Packers lack a pass rush from the edges, though their interior defensive line led by Kenny Clark, is formidable, and rookie center Kendrick Green and the neophyte offensive line are going to have to play their best game of the year. The Green Bay secondary, while average, can be had, and there should be opportunities available for the offense in both the rushing and passing game. However, what should happen and what actually occurs with this offense has been a major source of frustration this season.
Roethlisberger is due for his best game of 2021, and what better time for it to come this weekend in a much-needed game against a Super Bowl contending team. Yet, what cannot be overlooked is that this Steelers offense and its primary goal, is to run the football, and I think there is a chance for success in the running game this weekend, taking some of the pressure off of Roethlisberger. Due to the absence of a solid pass rush, Ben stays upright this week and does not get sacked, and enjoys an efficient game that gives Steelers Nation hope that he can still get it done. More Harris in the passing game, and more Pittsburgh Pat Freiermuth.
While a favorable outcome for the Steelers in this game is unlikely, it will not be hindered by the performance of Roethlisberger who puts up the following admirable stat line against the Packers…
Roethlisberger Stats Vs. Packers
Roethlisberger Career Passing Stat Line
Roethlisberger 2021 Game Stats
Roethlisberger 2021 Projections
Projection Vs. Actual Bengals
|Plus 18||Plus 20||-1.1||Plus 54||Predicted||Plus 1||-20.63||Plus 2|