The Steelers star quarterback is returning to the field this year, but here’s why fans should have realistic expectations for Ben Roethlisberger in 2020.
As a Steelers fan, nothing was more disappointing than watching their season go up in flames with poor quarterback play last season. Despite a defense that allowed the 6th fewest points and 5th fewest yards in the league in addition to leading the NFL in takeaways, Pittsburgh wasn’t able to go anywhere in 2019, thanks to their struggles on offense.
Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges graded out as the 35th and 37th ranked quarterbacks, respectively, among 37 qualifying passers in 2019, according to Pro Football Focus. But despite what was collectively the worst quarterback play in the league, the Steelers still managed to win eight games last season.
Now, the return of Ben Roethlisberger has fans ecstatic for the 2020 NFL season. Recently, Roethlisberger took to social media – posting a video of him throwing the football to JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Conner, and Ryan Switzer, and boasting a new, fresh look.
While fans would be crazy not to be exited for Ben’s return to the football field after the fiasco we witnessed last season, it’s important to curb expectations for what he might do in 2020. Even in 2018 before his elbow injury, Roethlisberger was not the most efficient passer. Here’s a look at some of his advanced statistics, via Playerprofiler.com, from his 2018 sesaon:
— Tommy Jaggi (@TommyJaggi) May 18, 2020
Though Ben led the league in passing yards (5,129) in 2018, this was largely due to the immense volume of passes he threw. Roethlisberger threw 95 more passes than Patrick Mahomes in 2018 but managed just 32 more yards. In addition, Ben led the league in interceptions with 16.
In the NFL, passing volume doesn’t equate to efficiency, and it’s important that fans aren’t fooled by Ben Roethlisberger’s raw statistics. Advanced analytics shows that he was just average as a passer.
Despite leading the league in passing in 2018, Ben was just 27th in the league in air yards per pass attempt – meaning that much of his production came on check-downs underneath, and his receivers picked up extra yardage after the catch. In addition, his red zone completion percentage and deep-ball completion percentage were both near the bottom of the league two years ago.
While this isn’t to say that Ben can’t improve on these numbers, he is now a 38-year-old quarterback coming off major elbow surgery. And while the video of him throwing the football looks promising, Roethlisberger wasn’t playing as an elite passer before the injury.
Big Ben will be a significant and immediate upgrade over Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges, but it’s important for Steelers fans to keep their expectations reasonable. If Roethlisberger can be just an above-average player for Pittsburgh this year, that will be a win for the team.