Expectations are too high for Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in 2020

(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Ben Roethlisberger
(Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Ben Roethlisberger /

The Steelers are getting Ben Roethlisberger back from injury in 2020, but here’s why expectations from the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback are still too high.

Getting Ben Roethlisberger back in 2020 is an incredible feeling. Despite owning a defense that was top six in nearly every statistical category last year, the Steelers couldn’t get anything going on offense with Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges at the helm.

At one point, Pittsburgh was all but secured a playoff spot in 2019. After losing the first three games of the season and four of their first five, the Steelers went on to win seven of their next eight games. Unfortunately, they closed out the season with three consecutive losses – scoring a mere 10 points in each contest.

Those types of duds shouldn’t happen in 2020 with Roethlisberger at the helm. But despite the former Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks return, are expectations too high for Big Ben in 2020?

Roethlisberger is now 38 years old and is coming off a major elbow injury. These are two factors that could certainly prove to have an effect on his performance in 2020. But let’s backtrack a bit further.

Even before Ben’s injury to his elbow, advanced analytics show that he was just an average quarterback as a 36-year-old in 2018. Here’s a look at how his advances statistics (via Playerprofiler.com and Pro Football Reference) match up against some other NFL quarterbacks who are considered above average:

Out of 14 different advanced stats, Roethlisberger never finished higher than 9th in any of these categories in 2018. When looking at how he compared to Kirk Cousins, Phillip Rivers, and Jared Goff in 2020, it’s certainly hard to argue that he was the best in the group.

Roethlisberger was especially poor when it came to red zone completion percentage (28th), deep-ball completion percentage (26th), and air yards per attempt (27th). When averaging out all of these statistics, Roethlisberger finished as just the 16th-best quarterback in the league.

Though Ben could certainly earn Comeback Player of the Year in 2020 after missing 14 games in 2019, it’s hard to believe that as an older player and coming off a major elbow injury that he will be better than he was in 2018.

If you were to look at just raw statistics, Roethlisberger looked good in 2018. He led the NFL in passing yards with 5,129 while throwing for 34 touchdowns and 16 interceptions. But this is a perfect example of why we can’t just use raw statistics to evaluate how successful a player was.

Though Ben was among the league leaders in these categories, it was a volume stat as he threw the nearly 100 more passes than Patrick Mahomes, 149 more than Dak Prescott, 170 more than Deshaun Watson, 186 more than Drew Brees, and 248 more than Russell Wilson. For how much more he threw the ball than every other quarterback in 2018, it’s remarkable that he finished just 5th in touchdown passes.

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The fact of the matter is while Ben Roethlisberger will no doubt be an improvement over Rudolph and Hodges from a season ago, he may not be the top-flight quarterback he once was. It’s important for fans not to get their expectations too high for Ben in 2020, as he may just be an average quarterback at this point in his career.