Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is playing great but still has a kryptonite

Tommy Jaggi
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images) /

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is having arguably the best season of his career, but one area is holding him back.

What more could be said about Ben Roethlisberger that hasn’t already been covered this year? The Steelers quarterback is not only on the pace for a career-high in touchdown number this year, but he’s doing as a 38-year old coming off major elbow surgery. Prior to his injury in Week 2 of 2019 against the Seattle Seahawks, Big Ben was really struggling, but 2020 has at least been good to one person.

So far this season, Roethlisberger has compiled 22 touchdown passes to just 4 interceptions to go with an excellent 103.0 passer rating – the third-best of his 17-year NFL career, according to Pro Football Reference. It’s not only possible that Ben could have the best touchdown-to-interception ratio of his career, but he’s got a chance to put his name in the discussion for the NFL’s Most Valuable Player – especially considering that his team has a perfect record through the first nine games.

But despite his brilliance in 2020 and his improvement taking care of the ball, Ben Roethlisberger does still have one weakness: His ability to throw the deep ball. Though he’s made a few huge plays down the field this year, this is an area of his game that has been relatively poor so far.

Steelers quarterback must improve on the deep ball

Though Roethlisberger’s completion percentage under pressure (6th) and true passer rating (6th) are among the best in the league, according to, Ben is just 29th in the league in deep ball completion percentage. Why is this the case?

In the past, the Steelers quarterback has been able to sling the ball down the field and drop it into a bucket with the best of them. However, his arm strength isn’t what it used to be. The cannon previously attached to his right shoulder has since been replaced with a slingshot in his old age. While Ben can still push the ball down the field, his lack of velocity on the football forces him to overcompensate for the strength required on each throw down the field, as a result, his accuracy has suffered.

How can Roethlisberger improve this part of his game?

Fortunately, there is still hope for Roethlisberger’s ability to get the deep ball on track in 2020. As he continues to get more comfortable with his surgically repaired elbow, Ben is beginning to take more shots down the field – he just hasn’t been connecting on many of them. Still, many of these passes have been just out of the reach of rookie Chase Claypool.

If you’ve noticed, almost all of his deep passes that fall incomplete are because they are slightly overthrown. With a 6’4” physical presence like Claypool working the sidelines, Ben would be best to put a little more air underneath the ball and let him either run underneath it or put his foot in the ground and go up and make the play.

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The more Roethlisberger plays with his young receivers, the more trust he should gain in them. Just a week ago, Ben was 31st in the league in deep throw accuracy, so we are at least trending in the right direction. If he can make major improvements in this part of his game, there isn’t a team that will be able to match up with Pittsburgh’s passing attack this year.