Ben Roethlisberger can’t cave in December for Steelers to have a chance

Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images)
Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers. (Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Steelers are looking for one last hurrah with Ben Roethlisberger, but the former Super Bowl-winning quarterback can’t afford to cave in December. 

There were certainly plenty of fans on both sides of the fence when it came to the decision about whether or not to allow Ben Roethlisberger to return for one final season in Pittsburgh. Technically, the former star quarterback was under contract for one more season, but in order to make this happen, Ben took a pay cut to stay with the team.

Since then, the Steelers have had four of their starting offensive linemen depart for free agency or retirement, and Ben is left with a young new group in front of him – many of them without much NFL experience at all.

Some believe that this new offensive line will actually be an improvement. Others believe that, at the very least, it can’t perform worse than the group we saw last season. However, none of this is going to matter in the end if Ben Roethlisberger can’ find a way to start performing better in December.

In his younger years, this was never something we needed to worry about. In fact, Big Ben was known for his miraculous 4th quarter comebacks late in the season to rally his team into the playoffs. But in recent years, it’s been an entirely different story.

Though Ben missed almost all of the 2019 season, his overall performance in December has been less than spectacular over the last three years. Since 2018, Roethlisberger has a record of 4-6 in December as he managed just 273.4 passing yards per game to go with 19 touchdowns and 9 interceptions for a below-average 89.4 passer rating, according to Pro Football Reference.

In comparison, the former Pro Bowl quarterback has been much better in September through November. During this stretch over the past three years, Ben has a record of 17-5-1 and threw for 284.7 yards per game. In addition, he has thrown 48 touchdowns and just 18 interceptions during this stretch for a 96.1 passer rating.

Roethlisberger was especially bad over the final six games of the 2020 season – the worst stretch of contests in his career. Prior to sitting out the final game of the season against Cleveland, Ben averaged just 5.6 yards per attempt from Week 10 to Week 16 – the worst mark in the NFL over that stretch.

How do Steelers avoid the December slump with Ben?

So what is the reasoning for this collapse each year, and is it something the Steelers are able to avoid in 2021?

Sadly, this could have a great deal to do with Ben Roethlisberger’s age and injury history. His body just doesn’t seem the same at the end of the season and even moving around seems like a chore. I’ve noticed that his footwork has really been lacking late in the season and that he’s trying to make many of his throws only using his upper body instead of driving his momentum from the ground up.

This could also be the reason that Roethlisberger had such a hard time completing passes down the field in the second half of the season. By the end of the year, Big Ben finished just 31st in the NFL in deep throw accuracy, according to, and much of those deep passes came early in the season.

With a 17th regular-season game added this year, there’s even more reason to believe that the now 39-year-old quarterback could break down even faster. Should the Steelers try to rest him when given the opportunity? Would they even be able to afford to do that with how the AFC North is shaping up?

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Whatever the reason is for Ben Roethlisberger caving in December over the past several years, it’s something that needs to come to an end in 2021. Let’s hope his body can hold up to finish the season strong this year.