I wanted to do some in-depth research tonight on Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since he suffered his left high ankle sprain late in the first half against the Cleveland Browns in week 14 and found quite a few things that stuck out to me in the research. Below you will see a table of every pass that Roethlisberger has thrown from the second half of the Browns game on. This table includes the down and distance of the play, the targeted receiver, whether or not the pass was complete and both the yardage gained and yardage that the ball traveled in the air to the intended receiver.
First the basic and obvious stuff. Roethlisberger had a 95.1 passer rating and 64.3% completion ratio up until the play he was injured. From the second half of that Browns game and on he has a 69.9 passer rating & 59.6% completion ratio. He had a healthy 8.03 yards per attempt up until the ankle injury, but has dropped off to a 7.59 yards per attempt. Not a bad number though still as several quarterbacks in the league would like to own a YPA number like that, but it is a drop nonetheless. He has thrown 4 interceptions compared to just 1 touchdown during this span, but 3 of those came in the horrible game against the San Francisco 49ers as the ankle injury really limited what he could do in that game.
As far as the lack of production to Mike Wallace, especially the deep balls, Roethlisberger is 0 for 7 on passes to Wallace thrown 12 or more yards from the line of scrimmage since suffering the ankle injury. What about all passes thrown 12 or more yards from line of scrimmage since the injury? Those numbers show that Roethlisberger is 10 of 28 passing with 1 touchdown and 4 interceptions on balls thrown 12 or more yards past the line. He is 3 of 12 passing with 0 touchdowns and 3 interceptions on balls thrown 20 or more yards past the line.
On a positive note, Roethlisberger had a 51% 3rd down conversion ratio passing prior to injuring the ankle. In the 10 quarters since he has a 61% conversion ration on 3rd downs.
Let\’s put the stats aside now. When you watch the tape you can clearly see Roethlisberger has been concerned about stepping into his throws, especially in the game against the 49ers. It was all arm for the most part and his accuracy has been off. Also with his mobility limited he has not been able to extend some plays that he would have normally prior to the injury. This has always been a staple of his game and what sets him apart from most of the other quarterbacks in the league.
The Steelers have also just recently got Emmanuel Sanders back on the field and there was also the chore of feeding the elephant sitting in the room in the final game against the Browns. I am of course talking about Hines Ward, who was targeted 7 times this past Sunday. Heading into the AFC wild card against the Denver Broncos, they will face a secondary that features veteran cornerback Champ Bailey, but will likely be without the services of safety Brian Dawkins, who has been sidelined with a neck injury. Should the Broncos defense decide to stay with man coverage against the likes of Wallace, Sanders and Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger should have plenty of chances to spread the ball around assuming he gets some time, much like a few of the better quarterbacks in the league have done against them this season. The accuracy of the throws Sunday will be key, but I have a feeling Roethlisberger has a pretty good game. A pretty good game should be enough in this game.