Pro Football Focus Breaks Down Ben Roethlisberger’s Passing Tendencies

It is with little anticipation for surprise that I write that the football analytics website Pro Football Focus often comes under fire for its grading system, and the manner in which they occasionally assign blame on a play. Cornerbacks tend to get the shaft if they don’t get anticipated safety help over the top, for example.

But that’s just one of the many facets of the site’s data stream, which also logs and classifies every snap of every player from every team from every game. And when gathered all in one place, it can reveal some interesting information.

For instance, they recently published some data charts for Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that delves into his tendencies as a passer.

PFF’s charts show, for example, that Roethlisberger utilized play action less than any other quarterback in the league, on just 11.6 percent of his passes. The league average was 21 percent.

The Steelers quarterback threw only three touchdowns compared to four interceptions while actually lowering his accuracy in the process, so the play action is certainly an area in which the offense as a whole must improve next season.

Roethlisberger’s approach was also more conservative than the average quarterback in terms of designed movement after the snap. Last year, he utilized a standard drop back 93 percent of the time, a little more than three percent above the average. Designed rollouts accounted for just 3.4 percent of his pass attempts—22 in total.

Those rollouts often came while the veteran quarterback was under center, which was a quarter of the time. His performance also suffered under center, where he threw half of his interceptions, but only eight of his 28 touchdown passes.

He was also considerably less accurate, with his completion percentage from the shotgun of 66.4 dropping to 57.8 while taking the snap from under center.

This may not come as much of a shock, but Roethlisberger’s pass attempts came inordinately often on screens, with 14.5 of his pass attempts stemming from that variety of play, compared to a league average of 9.7. In particular, his 11.1 percent of screen passes to wide receivers or tight ends was the second-highest total among all passers.

Also not much of a revelation is that Roethlisberger’s passes tended to belie his right-handedness, as his percentage of pass attempts toward the left side of the numbers ranked fifth-lowest in the league.

Despite his greater than average frequency of pass attempts on go routes, the end result was not necessarily indicative of its usage. While eight of his touchdown passes were on go routes, so were six of his interceptions, while both his completion and accuracy percentage on such passes was below average—yet another area to improve.

One route on which he did excel was targeting slant routes, which he also threw inordinately often in comparison to the league average. Such routes produced five touchdowns to one interception, and he saw a completion percentage of 73.5 percent.

Victimized by seven drops on such passes, his accuracy percentage on such throws was an impressive 87.8. Only corner routes, which are by their nature a red zone-oriented route, produced scores at a greater rate for the Steelers.

This is just a small sampling of the insights that could be gained working through this data, which, outside of accurately transcribing the plays, is free from the subjectivity that Pro Football Focus’ grading system is so often maligned for, so feel free to browse through the charts yourself.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi
Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.
  • Ben Anderson

    His poor long ball ratings surprise me, as does his rating under pressure. But, they should have included some context in that screen frequency number. The Steelers ranked 29th in YPA in the running game and were probably dead last through 8 games. You have to do something to make the defense play you honestly. Getting the ball out into space through the screen was the way the Steelers had to do it.

  • Craig

    I wish Ben would lean on Charlie Batch for advice, CB seemed to excel better than Ben in getting rid of the ball quicker in short yardage gains adding to the concept of TOP/ run game like stats- just a thought.

  • charles

    Many times the wide reciever screen was an audible. And play action is useless when the Oline is in shambles.
    If our Oline can get into and stay in rhythm and, with Munchak’s leadership, I have a lot of confidence that it can, this O could be one of our best ever. Even with that, though, great Ds beat great Os, so we need Joey Porter to bring our LBs back to feared level.

  • Ryan

    Ben was gettin rid of the ball quicker as the season went on and we used more no huddle but Id rather let Ben be Ben hes won 2 rings being himself and not trying to be anyone else. Would it be nice if he didnt get hit or sacked as much? Yes but we likely wouldnt have won those 2 rings if he didn’t hold on to the ball as long as he does to make big plays. Hopefully with improved line play he can play like himself and get hit a few less times in the process.