Film Room: Big Ben Not Lacking In Effort

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been under fire this week—and rightfully so—for the quality of his play on Sunday against the Jaguars. But I think he has also been subject to a lot of unfair accusations, the most pernicious of which being, essentially, that he has already checked out.

That, in my opinion, is not consistent with the tape.

For starters, he has been spotted throwing blocks throughout the season, something that he frankly hasn’t always done. They’re pretty much never pretty, but when a play calls for him to get in somebody’s way, he is willing to do it. Quarterbacks normally don’t look for contact, and not all are willing to block.

On his first interception, he threw the ball knowing that he would be taking a hit if he tried to get the throw off. Granted, it turned out to be an ill-advised decision, since the contact as he threw helped contribute to it being picked off, but he showed, as he always has, toughness in sitting in the pocket to deliver the ball.

And that’s far from uncommon. Late in the first half, with the Steelers backed up in their own end zone, he again stood in the pocket, trying to find Martavis Bryant on a deep pass down the left sideline, which landed about 50 feet down the field. Once again, he took a shot as he threw.

Early in the second half, Roethlisberger knew that he would have a free play because the defense jumped offside. He took a low hit as he threw to assure that he would get the pass off, even though the offense would not suffer with an incomplete pass.

And he still makes plays using pump fakes and buying time stepping up into the pocket. Here he found JuJu Smith-Schuster for 10 yards to set up first and goal.

In terms of diminished talent, he still has the accuracy when he needs it. Just look at this throw to Antonio Brown for 18 yards on a critical third and 12.

Unfortunately, perhaps his best play of the day didn’t even count. That was the 28-yard touchdown pass to Brown on something of a scramble drill, which was nixed because of a holding call. This was vintage Roethlisberger—it just didn’t count.

I don’t fully understand why he hasn’t been as successful this year as he has. The five interceptions in this game were certainly an aberration that included a number of fluky incidents. But I see no evidence of him displaying a lack of effort. And no, I’m not counting him staying down after throwing an interception, as though he’s supposed to do something about a guy running up the far sideline.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Av232

    That “free play” on the offside really bothered me. It should have been blown dead for unimpeded to the QB, then it should have been roughing the passer for a low hit on the QB, no?

  • Gautam Ramani

    I think he should get a participation trophy for his efforts! We are now relegated to saying that although he threw 5 INT, he played tough?

    Agree with Matt – don’ t know why he has not been more successful. It does seem like some Quarterback’s hit a wall, and the drop is swift and steep. Let’s hope that’s not the case!

  • Darth Blount 47

    Ha! Ben doesn’t get roughing the passer calls, you silly goose!

  • DSG

    I have to say that the vintage ben scramble is part of the problem. He’s less effective when he stands in the pocket and has to read the defense and throw a reciever open. Like Dave and Dave say, he likes his recievers college open. And that happens more when he gets out of the pocket. Its why he struggles in the red zone. If you remember years ago the rationale was bc he didnt have any tall recievers but even now with tall recievers – mb, jh, jjss, jj, etc. he’s bad in the red zone. See the recent article in pg post gazette on how many qbs are better in the redzone than ben

  • RMSteeler

    Has he even done any play called bootlegs this year? If Bell’s running well, a few structured roll outs from play action might work and open some big gains/scoring chances.

  • Mike Rowan

    Good piece. I’m of the mind that he’s still not fully into the game in the way he has been in the past, and as I’ve mentioned in other comments, I think that’s very possibly for understandable reasons, including concerns about concussions (who among us wouldn’t be so concerned?). I don’t think he’s “checked out”, but there’s a lot of space between checking out and being ‘all in’ as he clearly has been in the past, perhaps even to a fault. My guess is that things change soon, very possibly this week, precisely because he’s played so badly, plus the negative, mean-spirited or worse, attention that not only he’s gotten but teammates and coaches too have endured this season for football and non-football reasons. Anytime this team – at least during the Roethlisberger era – seems poised to dominate, they falter, often, like last week, to an embarrassing level. But I think that’s what this team – and their QB – needs. That’s who they are. They need that chip on their shoulders. I’ve been on the verge of giving up watching this game for several years now – for some of the usual reasons – but I’m all in for another year because of the hate that’s come the way of Roethlisberger, Tomlin, and company. If I had money to bet, I’d put it on this team turning the ship around; we’re five games into the season, and the team’s 3-2 (not 0-5 like the Giants) despite playing without any kind of rhythm, not even in what was supposed to be an impressive win in Baltimore. Come what may, I just hope the off-the-bandwagon haters stay off the wagon and get gone. That’s my modest dream. Especially since this may be my last season watching football, I’m with this team win or lose.

  • Steven Vincent

    He is physically unable to run them because he is way out of shape and has not diligently rehabbed from his last injuries.

  • Steven Vincent

    All QB’s stand in the pocket and take hits. Big deal. That means nothing at all. What means something is standing in the pocket and hitting the target in spite of the pressure.

  • Jones

    Source please.