3rd & Ben: Roethlisberger Needs To Improve Third And Manageable Passing

Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger certainly didn’t have a great first half of the 2017 season as the veteran signal caller completed just 61.1% of all pass attempts on his way to having nearly as many interceptions (9) as he did touchdown passes (10). When going through Roethlisberger’s first half stats, it’s easy to see where his play has been lacking in two critical areas. One of those two areas is obvious while the other one might have been missed by many.

The obvious phase of Roethlisberger’s game so far this season that needs to be improved upon during the second half is his deep passing (passes thrown more than 15 yards in the air past the original line of scrimmage). In the Steelers first 8 regular season games Roethlisberger has completed just 25 of his 73 deep pass attempts (34.2%) for 790 yards. It’s also worth noting that 6 of his 9 total interceptions this season have come via deep pass attempts and 4 of those came during his five-interception game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With the obvious needed area of improvement for Roethlisberger now out of the way, let’s move on to the less obvious area and that’s his passing on makeable third downs.

In the Steelers first 8 regular season games of 2017 Roethlisberger has attempted 27 total pass attempts when the offense was facing third down and between 3 and 6 yards to go. He completed just 13 of those pass attempts and his completion percentage of 48.1% is currently second-worst in the league when compared to all other quarterbacks that have attempted more than 15 such passes on that down and that distance span. In case you’re curious, only Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles has lower completion percentage (37.5%) of the 29 qualifying players.

Of those 14 third and manageable pass incompletions that Roethlisberger has had so far this season, his deep pass infectiveness has reared its ugly head in them. In fact, Roethlisberger is currently 0-4 on deep pass attempts when throwing on third downs with 3 to 6 yards to go. His other 10 incompletions, however, were deemed shorter throws. One of those 10 incompletions needs to be defended, however, as that particular short pass to wide receiver Antonio Brown was actually seemingly caught before being stripped away by Baltimore Ravens safety Eric Weddle for an interception. I’m sure that all of you still remember that play.

One other short pass on a third and manageable play this season that wound up in the wrong hands came in the game against the Kansas City Chiefs. If you remember, that quick slant to Brown on a 3rd down and 5 play included the wide receiver hesitating during his route and Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters was effectively given a gift interception as a result of that.

So, should we expect improvement from Roethlisberger in third down and manageable passing situations during the second half of the 2017 season? It’s hard to say for sure but when you look back at his second half of season games played in dating back to 2013, history tells us that we should.

From 2013 to 2016, Roethlisberger has completed 59.7% of all third down passes (119 attempts) when facing 3 to 6 yards to go with 12 touchdowns and just 2 interceptions. Additionally, 49.6% of those attempted passes resulted in either a first down or a touchdown. While that conversion rate isn’t eye-popping, it’s 5% better than the conversion rate he posted in the team’s first 8 games of 2017 when facing third down and 3 to 6 yards to go.

  • NCSteel

    This is good research work.

    While it could be true that water may begin to seek it’s level in the second half in regards to improved 3rd down completion rate, I can’t help wonder whether the accurate deep ball has left Ben’s aresenal on a more permanent basis.
    Ya know, father time being undefeated and all. Whats Ben now, 35 ?
    The years of his style of play with the extra hits and all combined with the fact that he does not strike me as someone who has striced daily to take care
    of his body (just my impression,
    could very well be wrong), I don’t know, he seems an old 35 or whatever.

    Not saying he can’t win a championship because I believe he can but maybe folks expectations for him, including his own, may need to be adjusted accordingly. C’mon Todd, lets take the week to find ways to improve Bens chances at not only third down plays but at staying away from bad situations he may no longer be a good fit for.
    Theres more than one way to skin a cat or win another SB.

  • Marcel Chris Chauvet

    I see two very interesting stats in relation to deep passing:

    (#1) The Steelers are averaging 9 passes of 15 air yards or more attempted per game
    (#2) The Steelers have attempted a pass of more than 15 air yards on roughly 15% of 3rd down attempts between 3 and 6 yards.

    You think, maybe, defenses are sitting on the deep ball when they play against us?! I know I would.

  • falconsaftey43

    Well if teams are taking away the deep ball on 3rd and manageable because they throw it 15% of the time, Steelers are doing a terrible job of taking advantage of the Defense the other 85%.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Let me take a wack… They have one of the game’s best wide receiver‘s with elite short area quickness & sure hands a rookie wide receiver or who is 6‘2“ tall/215 pounds (big, physical & sure handed) along with a 6’7” TE & a 6’4” headcase with elite speed and skills and the can’t get a 3rd and 5 or less with consistency. Oh and a RB who many rate as a top 5 talent. Sh*t I forgot an O-line that is also considered to be top 5. Instead of going for the vaunted 33% chance 40 yard shot downfield why not run slants and picks off of play action or a draw or even, heaven forbid, their favored 1st and 10 bubble screen.

  • Cwallace

    NCSteel that was very good research in the earlier blogs but what you said is what im seeing and you are spot on sir. First half..an old 35, yeah he looks like he wont even do situps,…and that deep ball…yep…its not tight and its been a hair off as far as in stride for about a year unless its AB. But watch. Second half …magic. We’ve seen it before This underdoglovin, poormouthing, proud steeler legend isn’t about to go out without a finish for the ages and barring injury I’ve got a feeling BB has us just where he’s comfortable…looking..wondering how he finishes his final act. He has nothing to lose because he started this act after the AFCCgm so i can’t wait…and those receivers are so thirsty from all the self inflictions, and theft…Jujus just the start of an onslaught. Sorry for the long reply but your post was openly excellent. Go Steelers!

  • falconsaftey43

    Are you really this upset about throwing it deep on 4 of 27 3rd down and manageable situations?

  • NCSteel

    Right on brother.
    You’re getting me pumped for the second half !!!

  • NCSteel

    Nice work Marcel.
    Yea, they probably are.
    It sure as heck doesn’t help the cause.

  • NCSteel

    We have not seen enough slants. I have a feeling Ju Ju will eventually make a small fortune off of them.

  • NCSteel

    My guess is he’s not upset. Just trying to figure out how to get another championship.
    The less mistakes, the better the chances.

    No team can say they do not need improvement.
    And with a bye week, what else are folks like us gonna do but look at ways to improve ?
    You can bet the Steelers are.

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Not necessarily about the number. It seems more frustrating based on game situation, field position and play selection. In don’t think they should be going deep if they are in their backyard. Number of possessions and field position can often times dictate the outcome of the game. My question to you…Why are the stats so dismal?

  • Joeybaggadonuts

    Michael Irvin & Jerry Rice made it to the HOF off of third and manageable slants & digs. Hines might not be far behind either. It also ended Michael Irvin’s career.