MIRZA ZUKIC: You'd be frustrated, too, if you were Steelers' Roethlisberger
If you were in Ben Roethlisberger’s size 13 shoes, you’d be frustrated, too. Can you blame him?
Roethlisberger has been sacked a whopping 35 times in nine games, the second-highest total in the NFL this season. That’s just the number of times the defense managed to get to him. The number of times he’s been hit on dropbacks but managed to get rid of the ball is well into the triple digits.
For those who say that being battered and beaten comes with the territory, I beg to differ.
For proof, Roethlisberger just needs to look across the field at Matthew Stafford today. The Lions’ gunslinger has taken just 10 sacks despite averaging more than 40 pass attempts a game. It’s possible to keep your jersey clean as a quarterback in the NFL.
But Roethlisberger has had four different starting combinations along the offensive line this season, and the most important position for a right-handed quarterback — the left tackle spot that protects his blind side — has been a revolving door of inconsistency.
The offense has become so conservative that Roethlisberger rarely gets to show off his strong arm. And that’s on Todd Haley’s play-calling, no doubt.
But whether Haley truly believes that’s the most successful scheme for this offense or whether his schemes are forced by the fact the Steelers have no real deep threat is irrelevant. Roethlisberger doesn’t get to go deep, and I’d bet every NFL quarterback would be frustrated by that.
Furthermore, the Steelers have scored four touchdowns in their three victories and kicked 11 field goals. They are ranked 28th in the league in red-zone offense, and less than half (44.8 percent) of their red-zone possessions end with a touchdown.
The Steelers’ offense has been painful to watch from the press box or on TV. It can only be harder when your livelihood depends on it, and Roethlisberger acknowledged as much.
“That’s why I think I was so disappointed after the game,” Roethlisberger said on Thursday. “We won, and I am happy about that. But we should have been better. The first time we got back down there, I think it was after Ryan Clark’s interception, we really tried to pound, bring the extra tight end in, Mike Adams, and really tried to run the ball, because it worked the last time down there, when we grinded, picked up the extra yards and got the touchdown. That time it didn’t work. Their defensive line stopped us.
“I just think when we get down there we need to keep staying aggressive and not get too conservative and bring in the extra lineman and play that conservative role. We have great weapons.”
So here’s an idea: Let Roethlisberger start the game today in the no-huddle offense he loves so much. Let him fire a couple fly routes to Antonio Brown or speedy rookie Marcus Wheaton now that he’s back.
Let him call the shots. More importantly, let him have some fun.
Mirza Zukic is in his third season covering the Pittsburgh Steelers for The Indiana Gazette. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @MirzaZuka.