2017 Grade: .356

2017 3rd Down: .019

Week 1 vs. Cleveland: In the 2016 grades, I talked about how the Steelers were reducing Roethlisberger’s role in the offense – the same was true on Sunday. Bubble screens, quick dump offs, Pittsburgh isn’t asking him to do a lot. And that probably has something to do with his general ineffectiveness. He threw behind receivers frequently, looked slow and indecisive in the pocket, and held the ball too long on slower developing routes. That cliff is looking really close, but Antonio Brown consistently bails him out.

Week 2 vs. Minnesota: The identity transformation of the Steelers remains in full-force. Quick throws and a steady ground game to preserve their nearly retired quarterback helps to protect Big Ben. That’s not to say he’s not capable of shaking off would-be-sackers and making quality throws (see below) but the mistakes are becoming a trend. The GIF below wasn’t an interception, but it should’ve been – with a wide open target underneath, no less.

Week 3 at Chicago: Ben Roethlisberger mentioned he didn’t sleep much Saturday night, and it showed. Seven of his first 11 passes were noticeably off-target. His mechanics in the pocket continue to be erratic and his accuracy is a pass-by-pass proposition. He uncharacteristically whiffed on a couple of deep passes, he doesn’t maneuver away from pressure like he once did, and he still challenges windows that aren’t open. His third down tape has been a bit of a nightmare (4 points on 29 drop backs.)

Week 4 at Baltimore: Every time I grade a Roethlisberger game, I expect the grade to be sub-par. Not that he’s been dazzling this year (his .440 mark is middle of the pack) but the design of the Steelers offense is so… bland. Screens, quick hitters, heavy running game, they have completely minimized Roethlisberger. He avoids the bad plays to allow this style to work, but it feels like this is his last year.

Week 5 vs. Jacksonville: It’s becoming more obvious, with each passing week, why the Steelers are minimizing Ben Roethlisberger’s role in the offense – he is no longer the player he once was. He’s often late on reads, his ball doesn’t have the same velocity it used to, he doesn’t evade the rush like he once did, and his accuracy to the middle of the field is a potential turnover every time he lets it rip. This throw was a staple for Roethlisberger and Brown for a long time, and Ben can’t get it there.

Week 6 at Kansas City: Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown pass was graded at -3 points. With a two-point lead, he severely underthrew Antonio Brown, the defender drops the pick, bats it into the air and Brown does the rest. The GIF below is another atrocious throw that actually does get intercepted. The theme remains the same, the Steelers are scheming this offense to try to cover the weakness at the quarterback position. That old cowboy definitely doesn’t have it any more.

2016: Scheme and Scorecard Diversity

Above all, Ben Roethlisberger is known for his ability to extend plays and turn catastrophe into triumph. While those accolades are properly placed, it might be his scheme-diverse style that is most-impressive. Roethlisberger is chameleon-like in shifting his philosophy to best attack the opposing defense.

However, much like the offense he conducts, Roethlisberger’s 2016 season was a mixed-bag of dazzling downfield-strikes after escaping a cluster in the pocket, atrocious mistakes and mundane quick-passes. Nobody eludes pressure and makes chicken salad from chicken, well, feces, better than the Steeler quarterback.

Penalizing Big Ben for utilizing the stellar surrounding-cast of playmakers would be naïve, but crucifying him for the bone-headed decisions is a legitimate concern at this point in his career. He still takes far too many sacks and throws a lot of passes directly into the arms of defenders.

While the numbers and the tape tailed off a bit in 2016, his arm-talent is as good as ever. The touch and the zip are still there as he can still squeeze a fastball in between two defenders. He is outstanding throwing corner and back-shoulder routes pinpointing the football where only his man can catch it. His deep-passes hung in the air a beat too long and some big-plays were missed and turnover opportunities arise as a result.

Tight-coverage doesn’t force Roethlisberger to shy away – he’s profound as throwing around a defender for a completion. Recognition of mismatches is a strong-point of his game as well Roethlisberger allows Antonio Brown to make his money on all areas of the field. Very rarely does Big Ben pass up an opportunity to take a shot downfield in one-on-one coverage.

Circling back, almost all of his game stems from the extension of plays. While it creates a lot of jaw-dropping homeruns, the inconsistencies in his mechanics show up from time to time. Also, he can be too carless with the football in heavy-traffic and will cough up some fumbles.

There is a reason widespread panic covered Steeler Nation when rumors of retirement circulated from Roethlisberger. The Pittsburgh offense is one of the most entertaining units to watch in the NFL with ever-shifting tempos, formations and aerial-attacks.

A down-year for Roethlisberger is a positive year for most quarterbacks. He’s a master of his craft, an extremely unique-talent that essentially already has his bust for Canton carved out.

Stat Sheet

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