After an off-season full of questions about his surgically-repaired elbow and how effective he could be in his 17th season, Steelers’ quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has answered all of those questions and then some thus far.
After three games, Big Ben has the Steelers at a 3-0 record for the first time since 2010, while throwing seven touchdowns and just one interception. His 105.2 passer rating ranks 10th in the NFL, while his 777 passing yards rank ninth and he is completing 67% of his passes.
So what is Roethlisberger doing so well that has him looking as if he never missed a beat? It’s a combination of his poise, decision making, and the talent he has at his disposal.
Ben Roethlisberger looks poised in the pocket
This season, perhaps more than any other, Roethlisberger just looks comfortable. That is a big nod to his offensive line, who have plugged several holes throughout the season thus far and transitioned seemingly effortlessly into their new roles.
Zach Banner won the starting right tackle job in camp but was lost for the season in Week 1, leaving Chukwuma Okorafor to fill his void. Matt Feiler shifted from right tackle to left guard after the retirement of Ramon Foster, rookie Kevin Dotson got some snaps following the injury to Stefen Wisniewski, and All-Pro guard David DeCastro was injured for the first two games. Even with all of the moving parts, Roethlisberger had the third-highest time to throw entering Week 3, averaging about 2.3 seconds.
His Offensive Share Metric currently sits at 22.72, which is higher than Tom Brady, Patrick Mahomes, and Drew Brees through three weeks of play. Roethlisberger isn’t just a game manager, but rather he’s built a formula to guide the Pittsburgh offense to wins.
Ben Roethlisberger is being smart with the football
With all the time he has been given, Roethlisberger had an on-target percentage of 80.6% going into Week 3, the same percentage as Lamar Jackson, and almost two percent higher than that of Drew Brees. Additionally, Roethlisberger ranks second to last in bad throw percentage, throwing inaccurate balls on just 9.7% of his passes.
Aside from his interception in Week 2 to Broncos’ safety Justin Simmons, Roethlisberger has been all but flawless with his decision-making. While some may look at it as not being aggressive, he really hasn’t had to be. This is the first season in recent years where the Steelers don’t need Roethlisberger to throw the ball 45 times per game to come out with a win. That aside, his decision-making has been a vital part of Pittsburgh’s early success. The Steelers are tied for fourth in turnover differential, and their defense is tied for third in team takeaways.
The Steelers have provided Ben Roethlisberger a lot of weapons
This very well may be the most confident Roethlisberger the NFL world has seen. That may have a lot to do with the young weapons he has at his disposal, which has opened up their offense in ways that they haven’t had in years past.
Each week it’s a different skill player that takes control. In Week 1, JuJu Smith-Schuster led the way with two touchdowns. In Week 2, Diontae Johnson had eight receptions, one touchdown, and was making key plays throughout the game. Week 3 was all about Eric Ebron, the free-agent signing from Indianapolis at tight end, who led the team in receptions (5) and yards (52) while recording his first touchdown as a Steeler. James Washington has also been solid and Vance McDonald has complimented Ebron at tight end accordingly. The passing game is thriving, and doing so while James Conner, Benny Snell, and Anthony McFarland all contribute out of the backfield.
With all of the talent on offense, it’s no wonder Roethlisberger seems so confident. This is the most talent he’s been surrounded by from top to bottom on the depth chart.
How far can this Steelers team go?
With the sample size we have, there is no reason to believe Pittsburgh can’t play deep into January. If Roethlisberger keeps this offense moving full steam ahead, and if the defense keeps points off the board, the Steelers can be just as much of a contender as the other powerhouse teams in the AFC. After all, the last time Pittsburgh began 3-0, they played in Super Bowl XLV.