Ben Roethlisberger's Spectacular 2010 Season in the Fourth Quarter and on Third Down

PITTSBURGH - OCTOBER 17: Ben Roethlisberger #7 of the Pittsburgh Steelers reacts after throwing a fourth quarter touchdown pass while playing the Cleveland Browns on October 17 2010 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. Pittsburgh won the game 28-10. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

You all are web savvy enough to find most NFL statistics on your own. Pro Football Reference is certainly an incredible resource for traditional stats, while Football Outsiders and Cold Hard Football Facts tackle more advanced metrics with aplomb. Nevertheless, I bet I can provide you with a few interesting Steelers stats from the 2010 season. This will be the first of several posts that analyze specific team and individual statistics from the 2010 season that are often less discussed for a variety of reasons.

Let's begin with Ben Roethlisbeger's passing numbers in two key situations -- in the fourth quarter and on third down. Now, being great in the fourth quarter or on third down isn't enough. Not if you lay an egg in other quarters or downs. But obviously both categories are significant.  You get a chance to make up for mishaps on first and second down; you have to punt it away if you falter on third down. Same applies to quarters one through three. So long as you're not disastrous in the early stages of game, you can always make up for it in the fourth and final quarter. So, though they don't correlate directly to team success, it's hard to argue that successful performance by your quarterback in the final 15 minutes and on third downs is paramount to a team's success.

Fourth Quarter Passing Leaders (AFC)

Rank Player Comp-Att Comp % Yards Yards/Att. TDs TD % INTs INT % Rating
1 Ben Roethlisberger 55-83 66.3 796 9.59 7 6.4 3 3.6 110.3
2 David Garrard 55-82 61.2 667 7.85 7 8.2 1 1.3 108.3
3 Tom Brady 63-97 64.9 736 7.59 8 8.2 2 2.1 106.7
4 Phillip Rivers 92-145 63.4 1122 7.74 10 6.9 3 2.1 101.6
5 Jason Campbell 59-94 62.8 756 8.04 4 4.3 1 1.1 97.7
6 Matt Schuab 113-182 62.1 1371 7.54 9 4.9 3 1.6 94.8
7 Peyton Manning 107-166 64.5 1213 7.31 8 4.8 4 2.4 92.3
8 Colt McCoy 45-71 63.4 566 7.97 4 5.6 3 4.3 89.3
9 Joe Flacco 68-106 64.2 735 6.93 4 3.8 2 1.9 89.2
10 Kyle Orton 97-169 57.4 1156 6.84 9 5.3 4 2.4 86.3


A couple of quick notes:

  • The chart above just shows the AFC leaders, but you'll have to trust me when I tell you that Roethlisberger's 4th quarter numbers also overshadow the top late-game performers in the NFC. Michael Vick was the NFC's highest rated passer (106.8). Vick also led the conference in yards/attempt (8.53). Aaron Rodgers meanwhile posted the best completion percentage (66.0). Add it all up and Big Ben is your NFL leader in fourth quarter passing -- at least in terms of rating, completion percentage, and yards/attempt.
  • I had no idea that David Garrrard had such a solid year in the fourth quarter. The Jaguars' signal caller had a much improved season compared to '09, but his final numbers don't jump out at you. Must mean he was much more pedestrian in quarters one through three.
  • Mr. Clutch..aka Peyton Manning wasn't all that special in 2010 in the final fifteen minutes of games. Not bad, that's for sure. But not great either.
  • Colt McCoy surely wishes he could have done more to help the Browns win more games, but he's being too hard on himself if he hasn't taken a moment to reflect on the solid experience he accumulated during his rookie year -- a season that was supposed to see him relegated to the bench no matter the circumstances.

Let's turn our attention now to third down passing stats. Successful passing on third down is important for obvious reasons, but as you'll see below, of the six highest rated AFC QBs on 3rd down passing attempts, only Brady and Roethlisberger led their teams to playoff berths. Let's take a look.


Third Down Passing Leaders (AFC)

Rank Player Comp-Att. Comp. % Yards Yards/Attempt TDs TD % INTs INT% Rating
1 Tom Brady 83-137 60.6 1139 8.71 15 10.9 2 1.5 119.3
2 Ben Roethlisberger 70-107 65.4 939 8.78 8 7.5 1 0.9 114.2
3 Philip Rivers 91-155 58.7 1312 8.46 10 6.5 5 3.2 94.3
4 Ryan Fitzpatrick 77-132 58.3 1026 7.77 9 6.8 4 3.0 93.2
5 Matt Schaub 79-130 60.8 862 6.63 4 3.1 0 0.0 90.6
6 Jason Campbell 54-102 52.9 756 7.41 6 5.9 2 2.0 88.5
7 Matt Cassel 78-144 54.2 1038 7.21 7 4.9 3 2.1 84.8
8 Joe Flacco 85-148 57.4 1172 7.92 7 4.7 5 3.4 84.6
9 David Garrard 62-100 62.0 694 6.94 6 6.0 5 5.0 81.8
10 Chad Henne 81-142 57.0 938 6.61 7 4.9 7 4.9 73.0


A few more notes on this set of data:

  • Tom Brady was filthy on third down last year. A TD toss every 9 pass attempts. Ridiculous. Too bad it was all for not as New England was impotent against the Jets in their playoff loss.
  • Roethlisberger wasn't too shabby himself. He posted the highest yards/attempt mark in the conference, as well as the highest completion percentage. His TD percentage and rating were second best. Only Jon Kitna completed a higher percentage of third down passes (70.4), and no NFC QB matched Roethlisberger's rating on third down.

So, even though your most recent memory of Ben Roethlisberger was of him making two costly mistakes in the Steelers' loss to the Packers in Super Bowl XLV, don't forget that history is made up of more than just the last thing you can remember. Last year, Roethlisberger played at a higher level than he ever has in his seven year career. He made smart decisions with the football, he took appropriate chances down the field, he was accurate, he distributed the ball amongst his bevy of playmakers, and as we've just seen, he raised his game to an even higher level on third down situations and late in games. Not bad, I'd say. Not bad at all.

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