Sharp decline in quarterback play over last nine games explains part of 2-7 record

Andy Lyons

The Steelers are on a fairly significant slide over their past nine games. While the play from their quarterbacks in those games doesn't explain all of it, the numbers stand in contrast from their previous nine games.

One thing fans can say about Ben Roethlisberger is he's quick to accept responsibility for losses or poor performances.

We know that because it's happened so often lately.

Through two games this year, Roethlisberger is 41-for-70 (58.6 percent) for 442 yards and two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions for a passer rating of 74.8.

Criticism lobbed at the offensive line, running backs, tight ends and receivers is fair, but it's inaccurate to call those groups out without shining the spotlight on the play of the franchise player for a bit.

Dating back to Week 14 of the 2012 season, Roethlisberger's first game back from a shoulder and rib injury, the Steelers have lost five of their last six games, with Roethlisberger's numbers in sharp decline from where they were before the injury.

Here are his stats from Weeks 1-10 of the 2012 season:

22 40 245 55 6.13 2 1
24 31 275 77.4 8.87 2 0
36 49 384 73.5 7.84 4 0
22 38 220 57.9 5.79 1 0
24 40 363 60 9.08 1 1
27 37 278 73 7.51 1 1
24 33 222 72.7 6.73 3 0
21 30 216 70 7.2 2 1
9 18 84 50 4.67 1 0
209 316 2287 66.1% 7.24 17 4

Since then, he's seen a sharp decline in his completion percentage as well as a TD:INT ratio of over 4:1 fall to under 2:1.

22 42 285 52.4 6.79 3 1
24 40 339 60 8.48 2 1
14 28 220 50 7.86 1 2
15 23 134 65.2 5.83 3 0
20 37 251 54.1 6.78 1 1
21 33 191 63.6 5.79 1 1
116 203 1420 57.1% 7.00 11 6

The only win, incidentally, came in his best performance of that stretch; a Week 17 throwaway game against the Browns. His most recent performance, a 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, was another frustrating display of inaccurate passing and a late-game interception. Again, Roethlisberger took responsibility for it.

"The last one to Jerricho (Cotchery) is high. I know he comes to me and says he needs to make that play, but I tell him I need to put it on him more," Roethlisberger was quoted as saying in a Times Online piece by Ron Musselman, explaining a 4th quarter interception deep in Cincinnati territory. "Nine out of 10 times, I know I can make that throw, but it just kind of got away from me a little bit. And that was a killer."

Roethlisberger floated a few high throws to receivers in an otherwise forgettable performance. If the issue here is not having playmaking receivers, it's curious if by "playmakers," people mean "receivers who stand seven feet or taller." The receivers are their own issue, but they didn't have a whole lot to work with in the Steelers most recent loss.

Or many of the losses they've had lately. This isn't a new trend anymore. Since Roethlisberger went down in Week 10 in the second half against Kansas City, Steelers quarterbacks have fallen off quite a bit.

Weeks 1-10 2012 209 316 2287 66.14% 7.24 17 4
Wks 10-17 2012, 1-2 2013 186 326 2167 57.06% 6.65 12 11

That's a nine point drop in completion percentage and nearly a 300 percent increase in interceptions in one less game. Granted, the starts from Byron Leftwich and Charlie Batch are factored in here, but it shows a general and severe decline at a position the Steelers usually own an advantage over their opponents.

That hasn't been the case often, if at all, lately.

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