Ben Roethlisberger polar opposite third down passer from 2012 to now

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

There's plenty of criticism to go around, but Roethlisberger's passer rating on third down has dropped 70 points from last year to this year. Some is due to the lack of Heath Miller through the first two games, some is due to poor protection and some is due to long down-and-distance.

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger shredded teams on third down in 2012.

On third downs, he was 75-124 (61 percent) for 918 yards, 10 touchdowns and one interception - good enough for a 106.9 quarterback rating. Through three games in 2013, Roethlisberger is 12-for-27 (44 percent) for 123 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.

His rating on third downs in 2013 is 31.6.

What isn't helping is the amount of long distances the Steelers face on third downs. In the team's 40-23 loss to Chicago, their average length of the yard to gain was seven. They converted 3-of-11 chances on third down, and were 0-for-2 in the red zone.

Clearly, much is working against Roethlisberger, but with three fumbles (two lost) and two interceptions, and at least two turnovers from the team in three games, the fact a weak-powered offense continuously gives the ball to their opposition isn't helping anything.

Heading into Monday night's game between Oakland and Denver, the Steelers are tied with the Giants for the worst give/take ratio in the NFL at -9. They are 31st in the league, ahead of only Cleveland, with a 27.8 third down conversion percentage.

Quite a difference from last year, when Roethlisberger's razor-sharp passing drug a rush-less offense into the competitive ring game in and game out. While the lack of running game is still roughly the same (51.7 yards per game in the first three this year, and 65 yards per game through the first three in 2012), Roethlisberger's enormous drop-off in passing efficiency is magnifying the lack of running game even more intensely.

The Steelers haven't rushed for a touchdown in 2013, and have four total touchdowns. They are averaging 14 points a game - 30th in the NFL (pending the Monday night game).

There are several problems with the offense, and with a defense that simply cannot take the ball away from its opponent, the outlook isn't good - this could end up being the worst Steelers team in decades, not just years.

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