We're still a month away from camp, but I think we're close enough to Opening Day 2008 for us to begin projecting out the seasons of some of our favorite Steelers. I've done it in year's past, just for kicks, and not surprisingly, been off on some and close on others. So have many of you with your projections in the comments sections.
Before thinking about Big Ben's 2008 season, let's revisit what I wrote in 2007, take a look at what I projected and then compare with his actual 2007 data. Then, combinbing what we learned about him and our offense in 2007 with our newest additions and how we think Arians will adjust in 2008, let's take a stab at projecting his 2008 campaign. A big one, I might add, in the wake of his meteoric pay hike this offseason.
269 Completions, 430 Attempts, 62.5 %, 3200 yards, 23 TDs, 14 INTs
264 completions, 404 attempts, 65.3%, 3154 yards, 32 TDs, 11 INTs
I still smile when I see Ben's 2007 line. That's so freakin' outstanding. Let's take a step back though and realize that, at least statistically, last year could be the greatest statistical year Ben Roethlisberger will ever have as a professional. Yes, he will throw for more than 3154 yards at some point in his career; and I wouldn't wager against him ever having a 30+ TD season before he hangs it up. But nevertheless, when you look at the season as a package, then factor in the spotty running game he had in certain situations, PLUS the porous offensive line, you should then be able to appreciate all that he was able to accomplish statistically. That's so few mistakes for how pressured he was last year.
Things To Consider Before Projecting Roethlisberger's 2008 season:
1) The schedule - we'll talk about this more later, but the Steelers' 2008 schedule could effect Ben's individual statistics in one of two likely ways: A) We're in a bunch of tough, hard-fought games, where ball-control is king. Those NFC East teams can sport some stiff defense on any given week. Plus, we have, count it, ZERO games west of the Mississippi River this year. Depending on unpredictable weather, we could have plenty of slug-it-out ugly games in the cold and wet Midwest and Northeast this November-January. B) We're in a bunch of shoot-out type games, which would inflate Ben's personal numbers. Cleveland (twice), Cincy (twice), Indy, New England, Dallas, Philadelphia. All those teams prefer to throw more than they run. Some remarkably so. We'll see if the Steelers find themselves in a number of high-scoring affairs, which was very much not the case in 2007. Finally, unless we're better than I expect, there will be no resting for the playoffs in Week 17. The opponent will be the Browns, and it might be for all the marbles. If so, give him an extra week's worth of numbers, for better, or for worse. Oh wait, it's against Cleveland. Rack 'em up Big Ben. Like you always have against teams from the state of Ohio.
2) The offensive line - Of course, the better Roeth is protected, the more likely it is he replicates that low mark of just 11 INTs. We do need to get Ben out of the pocket on occasion, and you better believe that he'll still pull off several heroic plays with his legs, but the reality is, if he's constantly on the run or on his backside, that INT:TD ratio is going to even itself out some in 2008.
3) The running game - Our rush - pass ratio in 2007 was 511:361, or roughly just under 3:2. I would expect that number to go down even a smidge more in 2008. I say even more because in 2006, we threw the ball 523 times. That's nearly 25% more pass attempts than in 2007. Hard to believe, since we all in some way believe that the makeup of our philosophy and offensive talent is morphing towards being more pass-oriented. But that was actually not the case last year. And it wouldn't surprise me if that trend continues in 2008 with the addition of Rashard Mendenhall to the fold. His arrival, plus some uncertainty with the line, both make it plausible that we try to minimize our risk, at least early in the schedule, by hammering away with the running game.
That said, here's my projection for Ben Roethlisberger in 2008. As always, I won't pretend that I arrived at these numbers in any sort of sophisiticated manner, other than thinking about the aforementioned mitigating factors:
272 completions, 432 attempts, 62.9%, 3250 yards, 26 TDs, 16 INTs.