While the release of the NFL schedule is likely to come sometime next month before the NFL draft, the home and away opponents for every NFL team has already been determined for some time. Some of the names in key positions on the Steelers may be different in 2019, but Ben Roethlisberger is still poised to be the starting quarterback. When it comes to the Steelers quest for the playoffs, Ben’s success both at home and on the road is key in getting to the postseason.
In Ben Roethlisberger’s 15 year career, 2018 was the first season in which he had a winning record on the road (4-3-1) where the Steelers did not make the playoffs. Inversely, the Steelers have only made the playoffs in one season when Ben Roethlisberger had a losing record on the road. In 2007, Rothlisberger was 3–4 away from Heinz Field and yet the Steelers won the AFC North only to lose to Jacksonville in the wildcard round.
In 2018, the Steelers road matchup‘s were a concern going into the season. Ben Roethlisberger had never won a game in Oakland (0-3) or New Orleans (0-1) and had a losing record in games played in Denver (2-4). As we all know, the Steelers lost all three of these games. The other two road games against teams not in the AFC North were wins in Jacksonville (where Ben was 3–1 entering last season) and Tampa (where 2018 was Ben’s first regular season start).
Looking to 2019, the Steelers are facing an even more daunting road schedule for Ben Roethlisberger than they did last season. As usual, the Steelers travel to all three AFC North foes. And while Ben still does not have a winning record in Baltimore (4-6), he has won his last two starts. When it comes to Cleveland and Cincinnati, Rothlisberger’s record has been highly documented (I did an article about his statistics last month) as being a higher winning percentage than he has at Heinz Field.
As for the other five games the Steelers play on the road in 2019, the most telling statistic would be Ben Roethlisberger’s winning percentage by time zone. Excluding the AFC North, Rothlisberger is 25–12 (67.6%) playing at stadiums in the eastern time zone. If AFC North games were included, this percentage would go even higher. Moving into the central time zone, Ben Roethlisberger is 11–9 (55.0%) in his starts. The farther west the Steelers play, the lower Rothlisberger’s winning percentage gets as he is 3–6 (33.3%) in the mountain time zone and 1-7 (12.5%) in the western time zone.
Unfortunately, the Steelers travel to the west coast twice in 2019. The Steelers play in San Francisco, a city where Ben Roethlisberger is 0-1 with a 20-3 loss on Monday Night Football in 2011. The Steelers also play the Chargers, which will be Roethlisberger’s first time playing in Los Angeles. It should be of note that Ben’s lone victory in the western time zone came in San Diego against the Chargers on yet another Monday night in 2005. Roethlisberger is 1-1 on the road against the Charges with a loss in 2006. The Steelers did have a victory in San Diego in 2015 in a game in which Michael Vick played because Ben was injured.
The Steelers also play a game in the mountain time zone in 2019 against the Arizona Cardinals. Ben Roethlisberger is 1–1 in Arizona with a loss in 2007 followed by a win in 2011. So while Ben’s overall record for this particular time zone is not good, he is .500 against the Cardinals.
The final two non-AFC North opponents the Steelers face in 2019 on the road are the New York Jets and the New England Patriots. While Ben has an excellent road record in the eastern time zone, both of these locations have been problematic. It is no surprise that Roethlisberger is only 1–4 in New England. What Steelers fans might not know is Ben is only 1-2 in New York against the Jets (he is 2-0 against the Giants) and has yet to reach the 20-point mark in any game.
While it’s not a perfect predictor, the five road games against non-AFC North opponents has been an important factor for the Steelers in the Ben Roethlisberger era. The only seasons where the Steelers did not win at least three of the five games and made the playoffs were the aforementioned 2007 season (1-4) and 2015 (2-3). The Steelers missed the playoffs in 2009 while going 3-2 in non-division road games, but every other time where they managed at least three wins they made the postseason. In 2004 the Steelers won all five road games outside of the division on their way to a 15-1 record, by it was the only season since Roethlisberger was drafted where they didn’t have at least one loss.
Hopefully 2019 will be the season Ben Roethlisberger breaks out of his west coast slump. Or perhaps the Steelers pull out some hard-fought victories in the northeast. Either way, the road to the 2019 playoffs will not be one to take lightly.