The Pittsburgh Steelers preseason is now half way complete as they get ready to go on the road for the first time Sunday night. Taking on the Tennessee Titans in Nashville on Sunday Night Football, the Steelers treated this week of practices as a simulated regular-season workweek in order to greater prepare for the 2019 season. No players have been ruled out for the game by head coach Mike Tomlin, so unless someone is dealing with an injury they should see playing time to some degree.
Since both the offensive and defensive first teams are expected to begin the game on Sunday, the performance during the first quarter of play will be the most highly scrutinized. In this week’s installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at the first quarter numbers, specifically those of Ben Roethlisberger, over the last three preseason Week 3 games in order to get an idea of what to expect from the Steelers’ starting team against the Tennessee Titans
Over the last three years, Ben Roethlisberger has only seen action in the third week of the preseason. During that time, Roethlisberger has averaged 2.33 drives in which he led the offense. In 2016 and 2107, Roethlisberger was only under center (or more likely in shotgun, but it’s not the accepted cliche) for the first two drives of the game. In 2018 Roethlisberger saw an extra series of play. Personally, I’d like to see Ben on the field for two effective drives before calling it a night.
The much more important factor in determining how much Ben Roethlisberger will be on the field Sunday night would be the number of snaps taken. If after two series Roethlisberger hasn’t seen more than a dozen plays, it would be a safe bet he would take the field for one more drive. Averaging almost 19.67 plays over the last three seasons, Roethlisberger saw 24 snaps in 2018. While the number of drives will depend on their outcomes, the number of snaps taken will be the easier factor in determining when Big Ben will get pulled. If he only lasts for two drives like stated before, I would like to see Roethlisberger play about 20 snaps.
The Steelers have averaged 8 points in the first quarter since 2016, all of which were drives led by Ben Roethlisberger. In 2018 Roethlisberger completed a 32-yard touchdown pass to Justin Hunter for the Steelers only first-quarter points. In 2016, Roethlisberger threw touchdowns of five yards to Jesse James and 57 yards to Antonio Brown. In 2017, the Steelers managed only a 36-yard Chris Boswell field goal. If the Steelers can manage more than one score in the opening quarter, it would be considered a good performance. While finding the end zone would be preferred, I would be minimally satisfied with field goals on both drives.
On a side note, based on the list of touchdowns mentioned above, it should be pointed out that Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown a preseason touchdown to any player currently on the Steelers roster.
On average, Ben Roethlisberger has completed 67% of his passes (10/15) for 112 yards in his limited preseason action over the last three years. What might be the most interesting is combining this stat with the nearly 20 plays run, Roethlisberger was putting the ball in the air about 75% of the time he was on the field. If Ben is throwing the ball that often on Sunday night, he should go over 100 yards in the air.
Even with Ben Roethlisberger throwing the ball the majority of his preseason plays, he has not thrown an interception in the preseason in over five years. The last time Roethlisberger had a preseason interception was on August 21, 2014 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Although the law of averages says he is due to throw a preseason pick eventually, it would be great if Roethlisberger refrained from turning the ball over in the air, or at all for that matter.
So there are some numbers to use as a measuring stick in terms of Ben Roethlisberger’s performance in the Steelers third game of the 2019 preseason. Which number would you most like to see Roethlisberger eclipse? Is there another one you’re looking for? Please leave your answers in the comments below!