The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are no longer what fans were expecting coming into the season. With Ben Roethlisberger out for the season, it feels like a different team with different methods, and even different goals. In essence, it’s like the season has started over again. While some have written off the Steelers as having a lost season, there is still some hope based on how the Steelers have performed without Ben Roethlisberger in the past.
Although historical stats do not guarantee anything when it comes to the Steelers current quarterback situation, it can show some possible trends. In this week’s installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take a look at how the Steelers have fared with Ben Roethlisberger versus games in which we wasn’t the starter. I realize some of the statistics may not paint the most accurate picture, especially since many of the games go back to the 2015 season. But the data is what the data is, so let’s just look at the data.
0-5 vs 1-0
This may be one of those loaded statistics, but it is very interesting to note. Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have traveled to the Pacific Time Zone for six games. In the five games Ben Roethlisberger started, the Steelers are 0-5. The one game which the Steelers did not have Ben Roethlisberger on the West Coast was in Week 5 of 2015 when they defeated the San Diego chargers 24–20.
64.7% vs 55.6%
In Head coach Mike Tomlin‘s tenure in Pittsburgh, he and Ben Roethlisberger have combined for a record of 123-67-1 when Ben has been the starter. In games in which Roethlisberger did not start, the Steelers have a record of 10-8. So while the 64.7% winning percentage with Roethlisberger (including the playoffs) is very positive, the falloff without Roethlisberger has not been tremendous at 55.6%. One item of note is that the 30-9 victory over the Cleveland Browns in week 10 of the 2015 season was a game Roethlisberger did not start, but he did enter the game for an injured Landry Jones to lead the Steelers to victory. Even if this game were excluded, the Steelers still have a winning record with a 52.9% winning percentage.
2-6 vs 5-3
If looking simply at the last eight games, the Steelers have a record of 2–6 with Ben Roethlisberger as the starter. If diving back all the way through 2015, the Steelers have a record of 5-3 when Roethlisberger was not the starter. Once again, this includes the game where Roethlisberger came off the bench. I’m not sure any conclusion can be drawn from this statistic, but I just thought I’d put it out there for people to see.
For these final two categories, we are comparing passing and rushing statistics over the last five seasons (since 2015) without Ben Roethlisberger versus Ben’s 2018 statistics. Due to the elbow injury and only having a game and a half in 2019, I felt using the 2018 statistics give a more accurate representation. As for the games without Roethlisberger since the beginning of the 2015 season, I threw out the game he did not start but yet played against Cleveland in 2015. So these are the average statistics comparing 2018 with Roethlisberger to the games without Roethlisberger since 2015.
21.6 vs 27.7
One glaring difference between Ben Roethlisberger’s statistics in 2018 versus when he was not playing the last several seasons is the number of rushing attempts per game. When Ben is playing, the rushing attempts barely go above 20 on average at 21.6 attempts per game. Within those games, only half of them did the Steelers go over 20 rushing attempts. As for when Ben Roethlisberger has not been in the lineup over the last five seasons, the Steelers have averaged 27.7 rushing attempts per game with the lowest total in any game being 22.
The additional six rushing attempts per game help significantly with the number of rushing yards. Without Rothlisberger, the Steelers average 128.1 rushing yards per game while in 2018 they only averaged 90.3 yards per game. Just remember, the players rushing the ball in these various games are an additional factor.
67.0% vs 63.4%
Surprisingly, there has not been a large drop off in completion percentage for the Steelers when Rothlisberger has been out of the lineup. In 2018 Roethlisberger completed 67.0% of his passes with an average of 28.3 completions on 42.2 attempts per game. Without Ben, the Steelers average 19.3 completions on 30.3 attempts for 63.4% completion rate. Obviously, nine more completions leads to a significant number more of yards per game as Roethlisberger averaged 320.1 yards in 2018 with 2.13 touchdowns per game. In the starts without Ben Roethlisberger, the Steelers have averaged 215.3 yards passing with 1.43 touchdowns per game. So while the completion percentage is not a large difference, the passing yards per game are definitely noticeable.
So there are some numbers which could give a glimmer of hope for the Steelers moving forward in 2019. Do you think these historical statistics matter? Are the Steelers previous results without Rothlisberger even comparable now that Mason Rudolph is the quarterback? Please leave your answers in the comments below!