Just one year ago, the question was if Ben Roethlisberger could repeat as the NFL’s leading passer. While many felt Roethlisberger having to throw for enough yards to lead the league was not the best situation for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it was comforting to know Big Ben was capable of putting up the yardage to lead the NFL if called upon. But after season-ending elbow surgery just two weeks into the 2019 season, Vegas oddsmakers are not confident in Roethlisberger putting up a league-leading performance.
There are definitely other factors which come into play in predicting players who must amass more yardage than any other quarterback for the season. With the Steelers much improved defense, Ben Roethlisberger may not be put in a situation where he must throw the ball. But with many questions remaining about the Steelers running game, relying more on the pass could improve his odds. So the biggest factor when it comes to Ben Roethlisberger in 2020 has to be his return from injury, especially at his age.
In the odds provided by BetOnline, there were 35 quarterbacks listed with various odds to lead the league in passing. Of the 35, Ben Roethlisberger came in tied for 18th at 40/1 odds.
The best odds to win the NFL’s passing title belong to Saints’ quarterback Drew Brees at 5/1. Just behind Brees is Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes at 6/1 odds. Three more quarterbacks come in tied at 8/1 in Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, and Matt Ryan. To my surprise, the next two players who are currently at 10/1 odds to win the passing title are Dak Prescott and Lamar Jackson.
Comparing Roethlisberger to Jackson is quite interesting when looking at their statistics. Even after being selected as first team All-Pro in 2019, Lamar Jackson threw for 3,127 yards. Just one year prior, Roethlisberger totaled just over 2,000 yards more than Jackson’s 2019 performance with 5,129 yards. With Jackson having four times better odds to lead the league in passing goes to show how much Roethlisberger’s injury factors into the equation.
What is also very intriguing is the other players who are tied with Big Ben coming in at 40/1. Both Kirk Cousins and Ryan Fitzpatrick also have the same odds to lead the NFL in passing in 2020. The other two players also tied in the 18th position are Cam Newton and Jameis Winston who both are currently not on an NFL roster. While some fans are pining for one of these players to don the black and gold in 2020 in a reserve role, they are each deemed to be just as likely to lead the league in passing as the Steelers current franchise quarterback.
One other player of note from the AFC North is Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield. At 33/1 odds, the third-year quarterback and former first overall pick is ahead of Ben Roethlisberger when it comes to leading the NFL in passing. Yet to eclipse the 4,000 yard mark, or even have a season with a winning record, Mayfield passed for more yards than Lamar Jackson in 2019.
While I would not be tempted to place a large wager on Ben Roethlisberger leading the NFL in passing in 2020, it is not for my lack of confidence in his ability to return from injury. I believe Roethlisberger is in a much better situation with the Steelers and their improved defense in order to not have to rely as heavily on his arm in order to be successful. Also factoring in Roethlisberger had arguably the best wide receiver catching passes from him in 2018, I would not bet on another 5,000 yard performance in 2020. But, if the bet was available to me, I would be very tempted to wager my house on 4/1 odds of Roethlisberger having more passing yards than Lamar Jackson this coming season.