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Does extra apparel on only Ben Roethlisberger’s throwing arm affect his performance?

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Does the future Hall of Fame quarterback perform any better while wearing just an arm sleeve on his right arm? We did the research.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

As I was scrolling through Twitter last Wednesday, I took note of the Steelers’ weekly tradition: posting a picture of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger with the affectionately placed “#BensDay.”

What caught my eye in this tweet was the white arm sleeve Roethlisberger had donned in that very game against the Jacksonville Jaguars in 2018.

That got me ruminating:
a) how often has Big Ben worn only a full-length arm sleeve on his right (throwing) arm?
b) how do his stats in such contests compare to his games with more conventional equipment?

To find out, I utilized a complimentary trial of NFL Game Pass (which lasts through July 31st—I highly recommend it!) and re-watched every single game in which Roethlisberger played since 2009—the furthest back the archives delved.

First, a little background: Roethlisberger has sported a number of equipment styles over this 11-year span, including:

No arm sleeves and a playbook wristband, like Week 1, 2016 at Washington

Pittsburgh Steelers v Washington Redskins Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

A half-sleeve undershirt and a playbook wristband, as in Week 1 of 2019

Pittsburgh Steelers v New England Patriots Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

A forearm band and a playbook wristband, such as against the Seahawks in their Week 2, 2019 clash

Seattle Seahawks v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

And 2 full-length arm sleeves and a playbook wristband, notably in Color Rush/cold weather matchups (i.e. Week 16, 2016 vs. the Ravens (top) and the 2017 Divisional Round game (bottom))

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images
Divisional Round - Jacksonville Jaguars v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

In today’s NFL, numerous players—namely quarterbacks like Patrick Mahomes and Carson Wentz—choose to wear an arm sleeve on their throwing arms as a personal style/performance preference. However, Roethlisberger may be forced to (or may opt to) wear a full-length right sleeve as the season begins in order to protect his surgically-repaired elbow; consequently, we may see Big Ben come onto the field with just a right arm sleeve and a playbook wristband in warmer games in September and October.

For Roethlisberger’s performance to be considered for this exercise, he had to have been donning a full-length right arm sleeve without a complementary-length sleeve on his left arm.

After assiduously scouring through hours of film, let’s find out if “Arm Sleeve Ben” is an actual phenomenon.

To start, the only games that met such cloth-centered criteria transpired in 2018: Week 2 vs. the Kansas City Chiefs, Week 3 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Week 4 at the Baltimore Ravens, Week 5 vs. the Atlanta Falcons and Week 11 at the Jaguars.

Here are Roethlisberger’s combined and average statistics from the aforementioned 5 games.

Games With Full-Length Right Arm Sleeve (5): 64.3 Completion Percentage, 1,643 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs, 3-2 record (.600 Winning Percentage)

Average Stats Per Game With Full-Length Right Arm Sleeve (5): 328.6 yards, 2.4 TDs, 1.2 INTs

Roethlisberger certainly enjoyed some memorable performances while wearing a sleeve, including tough road victories in Florida as well as a rout of the Falcons. At the same time, he also incurred lulls by losing to Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs, a mediocre performance in Baltimore as well as launching 3 interceptions in Duval County.

Roethlisberger’s prorated stats in a 16-game season with additional paraphernalia would be as follows:

5,258 yards, 38 TDs, 19 INTs, 9.6 Wins

The unequivocal question is: How does “Arm Sleeve Ben” compare to his overall career metrics? Let’s remove the auxiliary gear and find out.

Career Averages/Stats: 64.3 Completion Percentage, 259.4 yards/game, 1.7 TDs/game, 0.9 INTs/game, .667 Winning Percentage

Interestingly enough, Roethlisberger’s completion percentage was exactly the same in 5 games with the sleeve as it was for his overall 218 matchups played.

“Arm Sleeve Ben” seemed to fare better in terms of yardage (increase of 69.2 yards/game) and touchdowns tossed per contest (increase of .7 TDs/game), yet he also launched more interceptions (.3 more/game) while losing at a slightly inferior rate.

Further, here’s how Roethlisberger actually performed in 2018:

5,129 yards, 34 TDs, 16 INTs, 9 Wins

It seems that Roethlisberger—with just his right arm encased—would have accumulated more yards and touchdowns, although his trigger-happy nature would have also spiked his interception totals.

Overall, it appears that Ben Roethlisberger doesn’t flourish any more than usual while suiting up in just a full-length right arm sleeve.

At the very least, though, “Arm Sleeve Ben” has more swagger—style and confidence that very well may manifest itself in 2020 in order to reduce the chance of aggravating his now-repaired elbow, potentially via an enveloped brace.