By this time, you’ve all heard about how Ben Roethlisberger might not need to be ‘Big Ben’ in order for the Steelers to win football games. This is absolutely true. On our weekly podcast, I spoke about how Roethlisberger’s career might mirror that of his childhood hero, John Elway, and he could be an accessory rather than the main cog to the offense, yet still win championships.
That’s all well and good, but it doesn’t mean the Steelers still can’t expect and hope to see an uptick in production from their franchise quarterback.
Through eight games, Roethlisberger has completed just 61-percent of his passes for 2,062 yards, 10 touchdowns and 9 interceptions with a 50.4 QBR and an 82.7 Rating.
Not exactly lighting the world on fire but, as Steelers fans around the globe adjust their expectations for Roethlisberger, allow me to remind folks of just how good Roethlisebrger still can be. They don’t necessarily need him to go out and be ‘the man’, but seeing him throw for 300 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a blowout wouldn’t be bad either.
In my opinion, if Roethlisberger can just start to connect on a few deep passes, ideally to Martavis Bryant, he will be well on his way to putting up more ‘Big Ben’ numbers, without throwing the ball more than 35 times per game.
Just my opinions, and now it’s time to check on the Black-and-gold news surrounding the Steelers outside the walls of BTSC:
“Ben Roethlisberger is now just a game manager. He's an unimportant piece of the Steelers' success.”
That's how some will interpret what's to come in this column.
However, that's not the intended message.
Let's be clear in advance: The Steelers need a healthy and effective Roethlisberger.
If he gets hurt or plays poorly in the second half of this year or during the playoffs, the Steelers will fail to win a seventh Super Bowl.
Big Ben has not been at his best so far in 2017. But attempting to extract bigger passing numbers out if him over the final eight weeks is not the answer.
Roethlisberger is the 26th-rated passer in the NFL. He's 25th in completion percentage at 61.1 percent. Only four quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions. And 17 have more touchdown passes.
All that has impacted a third-down offense that is 17th in the NFL and a red zone offense that is second to last.
“It can be frustrating at times offensively because we aren't executing the way that we want to,” Roethlisberger said after his team's win at Detroit on Oct. 29. “But we are winning football games.”
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley defended his quarterback before the bye weekend.
“There's been movement in the receiver group and the tight end group,” Haley said. “Some of those guys, he doesn't have a long history with. That makes you have to adjust and grow. And I think some of the inconsistencies you see from the outside are not what we see on a daily basis.”
But history shows Roethlisberger doesn't have to put up All-Pro-level yardage totals for his teams to be good.
In fact, Roethlisberger has topped 4,000 yards in a season four times. Twice the Steelers missed the playoffs in those years. The other two times they lost during the first weekend of the postseason.
Amplifying that point, look at Big Ben's career numbers when his supporting cast around him has actually been at its best.
Roethlisberger has quarterbacked five Steeler squads that were good enough to make at least the AFC championship game. He was under center as the leading passer for 82 of those games — including the playoffs. The team won 63 of them. That's a winning percentage of 76.8.
Yet Roethlisberger only needed to eclipse 300 yards passing in eight of those victories.
Just eight wins out of 63. And not once in the postseason.
So to be clear: In 55 out of 63 wins, Steeler teams that were good enough to be victorious 76 percent of the time — and reach AFC championship games — didn't need Roethlisberger to attain the perceived magic number of 300 yards in a game.
And the teams that needed him to reach the magic number of 4,000 yards in a season weren't good enough to make a dent in the playoffs, if they got there at all.
Those superior teams had running games, defenses and offensive lines that were good enough to support their quarterback. This year's team has the second-best defense in football in points allowed per game. The offensive line has the third-lowest sack rate allowed. And Le'Veon Bell is the third-leading rusher in the NFL.
Designated to practice off the injured reserve list last week, Cameron Sutton said he hasn't suffered any setbacks and his hamstring feels “good.” The rookie cornerback is six days into a 21-day window in which he must be added to the active roster or spend the remainder of the season on IR.
“Yeah, everything's good,” Sutton said.
The third-round pick added he has not been given any indication when he will be activated. The Steelers have six cornerbacks on their 53-man roster.
The Pittsburgh Steelers get their edge by diving into the playbook and playing physical football.
Turns out they get their fuel from a Hollywood power player and cow-milking robots.
"He's gone from Batman to farming," linebacker Ryan Shazier said.
He is Thomas Tull, the man who financed the "Dark Knight" trilogy and built Legendary Pictures into a $13-billion-dollar cinema powerhouse. He also serves as minority owner of the Steelers.
In 2016, fresh off the sale of Legendary, he decided to marry pro football and farmland with Rivendale Farms, a lush 150-plus-acre estate just outside of Pittsburgh that ships chocolate milk, eggs and vegetables straight to the Steelers’ cafeteria. Steelers players consume about 60 dozen eggs, four gallons of maple syrup and 200 pints of milk a week from the Rivendale barn.
Farming is a childhood dream for Tull, a dedicated tech investor whose farm follows that rep. Chicken sheds are solar-powered and more plush than a downtown flat. Cow eating patterns are closely tracked with data analysis, ensuring the top-shelf, New Jersey-bred cows are happy and relaxed when feeding. Navigating these Western Pennsylvania hills requires high-powered ATVs.
Only the best for the Black-and-gold.
The play lasted 14 seconds, which turned out to be plenty of time to illustrate where the Pittsburgh Steelers offense is right now.
Le'Veon Bell is getting the ball, and the Steelers are setting a block and getting out of his way.
"He's on fire," fullback Roosevelt Nix said about the man who has 573 total yards and 111 touches in the Steelers' past three wins.
Sunday's 29-14 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals was the Steelers' most complete game of the season, and this was the most complete play. It's emblematic of the serious run this team can make. Teamwork, explosive athleticism, physicality, blocking. The play had all of that.