No one is perfect, and Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers isn't an exception to such a basic rule. In Roethlisberger's return to the team in Week 8 against the Cincinnati Bengals after a 4-week hiatus due to injury, he threw three interceptions which proved to be costly for the black and gold.
Roethlisberger's interceptions ranged from poor decisions, pressure on the quarterback and one great play by the Bengals' defender. We break each interception down and help show where things went South for Big Ben and company.
As diagrammed in the GIF, Roethlisberger fails to see Reggie Nelson turn and run to the deep middle of the field, shading Antonio Brown's side of the field. Such a simple mistake, compounded by Roethlisberger never truly looking off the defenders, denied what could have been a big play.
Roethlisberger thinks he has Brown in one-on-one coverage on the outside, but Nelson coming from the opposite side of the field is enough to ruin a big play. Brown clearly doesn't see Nelson either, as he doesn't make an attempt to "high point", or break up, the football. This was a third down play, and some could view it as a punt, but a better decision at the line of scrimmage would make it clear to Roethlisberger that Martavis Bryant was the player who should have been targeted on the outside. Roethlisberger rarely misses on pre-snap reads, but he was fooled by the Bengals on this play.
You hear fans say all the time, "That's just Ben being Ben." This statement is true in this play. Roethlisberger creates time and space for himself, as he has done so many times in his career, but instead of tucking and running the football for a short gain, or throwing the ball away, Roethlisberger wants to make a big play for his team. It isn't that Roethlisberger didn't see the defender behind Will Johnson, he thought he could squeeze the pass in. Worst-case scenario, in Roethlisberger's mind, was probably the pass would get knocked down.
The fact the defender was able to slide across Johnson, make the catch and keep his feet in bounds is a fantastic play. Tip of the cap to the defender on this one. Fans who want Roethlisberger to throw the football away should know that isn't his style. You live and die by the sword, and in this case the offense died with Roethlisberger's "gun slinger" mentality.
The pass which sailed over Antonio Brown's head on the first play from scrimmage in the Steelers' second-to-last possession wasn't a bad decision by Roethlisberger. Brown is wide open on the play, but the pressure put on Roethlisberger doesn't allow him to plant his left, and still injured, leg and follow through on the pass.
If you have every played baseball, or even know anything about the pitching position you will know if a pitcher isn't following through on their plant leg, pitches will routinely stay up in the zone. These simple mechanics are true for quarterbacks too. Watch Roethlisberger's left leg on this play. He is unable to plant, which causes the football to sail on him, and equates in an easy interception for the Bengals. If the line gives Roethlisberger even a half second more time, Brown is moving the ball down the field after the catch.
These interceptions ranged from a lack of protection to poor decision making, but these mistakes are all very simple fixes. There is nothing wrong with Roethlisberger mechanically, even after the injury, but it was a combination of great defensive plays (interceptions 1 and 2), and pressure on the quarterback causing another turnover (interception 3).
If the Steelers want to be a team to be reckoned with in the second half of the season, they need to fix some of these issues, starting with the quarterback to the offensive line. Playing a cleaner, and ultimately more efficient, brand of football will help the team not only defeat the Oakland Raiders Sunday, but regain their offensive prowess moving forward.