Anyone who follows the Pittsburgh Steelers knows what Ben Roethlisberger brings to the team. After being forced to watch Mike Vick and Landry Jones stumble throughout the 4 games Roethlisberger missed due to injury, it became painfully clear how important Roethlisberger is to the high-flying Pittsburgh offense.
What Roethlisberger has also brought to the team, since coming off injury, have been costly interceptions. Although all turnovers are costly, some are worse than others, and Roethlisberger has had some duds. Against the Bengals he has fallen victim to the Cincinnati defensive backs on more than one occasion. We break down what went wrong, and how it could be fixed as the team prepares for the AFC Wild Card game this Saturday night.
Pressure on the quarterback can turn a good decision into a bad throw, and this is exactly what happens on this play. The interior pressure from the Cincinnati pass rush doesn't allow Roethlisberger to step into this throw to Antonio Brown. Not only can he not step into the throw, but he was coming off a left knee injury which had him already looking cautious when trying to drive the football down field.
The pressure isn't just what causes the ball to come out high, it also causes Roethlisberger to throw the ball a beat earlier than he wanted. The pass rush throws off the complete timing of the play, and the accuracy of the throw. If Roethlisberger takes the sack, Pittsburgh lives to play another down, and the Bengals aren't given a gift, in terms of field position.
There is something about Reggie Nelson. The man simply has Roethlisberger's number, and there is no surprise he knows how to read Roethlisberger and the Steelers' offense. In this play you see Nelson look as if he will be in the box for run support, but at the snap he does a tremendous job of retreating to center field in coverage. The pump fake doesn't fool Nelson as he is in position to simply make a play on the football, and not have to guess.
Roethlisberger tries to force the football to Antonio Brown deep, and a slightly underthrown pass makes for easy pickings for Nelson. It is easy to say Martavis Bryant was the better option on the play, and that is because Nelson sold out on Brown's side of the field, as he was reading Roethlisberger the entire play. If Roethlisberger wants to take shots downfield in the AFC Wild Card game, he needs to identify where Nelson is on the field to avoid these costly interceptions.
This Nelson guy sure is annoying. Again, you see the pass rush of the Bengals get to Roethlisberger which causes the pass to be aired our much more than Roethlisberger wanted on this specific pass and route combination. However, just watch Nelson on the play. He starts at the right hash and is able to run more than half of the field after Roethlisberger throws the pass to make the interception.
Some chalk this interception to essentially being a punt, but here is where Roethlisberger needs to take advantage of the Cincinnati secondary. On this play, Nelson is the single high safety, and is simply doing what Ed Reed used to do for the Baltimore Ravens. Read and react to the play. If Roethlisberger can get Nelson to move before releasing the football, there will be chances for the Steelers offense in the passing game. Nonetheless, with Nelson's athleticism and speed, that is easier said than done, as Nelson was shading Brown's side of the field, but was able to still make a play on the football on the other half of the field.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are favored in this matchup, and rightfully so. Their offense is one of the best in the league and have put up points on some of the best defensive units in the NFL, but if they want to win Saturday night and advance to the divisional round of the AFC Playoffs, it is on Ben Roethlisberger to protect the football and not give the Bengals offense extra possessions. If Roethlisberger can play a clean brand of football, there is no doubt this Steelers team will be tough for any team to beat.