Roethlisberger's interceptions the one stain in an otherwise stellar season
January 2, 2016 12:00 AM
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to finish the season with one of his worst touchdown to interceptions ratios of his career.
By Ray Fittipaldo / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
In many ways, Ben Roethlisberger will complete one of the best seasons of his illustrious career Sunday when the Steelers play the Browns in the regular-season finale in Cleveland. He is averaging 326 yards per game, the highest yards per game average of his career. He shredded two of the NFL’s best defenses when he threw for 456 yards against Seattle and 380 against Denver. His peers took notice as he was voted to the Pro Bowl for the fourth time despite missing four games in the middle of the season with a knee injury.
But there is one statistic that doesn’t shine brightly for Roethlisberger in 2015. His touchdown to interception ratio is among the worst in the league.
Scan the list of the league’s best quarterbacks in this important category and some familiar names are at the top. Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are Nos. 1 and 2. League MVP candidates Carson Palmer and Cam Newton are in the top 10.
Where is Roethlisberger? All the way down at No. 36 behind rookies Marcus Mariota and Jameis Winston. Behind Jay Cutler, Ryan Tannehill, Sam Bradford, Tyrod Taylor and a host of other no-name quarterbacks.
One season after posting one of his best touchdown to interception ratios of his career (32 to 9), Roethlisberger is about to finish the season with one of his worst. He has thrown 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 11 games.
Roethlisberger is throwing an interception on average once in every 31 attempts. That’s on pace for his second-highest interception rate of his career.
For comparison’s sake, he threw an interception once in every 67 attempts last season.
Roethlisberger is attempting more passes than he ever has. He has dealt with his own injuries, and some of his top weapons have been in and out of the lineup because of injuries and suspensions. But offensive coordinator Todd Haley said the bottom line is Roethlisberger and his teammates have to do a better job of protecting the ball.
“I’m not going to make excuses for him or for us,” Haley said. “I know it’s something he takes great pride in. Our whole group does. We have to do our best job this week because there is one thing that is a fact: When we turn the football over it’s a lot harder to win.”
That was coach Mike Tomlin’s message this week after the Steelers’ 20-17 loss to the Ravens. Roethlisberger threw two interceptions, and the defense didn’t create any turnovers. When the Steelers have lost the turnover battle in games this season they’ve lost those games.
“We are 0-5 when we lose the turnover battle in football games,” Tomlin said. “Conversely, we are 9-1 when we win or tie in the turnover ratio. That’s been a very bright line for us. We know it is something that we are very cognizant of. That’s why we have to do a great job of taking care of the football and work extremely hard to get the ball.”
This has been especially true in road games, where the Steelers’ turnover margin is minus-1.0 and second worst in the league. It’s one of the main reasons the Steelers enter the final game of the season at Cleveland averaging just 21.4 points on the road.
Their turnover margin at home is plus-1.1 and second best in the league. They average 30.6 points at home. No wonder they are 6-2 at home and 3-4 on the road.
Considering the Steelers won’t play at home if they make the playoffs, it’s something they desperately want to figure out.
“We have to find a way to take our show on the road,” receiver Antonio Brown said. “We know how hard it is to go on the road in difficult environments. If we’re going to be the team we desire to be we have to find a way to win on the road.”
Boiled down, the Steelers have lived and died with Roethlisberger’s right arm this season. And at this point in the season he’s not inclined to change his approach.
“Just keep playing the game,” Roethlisberger said. “That’s the key to being a quarterback is having short-term memory, for good and bad. We have enough weapons in our offense, we do enough that I’m just going to keep playing the way I play.”
NOTES — Receiver Martavis Bryant returned to practice Friday after missing two days with an illness. He is listed as questionable for the Browns game along with cornerback Doran Grant (groin).
Ray Fittipaldo: email@example.com and Twitter @rayfitt1.
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