Here we are again. Ben Roethlisberger was carted off the field midway through the fourth quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ thrilling 38-35 win over the Raiders and is expected to miss several weeks with a significant injury.
And so the Steelers and Head Coach Mike Tomlin will likely be (again) relying starting backup quarterback Landy Jones for the upcoming few games. It’s the latest in a string of injuries that have plagued Pittsburgh this season. Roethlisberger missed time earlier this season with a knee injury and just last week Pro Bowl running back Le’Veon Bell was lost for the season with a torn MCL. Can they survive this latest blow and continue their pursuit of a playoff spot?
Roethlisberger’s success at the helm of the Steelers is well documented: Three Pro Bowl selections, two Super Bowl wins, three AFC Championships, and most of the franchise’s all-time single-season and career records. Without him this season, though, Pittsburgh is 2-2, with Michael Vick starting three games to Jones’s one (Jones relieved Vick in the team’s win over Arizona).
Jones’s impressive-enough play thus far has helped keep Pittsburgh buoyant without Roethlisberger. That said, he still has as many turnovers (3) as touchdowns, and has a quarterback rating (93.2) that ranks 16th in the league among quarterbacks with at least 40 passing attempts.
Without adjusting for competition or other factors, here’s what the team’s offense has looked like in games this season in which Roethlisberger hasn’t participated at all.
In some ways, this unfairly accredits Roethlisberger with production he didn’t create because he left the games in which he sustained injuries early. For example, it was Jones — who finished with 79 yards passing — who led the Steelers down the field for the game-winning field goal Sunday. Additionally, it isn’t always the offense generating the points (Pittsburgh’s defense has one defensive touchdown this season). Furthermore, the raw splits fail to account for the loss of Bell, who is one of the top running backs in football.
However, what can be gleaned from the data is that Pittsburgh rarely has difficulty putting up an ostentatious stat line with Roethlisberger under center, averaging better than 300 yards passing on nearly a 70 percent completion percentage. Without Roethlisberger in the fold, Pittsburgh completes less than 60 percent of team passes, and throws for just 162.8 yards per game.
These splits are also worrisome because the Steelers have the meat-and-potatoes portion of the schedule in the coming weeks. After playing the haphazard Cleveland Browns in Week 10, Tomlin’s outfit will play Seattle, Indianapolis, Cincinnati and Denver in consecutive weeks.
And don’t expect the defense to bail the Steelers out either. Pittsburgh ranks 16th in defense-adjusted value over average (DVOA), which will likely only drop further after Sunday’s effort.
While Pittsburgh hasn’t been crippled without Roethlisberger this season, that may soon change as Tomlin prepares his team for a juggernaut schedule in the coming weeks.