Ben Roethlisberger cannot throw deep

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Nov 12, 2017; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Pittsburg Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) passes in the pocket in the third quarter during their game against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Thomas J. Russo-USA TODAY Sports

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has not nearly been as successful as many had thought it would be at this point in the season. It has brought questions as to what the issues are. Is it a rift between quarterback and coordinator, is it the Martavis Bryant saga, or the shuffling of two superstars in Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell? What could it be? The biggest difference and the easiest way to look at why the Steelers offense has not been moving is none of the above. It is simply that Ben Roethlisberger cannot throw the ball down the field like he used to be able to.

Roethlisberger is now 26 of 78 throwing the ball 15 yards or more this season. That includes seven interceptions to just three touchdowns. For context he had 13 touchdowns to four interceptions on these passes just last season. His completion percentage is on track to hit a career low and is down over 12% from the season before. On Sunday, this issue put the team into a hole that almost cost them the game.

Roethlisberger was baited into throwing an interception on the second play of the game. Right as Roethlisberger made his adjustments on the line, the Colts defense shifts and shows him this look.

They are pressed up on Antonio Brown to the bottom and giving Bryant plenty of room to breathe up top. On top of that, the safety jumped from center field to the left hash, shading to the side of Brown. Bryant is in a plus matchup and is not getting safety respect, old gunslinger Roethlisberger knows he has to test it. Of course, we know the result.

From there, Roethlisberger went 1-5 throwing deep in this game. He was 0-4 in the first half when the team dug itself a 10-3 hole. He threw only one deep pass in the second half as the team climbed out, out scoring the Colts 17-7. While he completed it, even that was a pass that needed a great catch from the rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster.

The orange dot is identifying where the ball was. Yes, it was a 44-yard gain, but it could have been a touchdown had it been thrown in front of Smith-Schuster, who clearly had a step on his defender.

This is not a rare occurrence for Roethlisberger. In fact, Roethlisberger has thrown seven passes that resulted in 40 yards or more. These include; the play above, a check down to Le’Veon Bell that was all yards after the catch, a 15-yard completion to Antonio Brown with 35 yards after the catch, a dime to Martavis Bryant for 61, the JuJu Smith-Schuster touchdown that featured 73 yards after the catch and the two passes below.

This is even worse than the first pass to Smith-Schuster. Smith-Schuster is running free in open space to an easy touchdown if he is hit in stride. Watch around the 40-yard line how his strides get shorter and shorter until a near stop as he waits for the ball to get to him. He loses out on big yards after the catch as the cornerback catches up.

Next, we see Antonio Brown bail Ben Roethlisberger out for a game-changing touchdown that should have been an interception.

Even his deep completions come with asterisks.This is not something that is going to magically come back. He is 35 years old, and this is something that will typically fade away in that age range. Roethlisberger has the skill players to bail him out of some predicaments. If he avoids forcing it deep when the play does not call for it, the Steelers should be fine. If he is going to force the ball deep, he is going to put his skill players in positions to make big plays to avoid turnovers. It is a risky proposition and one that Roethlisberger needs to tread lightly.

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