I’ve decided as my first series of articles for SteelerAddicts.com, I will review the season that just was, focusing on a particular position or set of positions. This week, I will look at the quarterback position.
First, a little about me. I’m originally from Butler, PA, and one of my first memories in sports is the Steelers winning Super Bowl XIII, their third, making them the first team with three Super Bowl wins.
I have bled Black and Gold all my life, even during the lean years of the 80′s and early 90′s.
I currently live just outside Baltimore (amongst the enemy, as it were), and I can tell you that the Steelers-ravens (I refuse to capitalize their name) rivalry is very intense. Clearly, it is one of the best rivalries in sports.
It is my honor to bring my writing from websites like NicePickCowher.com and BleacherReport.com to SteelerAddicts.com. I invite comment, rebuttal, and debate on anything I write, and if I am wrong about facts, I’ll be ther first to admit my fault.
On with the show!
It really was a tale of two halves for this season, and the quarterback play was indicative of that. The Steelers finished their first eight games with a 5-3 record. Their last eight games were a sub-standard 3-5.
However, there were signs in those first eight games that the second half might be what it ended up being.
There were terrible losses to Oakland and Tennesse during the first half of the season, but it’s hard to put those two losses on Ben. In Oakland, he dominated the Raiders to the tune of 384 yards and four touchdowns with no picks.
Tennessee wasn’t as clean of a game, as he had 363 yards, but only one score and an interception.
Overall, though, the first half was eight good games for Big Ben. He finished those eight games with 2203 yards, 16 touchdowns, four interceptions, 17 sacks. Those numbers average out to 275.4 yards, 2 TDs, .5 picks, 2.1 sacks per game.
If you extrapolate those numbers for an entire season, you would get numbers that may have put Ben in the Pro Bowl (4403, 32, 8, 34).
The first half of the year ended strongly, with a convincing win over Rookie of the Year candidate Robert Griffin III against Washington, and a come-from-behind win in New York against the defending champs.
But, then they played the second half.
The only team of any consequence the Steelers beat in the second half of the year was the eventual division champion ravens, and that was an emotional win for Charlie Batch, as Ben was still recovering from injury.
Ben was hurt in the game against the Chiefs which the Steelers won by the skin of their teeth.
The losses included an eight-turnover debacle - including lost fumbles by every member of the running back corps – to the Cleveland Browns; a loss to the San Diego Chargers, making them the only AFC North team to lose to San Diego. The loss also made the Steelers the only AFC North team not to beat at least three AFC West teams, and to win no games against the AFC West in regulation time; and two games (at Dallas and vs. Cincinnati), in which the losses can almost be directly attributed to a play by Ben Roethlisberger.
(A note here: I believe no one play wins or loses a football game. A football game is comprised of dozens of plays that contribute to the outcome. So, when I say, “can almost be directly attributed,” it is because I believe if the Steelers had not played their collective way into a position where one play could win or lose the game, they wouldn’t have won or lost the game on that one play. For this reason, you will never hear me say, “That one play cost us the game.” It simply doesn’t work that way. All the plays leading up to that play contributed to the loss.)
For the second half, the combined numbers for Ben, Byron Leftwich, and Charlie Batch (who played an incredible game to win in Baltimore): 1584 yards, 11 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, and 20 sacks.
Everyone one of those numbers got worse in the second half of the season.
As with all quarterback play, some of this can be laid at the feet of the running backs. Without a solid running game, play action doesn’t work, and it is harder for a QB to find open guys. Some can be put on the offensive line, which was injured and played inconsistent football all year.
But this article is not about them. It is about quarterbacks, and it must be said that the play of the quarterbacks got worse later in the year.
If Ben hadn’t gotten hurt, who knows? It might have been a different season, but he did, and the team suffered during his absence and upon his return.
Is it possible Ben shouldn’t have been playing is some of those games. Maybe. Maybe he was hurt worse than he thought or let on.
One thing is certain, though. If the Steelers are going to go anywhere in 2013, they will need better play from Big Ben, and whomever backs him up.
There were signs of briliiance (at Oakland; at Baltimore; against Washington), but there were far too many missed opportunities and an astonishing number of mistakes (at Cleveland; at Dallas; against Cincinnati). A lot of the time, it wasn’t Ben’s, or Charlie’s fault, but a lot of the time it was. For the year, I give the Steelers quarterbacks a C-.