Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger is on pace to break personal and team best records this season for the Steelers. While having an amazingly successful career so far after a mere five seasons, the Steelers QB has often been hampered and his abilities have never been fully exploited.
In his first two seasons, Ben was saddled with the responsibility of being young and managing games. He averaged a mere 282 attempts per season in his first two campaigns. He was also held back by playing for a predominantly run-oriented offense. In his first two seasons, the Steelers passed a mere 38 percent of the time, as compared to rushing on 62 percent of all plays.
Roethlisberger has also had the challenge of playing through injuries for a majority of the past four years. He suffered several injuries in the 2005 campaign, including knee surgery during the season. After winning his first Super Bowl, he suffered the motorcycle accident then emergency appendectomy. That year (2006) Ben threw 18 TDs and 23 INTs and had his career low for a single season passer rating—75.4.
His healthiest season was 2007. During that season, Ben threw for 32 TDs and 3100+ yards, finishing with a 104.1 passer rating. Considering this was all done on a mere 404 attempts speaks to how efficient he was with each pass. Big Ben was 16th in the league in attempts, yet finished 3rd in the league in TDs thrown and 2nd in Passer Rating for the year.
Last year, the injury bug bit Roethlisberger again. He played the majority of the season with a separated shoulder on his throwing arm that never fully healed. He suffered a spinal cord concussion and had to be taken off the field, and finally, he played the Super Bowl with cracked ribs. While not his most efficient statistical season, Ben was clutch when needed most.
Fast forward to 2009—a season that appears to be the Perfect Storm for Big Ben. He's healthy. As he's shown in the past, when he's healthy, he's clearly to be feared. His offensive supporting cast has improved. The running game is improved from 2008, as is the offensive line. The wide outs are improved. Hines Ward is on track for his best season in his career and appears fully healthy. Heath Miller is also on target to break his personal career bests—by nearly double statistically. Mike Wallace has proven he's worthy of big time recognition with his blazing speed and reliability. And finally, Santonio Holmes (the Super Bowl MVP) rounds out the group. These facts alone put Ben in position to shatter some records.
But probably most importantly is the balance in the Steelers offense. What used to be a run first system is now clearly pass first. So far this season, the Steelers have passed the ball 57 percent of the time. This is up from 52 percent in 2008 and 46 percent in 2007.
Naysayers have long said that Ben couldn't handle the additional load of throwing the ball 30 times a game and that the team couldn't ride his arm to victory.
He's proving them wrong. Ben is averaging 34 attempts a game this season, a career high. His completion percentage leads the league—73.8 percent. He's averaging 294 yards per game passing, 1.6 TDs per game, and 1 interception per game. That puts Ben on track for 550 attempts, 406 completions, 4,704 yards, 26 TDs and 16 INTs.
If these were to end up being Ben's season ending stats, he would break the following Steelers team records:
- Single Season Pass Attempts—Tommy Maddox, 2003, 519 attempts
- Single Season Completion Record—Tommy Maddox, 2003, 298 completions
- Single Season Yardage Record—Terry Bradshaw, 1979, 3,724 yards
In fact, he would shatter the completions and yardage records.
Currently the Steelers as a team are ranked 6th in overall yardage, 3rd in passing yards, 15th in rushing yards (up from 23rd last year) and 10th in points. Unarguably, the offense is far more prolific this season than in years past.
As long as Ben remains healthy, and Bruce Arians and Mike Tomlin let Ben lead the team with his arm, 2009 could be a banner, Pro-Bowl season. It could be one for the record books.