View Full Version : Big Ben ... Not just a fantasy

10-18-2009, 03:02 AM
On the Steelers: Big Ben ... Not just a fantasy
Sunday, October 18, 2009
By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It's little surprise that Peyton Manning leads the NFL in passing yards. And next in line is ... Tom Brady? Drew Brees? Eli Manning? Brett Favre? Philip Rivers? No, no, no, no and NO. This is a surprise. Lurking behind Manning at No. 2 is one Ben Roethlisberger.

Roethlisberger universally was derided as a fantasy player's quarterback, and there are many who believe his popularity nationally has been somewhat held down because of it. Winning two Super Bowls and compiling a 54-22 record means little compared to throwing for 350 yards and five touchdowns even if you lose.

But Big Ben has become a fantasy favorite because he has thrown for more yards than all but Peyton Manning, and, if he throws for touchdowns at the rate he did in Detroit last week, when he had three, he will keep rising on the fantasy charts.

Manning remains the king of fantasy quarterbacks with 1,645 yards and 12 touchdowns. Roethlisberger, though, has 1,470 yards and his touchdowns are on the rise. He has eight, which is tied for seventh in the NFL.

This might not come as a good sign to many, but Roethlisberger's best season came when he threw for 3,513 yards in 2006. It also was his only season in which the Steelers did not make the playoffs. He played in 15 games that season, so his average per game was 234.2.

He is averaging 294 after five games this season. At that rate, he would pass for 4,704 yards in 16 games. Terry Bradshaw owns the Steelers' record with 3,724 yards in 1979.

"The numbers to me don't really matter, just wins and losses," Roethlisberger said.

He set the Steelers' record for touchdown passes with 32 in 2007. He is heading for 26 if he maintains his current rate. No matter.

His passing yards are phenomenal, especially by Steelers standards. If he keeps this up, he will break the team record by 1,000 yards.

"Actually, it should be a lot more," Roethlisberger said.

"We feel like we left a lot out there. We have to continue to improve, I have to continue to improve."

He ranks first in the NFL in accuracy (73.8 percent) and fourth in average gain per pass attempt (8.55 yards).

He has thrown five interceptions, which ranks 26th in the NFL, and two of those have been returned for touchdowns. It's his one statistical downside.

Compare Roethlisberger's stats to Brady's. Brady ranks fourth in yards and 17th in completion rate at 61.4. Brady has six touchdowns and two interceptions, and his average gain is more than two yards fewer at 6.49. Brady has an 85.9 passer rating to Roethlisberger's 102.6.

There is a reason coordinator Bruce Arians keeps leaning on the pass, and that reason is Ben Roethlisberger.
Young players & The Tomlin Philosophy

By not starting Ziggy Hood today, Mike Tomlin will follow a tactic he has used with the team's first two draft picks each year. He does not throw them into the spotlight right away.

Linebacker Lawrence Timmons, the first player drafted with Tomlin as a coach, hardly played as a rookie in 2007. He had one tackle on defense. He remained a backup in 2008, starting twice at outside linebacker because of injuries, and playing in the nickel defense, where he had five sacks.

LaMarr Woodley, the team's second-round pick in 2007, also did not start as a rookie, playing behind Clark Haggans at left outside linebacker with no starts. He had four sacks in the regular season and two more in the playoff game against Jacksonville, and the Steelers allowed Haggans to leave as a free agent and Woodley became their starter in his second season.

Rashard Mendenhall, No. 1 in 2008, carried 10 times in his first game and had no carries in his next two. It was not until Willie Parker was injured that Mendenhall got his chance, starting in the fourth game before his season ended with an injury. He again opened this season behind Parker and had seven carries through the first three games, one of which he was benched for not knowing his playbook well enough. It was not until Parker was injured that Mendenhall earned his second professional start, in the fourth game.

Limas Sweed, the team's second-round draft pick in 2008, did not play in the first five games last season and caught just six passes in the regular season, two in the postseason. He has not dressed for two of the five games this season and caught one pass.

Hood has played sparingly through five games. At least, he has played. Guard Kraig Urbik, the team's second pick this year (on the third round, they traded their second-rounder), has not yet worn a uniform in the regular season.

Tomlin's strategy with Hood is a good one, even if he were ready to take over for Aaron Smith at left defensive end. If he had anointed the rookie, the past week would have been all about the first-round draft pick and how he stacked up to Smith. So, too, the broadcasters of the game today would have focused on Hood's play.

The comparisons to Smith would have been unfair and the pressure enormous. By immediately spreading it among three players, including two veterans, Tomlin headed off the focus on Hood. Now, the rookie can go play, and, some day, perhaps like Timmons, he might even win a starting job.
Well, it's about time

It's a good thing the Steelers finally paid attention to defensive end in their most recent draft because the team has had a poor history at the position, and not just because they did not draft any. The coaches take some blame, too, for letting potential good ones get away.

Perhaps because Aaron Smith played so well they did not feel they needed to pay attention to the spot. Smith is one of three players left on the team -- now two on the active roster -- who were drafted under Tom Donahoe, their former director of football operations who was fired early in 2000. Smith was a fourth-round draft choice in 1999, and Hines Ward and Deshea Townsend were drafted in 1998.

Hood is the first defensive end the Steelers have drafted in the first round in the past 21 years, back to the failed Aaron Jones in 1988. It does not mean they did not draft anyone who could play. They got lucky with starter Brett Keisel, their last draft pick in seventh round of 2002. That pick usually is considered a throw-away.

They also may have gotten lucky with rookie Sunny Harris, a sixth-round draft choice they like but who was cut and got away before they snatched him back. Denver may be the team that got lucky with the Steelers' fourth-round draft pick in 2007, Ryan McBean. The Steelers cut him last year, the Broncos picked him up, and he is starting at end today for unbeaten Denver.

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10-18-2009, 09:40 AM
He ranks first in the NFL in accuracy (73.8 percent) and fourth in average gain per pass attempt (8.55 yards).

This is why the Steelers have been competitive in every game. If Ben isn't playing out of his mind, hitting big plays and completing a high percentage of passes the Steelers very well could have only one one game so far.

I'd be interested to see on the history of the NFL if any quarterbacks had a completion percentage that high and a YPA of 8.5, I doubt it. The high percentage guys weren't necessarily big play QBS, Montana, Young, Tarkenton, et al.

Ben could be putting together a season for the ages.