By Daniel Benjamin
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has struggled mightily this year, but his confidence is still as high as ever.
“I’m one of the best that’s ever played this position,” Roethlisberger told 93.7 WFAN on Tuesday. “That’s the confidence that I have and the confidence that I’m going to have going forward.
Roethlisberger has gotten off to a horrendous start to the year, and is on pace to have his worst season since 2006. Roethlisberger, a major reason why the Steelers are averaging 19.6 points a game, is coming off a career-high five interception outing in a 30-9 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday. Two of the interceptions were returned for touchdowns by the Jaguars, marking the first time that has occurred against the quarterback since 2006.
Roethlisberger did not throw a touchdown pass against Jacksonville and has only six on the season, with two coming in the last three weeks. He is completing 61.5% of his passes for an average of 258 yards per game along with seven interceptions. His 6.51 yards per attempt is a career-low and he threw for over 300 yards on Sunday for the first time in 11 regular season contests.
Roethlisberger’s biggest problemd to date have been with the long-ball and in the red zone. Roethlisberger is 5-for-27 with two interceptions on throws of greater than 20 yards. Meanwhile, the Steelers have only scored a touchdown in 50% of their trips inside the redzone (9-of-18) and just 43.3% of those trips over the last three weeks. In fact, the Steelers have scored more than two touchdowns in a game only once this season.
Tomlin open to using running backs Le’Veon Bell and James Conner together
In an interview with Mike Tomlin, the head coach said that the Steelers may pair running backs Le’Veon Bell and rookie James Conner some this season.
“A couple of things of things have to fall in line to see it evolve, but I’m open to it.” Tomlin said.”I’m sure we will see it, and it will be interesting when we do.”
The Steelers running game has yet to really get going, so it would be interesting to see if this pairing could get things jump started, especially with the offensive line struggling. In a split-back situation, Bell would still be the featured back and Conner would be more of a blocking fullback.
Bell had a huge game against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, compiling 144 yards and two touchdowns on 35 carries including a season-high 21-yard scamper. But the only other time Bell has carried the ball 20 carries in a game this year was Week 2, when he totaled 87 yards on 27 attempts. For the season, Bell ranks fifth in the league in rushing yards with 371 and seventh in rushing yards per game (74.2). His 3.6 yards per carry average is currently his lowest since producing 3.5 yards per carry during his rookie campaign.
Conner, the team’s third round pick in this year’s draft, has not been on the field much this year. He has carried the ball 12 times for 55 times with his best game coming against the Ravens. Conner tallied 26 yards on four rushes though he picked up 23 yards on a single attempt.
The “split-back” system, or pro set, dates back to 1949, but it really has not been used much since the San Francisco 49ers used the system during the early and late 1980s as part of their West Coast offense. The 49ers won three Super Bowl titles during this period.
Steelers move up to No.1 in pass defense
The Steelers possess the league’s best pass defense, at least for a week.
Pittsburgh’s defense held Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles to 82 net passing yards last week and are now sitting on top of the league, permitting 139.0 yards a game through the air. Bortles completed 8-of-14 passes for 95 yards, but he was also sacked two times for a loss of 13 yards. The Steelers have now limited two quarterbacks this season to under 90 net passing yards as Chicago’s Mike Glennon finished with 84 net yards in Week 3.
The Steelers have only allowed one of their four opponents, the Ravens, to net more than 200 passing yards. However, Baltimore’s Joe Flacco (235 yards) and Cleveland’s DeShone Kizer (222) have thrown for over 200 yards against them this season.
Furthermore, the Steelers defense ranks first in yards per attempt (5.4). They are also allowing the fewest passing first downs (43), and the least amount of 20-yard plus passing plays (eight). The Steelers are permitting opposing quarterbacks to complete 61.4% of their passes, which ranks 11th best, but they have picked off five passes and recorded 17 sacks.
Linebackers T.J. Watt and Anthony Chickillo, along with defensive end Cam Heyward, lead the team with three sacks apiece. Meanwhile, linebacker Ryan Shazier tops the team in pass defensed with six and interceptions with two. Chickillo, Watt and safety Mike Hilton each have one interception.