Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger mired in perplexing slump

By The Sports Xchange
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws downfield against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of an NFL game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, October 1, 2017. File photo by David Tulis/UPI
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger throws downfield against the Baltimore Ravens during the second half of an NFL game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Maryland, October 1, 2017. File photo by David Tulis/UPI | License Photo

PITTSBURGH -- What is wrong with Ben Roethlisberger?

That question will be asked over and over until the Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback plays a good game. It's been a while since he has done that. His latest outing was hands down the worst performance of his career.


Roethlisberger threw five interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns, in a 30-9 home loss to the Jaguars Sunday afternoon.

For the season, Roethlisberger has thrown six touchdown passes and eight interceptions. His passer rating is 75.4, which if he maintains his current pace, would be his lowest rating over a full season since 2006.

Some of the quarterbacks with better passer ratings include Jacoby Brissett (Indianapolis), Tyrod Taylor (Buffalo), Blake Bortles (Jacksonville) and Trevor Siemian (Denver).


His teammates aren't among those pronouncing Roethlisberger finished.

"I think he still has it," running back Le'Veon Bell said Monday afternoon.

It was Roethlisberger who said after the game that "maybe I don't have it anymore." But that wasn't Roethlisberger doubting himself as much as it was him being defensive to a question he did not like.

Regardless, Roethlisberger is taking the blame for the loss. He has said over and over this season that he has to play better.

Head coach Mike Tomlin took the rare step after the game Sunday to say "he's not playing well" in response to a question about Roethlisberger's performance.

It was as harsh an assessment that Tomlin has ever given for his quarterback.

It doesn't get any easier for the Steelers this week. They travel to Kansas City to face the Chiefs, the only remaining undefeated team in the NFL.


Running back Le'Veon Bell has rushed for 100 yards or more just once in the first five games of the season. On Sunday, he was held to just 47 yards on 15 carries against the Jaguars, who entered the game with the NFL's worst rush defense.


On Monday, Bell expressed disappointment in his usage.

"I don't think we had enough attempts," Bell said.

A reporter asked why.

"I didn't get an explanation," he said. "I just go out there and play."

Bell rushed for 100 yards or more seven times in the final nine games he played in last season, but he has been surprisingly quiet this season. He is averaging 3.7 yards per carry after averaging 4.9 yards per carry in each of the past two seasons.

Bell's offensive linemen said the Jaguars were stacking the box with extra defenders and daring the Steelers to throw the ball. They did with disastrous results as Ben Roethlisberger was intercepted five times.

"We knew they'd load up the box," left tackle Alejandro Villanueva said. "They stopped the run and forced us to throw the ball the entire game."

Roethlisberger finished with 55 pass attempts and the Steelers ran the ball just 20 times.

Bell said Monday it shouldn't matter if a team stacks the box against the run. He said good running teams are able to run against any front.

"I felt there was room in there," he said. "The stats don't really show what really happened because of the fact there were several runs where we lost yards, but I feel like we were running the ball effectively.


"Of course, they came out trying to stop the run. It really doesn't matter. I feel we're a good enough team to wear guys out whether they know we're running the ball or not."

NOTES: WR Antonio Brown became the fourth player in franchise history to surpass 9,000 yards from scrimmage, passing that milestone against the Jaguars. Brown now has 9,041 yards after catching 10 passes for 157 yards Sunday. Franco Harris has the most yards from scrimmage in franchise history with 14,234. ... RB Le'Veon Bell passed John Henry Johnson to become the fourth-leading rusher in franchise history. Bell has 4,416 yards. Only Willie Parker, Jerome Bettis and Franco Harris have more rushing yards. ... LB Ryan Shazier intercepted a pass for the sixth time in his past 10 games, dating to last season.


--PASSING OFFENSE: F -- Ben Roethlisberger threw five interceptions and the Jaguars returned two of them for touchdowns. Not much more needs to be said. Roethlisberger did throw for 312 yards, but he needed 55 attempts to pull it off. He targeted Antonio Brown 19 times and completed 10 passes to him for 157 yards. However, no other receiver had more than 58 receiving yards. Martavis Bryant was quiet yet again. He finished with five catches for 21 yards and hasn't been much of a factor this season after missing the 2016 season on a drug suspension.


--RUSHING OFFENSE: F -- Playing against the worst rush defense in the NFL, the Steelers made the Jaguars look like the Steel Curtain. Le'Veon Bell, one week after running for 144 yards against the Ravens, managed just 47 on 15 carries against the Jaguars, who entered the game allowing 166 yards on the ground per game. The previous week the Jaguars gave up 256 rushing yards to the New York Jets. For the game, the Steelers could only muster 70 yards on 20 attempts.

--PASS DEFENSE: B -- Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles completed just eight passes and none in the second half. He also threw for just 95 yards. The Steelers mostly did a nice job of keeping the Jaguars' passing game in check although Bortles did complete a few passes in the first half that kept drives alive. LB Ryan Shazier had an interception that set up a Steelers field goal late in the first half. It was his second interception in as many weeks.

--RUSH DEFENSE: F - Jaguars rookie running back Leonard Fournette rushed for 181 yards and scored on a 90-yard run. For the game, the Jaguars rushed for 231 yards and averaged 6.2 yards per carry. It was the second time in three weeks an opponent rushed for 220 yards or more against the Steelers. The Bears did it two weeks ago. On one drive in the second half, the Jaguars ran the ball 12 times and did not attempt a pass. The drive ended in a field goal, but they bled more than eight minutes off the clock and took a 23-9 lead.


--SPECIAL TEAMS: C-minus -- Leading 9-7 in the third quarter, Antonio Brown returned a punt to near midfield, but a holding penalty nullified the return and the Steelers took over deep in their own territory. A few plays later, the Jaguars intercepted a pass and returned it for a touchdown. This is just one example of how the Steelers' special teams are failing to aid the team. The kickoff return unit is bad again. The Steelers returned two kicks for a total of 14 yards against the Jaguars. The one bright spot was Chris Boswell booting another three field goals.

--COACHING: D -- Head coach Mike Tomlin has a leaky run defense that he hasn't been able to fix and a quarterback that appears to be broken. Tomlin is known as a defensive coach and his inability to come up with a solution to this team's problems on run defense is baffling. If Ben Roethlisberger isn't going to improve, offensive coordinator Todd Haley has to come up with other ways of sparking his offense. He might want to start with the running game. The Steelers are paying Le'Veon Bell $12.1 million this season and they're not getting their money's worth from him or their highly-paid offensive line.


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