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Mack: Roethlisberger Needs To Clean It Up

The franchise QB has been sloppy with ball lately

Chris Mack
November 27, 2018 - 8:03 am

Hold your breath, Steelers fans. This could get hairy.

With five games to go, the most difficult remaining schedule of any AFC playoff contender, and matchups against Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Drew Brees on the docket in the next month, dreams of home field advantage and a first round bye may have to take a backseat to just qualifying for the NFL postseason.

The snap of a six-game winning streak in Sunday's loss at Denver and the sloppy way in which it happened should have you worried. 

You should be worried that they can't seem to force turnovers the way an elite defense should. They're in the bottom third of the league with just 12 takeaways this year.

You should be worried their breakout running back, James Conner, has had trouble handling the ball in a few big moments. His fumble in Cleveland had much to do with a win becoming a tie, he had two crucial drops in a near-loss at Jacksonville, and coughed up the ball in Denver on the final play of the third quarter.

Your biggest worry though, should be that the franchise quarterback, the future Hall of Famer in many peoples' eyes, has had three games this year where he turned the ball over more than he put it in the end zone, and that the only QB who's thrown more picks than Big Ben this year is Jets' rookie Sam Darnold.

You can point to the 462 yards Ben Roethlisberger threw for in Denver if you want and call it a success, but for a marquee QB, the measure shouldn't be in fantasy numbers, it should be in victories. The two numbers I noticed on Ben's stat line after their 24-17 loss to the Broncos were the '1' in the TD column and the '2' in the INT column.

Roethlisberger has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns three times this year, and on average over the last ten years, he does that every six games. That's more often than Brees (once every eight games), Brady (once every 14 games), and Aaron Rodgers (once every 27 games), the other big name, Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks that Roethlisberger is compared to most often.

That's more often than the 2018 Pittsburgh Steelers can handle. And it means there's a good chance we'll see Ben have another game at some point this season - whether in December or January - where he hits the opposition with a pass more often than he hits the end zone with one.

You shouldn't have to hold your breath when your quarterback lets go of the football.

When you're a two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback though, and you're having one of the best statistical seasons of your career, you're going to get some leeway. 

When you're the kind of QB who can stink out loud for three quarters of a game but then totally redeem yourself with a three touchdown 4th quarter comeback capitalized by your own dive into the end zone for a game winning score, fans aren't necessarily going to storm the castle with torches and pitchforks if you have an off week - or two.

However, when it's widely acknowledged that a franchise's championship window is closing due to the age of said quarterback, and that everyone needs to be at the top of their game -week in and week out- to win another Super Bowl, why does anyone get a pass? 

The defense needs to be better at taking the ball away.

Conner needs to be better at securing the ball.

And Ben Roethlisberger needs to be better at taking care of the football. 

Hold your breath, Steelers' fans. These final five regular season games will be anything but boring.