Ben Roethlisberger prides himself in being a shooter. And so far this season, the Pittsburgh pivot has fired more pigskin-shaped bullets than any other quarterback in the NFL. He leads the league in passing attempts with 472, far more than his current runner-up Minnesota QB Kirk Cousins, who has 447.
But, according to NFL.com, Roethlisberger's also near the top of the list when it comes to being intercepted, currently tied with Tampa Bay's Ryan Fitzpatrick at 12, and two picks behind Jets quarterback Sam Darnold. That's more than one pick against Big Ben per game and nearly one of 40 passes landing in the hands of the opposition. But that statistical blemish isn't enough to keep the future Hall of Famer awake at night.
"I'm a quarterback that is going to go out and sling it," said Roethlisberger after the Steelers' most recent game, a 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos. "I'm not going to worry about interceptions. I hate doing them, they bother me. But I'm going to go out and play my game and try and help us win football games. Basketball right, you miss threes. Do they stop shooting? No, because you trust yourself."
Despite an admirable 41 for 56 completion record that day with a total of 462 yards, Roethlisberger threw two interceptions in that losing cause against Denver, one that ended a six-game winning streak for Pittsburgh. One of those erratic tosses took place with just more than a minute remaining with the Steelers on the Broncos 2-yard line when a throw to Antonio Brown was picked off by Shelby Harris in the end zone.
But the controversial absence of Le'Veon Bell in the midst of a contract dispute with the Steelers, has compromised the Steelers ground attack. On Sunday, Pittsburgh managed only 75 rushing yards, further bumping them to 27th in the league in that category with a 95.5 yards-per-game average on the ground.
For the rest of the season, expect Roethlisberger to play the game the only way he knows how: a scrappy, raging bull-style execution, where he uses his 240-lb physique to ward off attackers in the pocket and wait until the very last split second before he pulls the trigger. Despite the risks he faces, especially with interceptions, don't expect this 36-year-old alpha dog of a shooter to change his ways.
What This Means
At this point in the season, the high interception numbers don't mean very much, but the absence of a running game is certainly going to mean Roethlisberger's aerial game plan will be more frequent than usual. It also helps that Pittsburgh has the top berth in the AFC North standings, with Baltimore being the Steelers' only threat. Still, they're fourth overall in the conference, meaning they won't get a bye in the wild-card round.