The Steelers stopped their losing skid on Sunday with a convincing 24-9 victory over the hapless Cleveland Browns. The #TrumpCurse is apparently broken, and all’s well in the Steel City once again, yes?
Probably not, no. Certainly not with the quarterback.
Roethlisberger was 23-for-36 for a mere 167 yards and no touchdowns against the worst team in football, a far cry from his gaudy 37-for-46 for 408 yards and three scores in a loss last week to Dallas. He was electric at home a week ago, but backed up the performance, albeit in a win, with a quarterback rating of 74.7 against the Browns.
Through his nine starts this season, Roethlisberger has four games with a QB rating of better than 112, per Pro Football Reference, and three of them have come in the friendly confines of Heinz Field. He has five games with a QB rating lower than 80, including three lower than 70, and four of those have come on the road.
Fantasy guru Brandon Funston pointed out Roethlisberger’s divergent splits over at Yahoo Sports, going so far as to suggest players bench him for the Steelers’ remaining road games.
[W]e have to look at his issues in road contests as a lot more than just an anomaly. In his past four road contests, Big Ben is averaging just 219.3 passing yards and has a 2:4 TD-to-INT ratio. This is a particularly disturbing trend for Roethlisberger owners as the Pittsburgh QB has road games in three of the next four weeks, with the one home game coming against a New York Giants defense that has allowed just 3 TD passes (compared to 8 INTs) in its past five games.
Of the Steelers’ six remaining games, three are at home and three — Indianapolis, Buffalo and Cincinnati — are on the road. While it might be prudent for fantasy players to bench Ben in those road contests, it’s improbable Mike Tomlin would ever consider doing the same. Rather, the Steelers need to figure out why Roethlisberger is struggling so much on the road and how to reverse the trend.
It’s clear this is a trend, too. Roethlisberger’s completion percentage at home this season is 71.34 with 15 touchdowns to two interceptions. On the road, he’s completing just 59.18 percent of his passes, with five scores and five picks.
Last season, as Funston pointed out, Roethlisberger’s numbers weren’t much better on the road. In 12 games, Roethlisberger’s completion percentage was actually higher on the road — 65.43 percent at home to 70.80 percent away from Heinz Field — but his quarterback rating was 16 points higher at home and, while he tossed eight interceptions both at home and away, he threw 18 touchdown passes at home to just three on the road. The Steelers were 5-1 at home and 3-3 on the road in his 12 starts.
In 2014, the Steelers finished 11-5, with six wins coming at home and five on the road. Roethlisberger’s completion percentage was slightly better at home — 68.15 to 65.99 — but again it was his production that was vastly different, throwing 25 touchdowns and just three picks at home, while connecting seven times for scores with six picks on the road. His rating at home was 115.9, while on the road it was 81.2.
It’s understandable that a quarterback would play better at home — crowd noise alone can get an offense off its game, even against a team as lowly as the Browns — but Roethlisberger’s numbers are so disparate that it’s potentially problematic, not just for fantasy owners, but for the Steelers themselves.
This does seem to be a newer trend in his career, as Roethlisberger’s numbers in 2012 and 2013 were nearly identical home and away, despite a 10-5 record at home and 5-9 on the road over those two seasons.
Roethlisberger has played 90 games at home and 90 on the road in his career has relatively comparable splits. His completion percentage is half a percent lower on the road in his career, while his QB rating is 99.5 at home and 88.8 on the road. His point production and turnover numbers are less consistent, as he’s thrown 168 touchdowns at home to 124 away, with 69 interceptions in Pittsburgh to 89 on the road.
But in the last three years … yeesh.
In his last 37 games, Roethlisberger has thrown 19 touchdowns and 19 interceptions on the road and 44 touchdowns and 13 interceptions at home.
He’s a Hall of Famer in Pittsburgh. Literally. On the road? He’s become something entirely different, and the Steelers need to figure out why.