Person of Interest: Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger
• Position: One-time game manager, former lout
• Height: 6-5
• Weight: 240
• Age: 33
• Experience: 12th season
He’s come a long way in the 10 years since he became the worst starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl. OK, that’s an overstatement. But Roethlisberger did have the worst game of any starting quarterback to win a Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger was brutal in Super Bowl XL against the Seahawks: 9-for-21 passing for 123 yards and a couple of interceptions. Yuck. But he rushed for a (controversial) touchdown, and his team won.
That was Roethlisberger 1.0, “The Game Manager.” Back when he was the caretaker of a ground-bound offense on a team that was built around its defense. Roethlisberger passed for fewer than 3,000 yards in each of his first two seasons.
Now? He’s one of the more dangerous downfield passers in the entire league. He’s thrown for more than 4,000 yards in three of the past four seasons and the only reason he wouldn’t make it this year is because of injuries first to his knee and then his foot. He’s averaging more than 300 passing yards in the six games he has played in this year.
This season, only Arizona’s Carson Palmer is averaging more yards per pass attempt than Roethlisberger, which gives you an idea of just how big a chunk of yardage Pittsburgh is looking for when he does throw.
For the second time in three weeks, the Seahawks are going to be facing an offense that makes no secret of its over-the-top approach to throwing the ball.
“There’s a real similarity between them and Arizona,” coach Pete Carroll said. “Both those teams are on the top of the league at taking shots down the field.”
Roethlisberger missed four games earlier this season with a knee injury, and he came back from a sprained foot to step in during the Steelers’ Week-10 game. But in the six games Roethlisberger has appeared in, he has averaged more than 300 yards passing.
Even more jarring: The prodigious results of his connection with wide receiver Antonio Brown. In the six games that Roethlisberger has played, Brown has averaged 10.3 catches for 151 yards and scored a total of five touchdowns.
And what might make Roethlisberger most challenging is that he’s able to extend plays in a most unusual way because one of the biggest quarterbacks in the league is also the most evasive.
“He’s very unique in that he gives himself a second and third shot at plays,” Carroll said. “That’s really difficult. Typically, you think of a scrambler out and running around and all that – he’s not going to do that much. He’s just going to move and duck and dodge and dip and throw guys off him when they get to him and come up throwing. And he comes up throwing and makes just remarkable plays.”