Don't blame Ben Roethlisberger for Steelers' failures against Patriots

Sporting News
An interesting stat shows how well Big Ben has played against New England over the years.
An interesting stat shows how well Big Ben has played against New England over the years.

The Steelers and Patriots have met in the playoffs just twice since 2004, when Ben Roethlisberger was drafted by Pittsburgh. And even though the Steelers have two Super Bowl wins and three appearances in that span, many still believe New England's relative reign over the AFC for the last 15-20 years has deterred Pittsburgh from even more success in the Roethlisberger era. After all, Big Ben is just 4-8 as a starter against the Pats.

But now, thanks to Pro Football Focus, Roethlisberger has an interesting stat on his side. Anybody who wants to claim the Patriots have owned the Steelers because Tom Brady is so much better than Roethlisberger needs to dig deeper for legitimate arguments.

NFL QB RANKINGS: Why Big Ben is in the second tier

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PFF's Ben Linsey recently published a list of what he calls "NFL team-killers" — basically the one opposing player who has been the biggest headache for each NFL team since 2006 (the PFF era). They are defined in the article as "the players who have played a minimum of 300 snaps against a given team and picked up the highest overall grade."

As for the player in the entire NFL who has hurt the Patriots most since 2006? Yep. No. 7 from Pittsburgh, credited with a 90.5 overall grade against New England.

Here is PFF's explanation:

"Sure to upset the #QBWINZ crowd, Roethlisberger comes out as the top-graded player against the Patriots despite being just 4-8 against Brady and company. The tape shows, however, that the subpar record hasn’t been his fault. Big Ben’s touchdown to interception ratio of 18-to-10 doesn’t overly impress, but his big-time throw to turnover-worthy play ratio of 28:8 is much more impressive. The discrepancy indicates that luck hasn’t been on his side in the matchup, but that doesn’t detract from him playing at a high level."

Based on passer rating, Roethlisberger's best career game against the Patriots was actually his first. As a rookie in 2004, Big Ben completed 18 of 24 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and a rating of 126.4. It just so happens that the teams' rematch in the playoffs that season was one of Roethlisberger's worst career games against New England — 14 of 24 passing for 226 yards, 2 TDs, 3 INTs and a rating of 78.1.

Here are all of Big Ben's games against the Patriots, including playoffs.

* - playoffs

Year

W/L, score

Comp.

Att.

Yards

TDs

INTs

Rating

2004

W, 34-20

18

24

196

2

0

126.4

2004*

L, 41-27

14

24

226

2

3

78.1

2005

L, 23-20

12

28

216

2

0

93.7

2007

L, 34-13

19

32

187

1

0

86.3

2008

W, 33-10

17

33

179

2

1

75.2

2010

L, 39-26

30

49

387

3

1

97.9

2011

W, 25-17

36

50

365

2

1

97.5

2013

L, 55-31

28

48

400

4

2

95.8

2015

L, 28-21

26

38

351

1

1

95.4

2016*

L, 36-17

31

47

314

1

1

83.1

2017

L, 27-24

22

30

281

2

1

110.6

2018

W, 17-10

22

34

235

2

2

79.9

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Steelers, Patrios both have new top enemies

2018 W, 17-10 22 34 235 2 2 79.9

For what it's worth, the inverse in this exercise — the Patriot who has hurt the Steelers most since 2006 — is now-retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.

"Gronkowski utterly dominated his matchups with the Steelers," Linsey writes. "He was targeted 51 times and brought in 41 of those passes for 685 yards and eight touchdowns. No matter which metric you look at Gronk is up near the top but most impressive is his passer rating when targeted — a perfect 158.3. Can’t get any better than that."

This is a pretty cool way for PFF to utilize its metrics. The entire list is worth a read.

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