Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Can it Only Get Better?

In the aftermath of another poor performance by the Steelers' offense quarterback Ben Roethlisberger told the media that the 2007 season simply had to be better than this one: " 'It was tough, frustrating', Roethlisberger said. 'At least you know it will be awfully hard for next year to be any worse. We're going to get better' ."

Perhaps, but a distubing trend in the performance of the Steelers' third-year quarterback continues to emerge and if it doesn't change then next season may be every bit as frustrating as 2006 has been. A quick look at some numbers highlights just how concerned fans of the Black & Gold should be:

QB #1QB #2
Pass Attempts441519
Completions261298
Yards32333414
TDs1718
INTs2217
QB Rating74.075.3


Fans who have been keeping up with this season's numbers already have recognized Ben Roethlisberger as "QB #1." The mystery quarterback in the second spot? Those are the numbers that Tommy Maddox accumulated in 2003, his final full season as the Steelers' quarterback. At this time last season how many of you thought those two were comparable?

The concern over Mr. Roethlisberger's performance goes beyond comparing his performance to other quarterbacks from Steelers history. Here's a look at Mr. Roethlisberger's three year performance:

YearPass AttemptsCompletionsYardsTDsINTsQB Rating
20064412613233172274.0
2005268168238517998.6
20042951962621171198.2


The steady decline of Ben Roethlisberger -- first highlighted here last summer -- continued in 2006 (and is part of the reason that the "Mark Whipple to Boston College" rumors were of little concern to Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic), with no end in sight.

One final comparison -- this one between Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer. Here are Mr. Palmer's number of the last three years:

YearPass AttemptsCompletionsYardsTDsINTsQB Rating
20064823043784261394.1
200550934538363212101.1
20044322632897181877.3


While Mr. Palmer's performance in this season has not been as good as his performance in 2005 he is still improved from his first season. Also, for those who would point to Mr. Roethlisberger's offseason injury as part of the decline in his 2006 performance please remember that Mr. Palmer rehabilitated an injured knee, and at the time of the injury was expected to miss as much as the first six weeks of the 2006 regular season.

Additionally, for those who would argue that the decline in the Steelers' running game is responsible (at least in part) for the decline in Ben Roethlisberger's performance please keep in mind that the Bengals have also suffered a similar decline (2004: 1839 yards, 2005: 1910 yards, 2006: 1585 yards) without the catastrophic affects seen in Pittsburgh.

It seems obvious that whomever is head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007 will have to diagnose just what is going on with the team's talented, but youthful, quarterback and what steps are necessary to halt what appears to be a slide towards mediocrity.

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