Why has no one mentioned Ben Roethlisberger in the MVP race? The man is putting up the best numbers of his career while leading the Pittsburgh Steelers into the playoffs. Their playoffs odds are currently at 81.5%. In the last two weeks, Roethlisberger won important games against division leaders, at Atlanta and at Cincinnati (honestly, calling Atlanta a division leader gives them too much credit). Here is how Roethlisberger compares to the other quarterbacks vying for MVP:
Aaron Rodgers is having an incredible season and is currently the favorite, but Roethlisberger fares well on this list. Roethlisberger has the highest completion percentage of those five QBs and only trails Andrew Luck in passing yards. He’s thrown the fewest touchdown passes, but has a higher TD to INT ratio than Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck. We’re not accustomed to saying Ben Roethlisberger’s name in the same sentence as Manning and Brady, but this year he belongs in that group.
The Steelers were 4-3 earlier this year following their week 7 win against the Houston Texans. The following two weeks they faced the Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, two playoff caliber opponents that could have sent their season into a downward spiral. However, Roethlisberger delivered the two best games of his career, throwing six touchdown passes with no picks against both teams.
Roethlisberger went from game manager early in his career to one of the best quarterbacks in the game. The Steelers rely on his arm more than ever before, and he’s responded by having the best season of his career:
The Pittsburgh Steelers have changed a lot in Ben Roethlisberger’s time as quarterback. In 2005, their Super Bowl winning season, the Steelers were a run heavy team with a great defense. They ranked 1st in rush attempts that season due to the power and speed combination of Jerome Bettis and Willie Parker. They ranked last in the NFL in pass attempts. This year they rank 4th in pass attempts.
Give credit to Big Ben for evolving his game over the course of his career and becoming the MVP candidate that he is today. In the 2005 season, he only averaged 22 passes a game. That number is now 40 (a career high), almost double the amount of passes a game! It’s impressive that he doubled his pass attempts per game and at the same time increased his completion percentage from 62.7% to 67.2%. The highest completion percentage of his career.
This year he has already set a career best for passing yards in a season, 4,415 yards with two games left. His 29 touchdowns are only three behind his career high set in 2007. If he plays well over the final two games, he will set career bests in passer rating and QBR.
Of course it wasn’t a completely smooth transition from handing the ball off, to spreading the ball around the field. At times he struggled over the last couple of seasons. Roethlisberger always seems to be dealing with a nagging injury, and part of his struggles also come from the Steelers previous failures to surround him with the weapons he has today, particularly at running back. After Rashard Mendenhall tore his ACL, Pittsburgh was left with Jonathan Dwyer as their feature running back for the 2012 season. They ranked 26th in rushing yards. After drafting Le’Veon Bell in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft, they ranked 27th last year during his rookie season. It’s now his second year, and they’re 10th in the NFL in rushing yards.
This year, Le’Veon Bell became arguably the best three down running back in the game. He was the first player since Walter Payton to accrue more than 200 yards from scrimmage in three straight games. Bell is running the ball well, and is a nightmare for linebackers to cover in space. Bell ranks second in the NFL with 1,278 rushing yards. He leads all running backs with 76 receptions for 765 yards. Antonio Brown has emerged as one of the game’s most dangerous receivers. Terrifying after the catch, Brown leads the league in receptions (115) and yards (1,498).
The running game has taken the pressure off of Roethlisberger this year and he’s responded with career numbers. With big games at key times, he deserves to be mentioned among the best quarterbacks this year. At times this season’s offense has looked unstoppable, currently ranked 2nd in weighted offensive DVOA. If the defense can get hot, currently 28th in weighted defensive DVOA, the Steelers will be a team to look out for over the last two games and playoffs. If the Steelers can win out against the Chiefs and a huge week 17 game against the Bengals, look for Big Ben to get serious consideration for MVP.
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