Is there a larger trend behind Ben Roethlisberger’s road record and struggles away from Heinz Field?
Sometimes reality is inconvenient. Last spring Bruce Arians reopened, yet again, the story of Art Rooney II forcing his firing after the Steelers 2011 season.
While unwelcome, Arian’s comments opened the door to a comparison of Ben Roethlisberger’s performance by offensive coordinator. And the numbers painted a clear picture: The Arians-Haley switch worked out well for Roethlisberger, Haley and Arians.
8 games into the 2016 season we know the story isn’t that simple because after 7 starts, Ben Roethlisberger is clearly struggling on the road. The question remains, Is this a new development, or are we only now just noticing? Let’s see what the numbers tell us….
Ben Roethlisberger’s Performance at Home and on the Road by Coordinator
When we first broke down the numbers on Ben Roethlisberger’s performance per coordinator, the focus was on the number of sacks he was taking and his efficiency at gaining yards, throwing touchdowns, and avoiding interceptions.
These are all valuable measures, and using those metrics, the change from Bruce Arians to Todd Haley was just what the Dr. ordered. Nary a thought was given to how the variance in Ben Roethlisberger’s performance by venue.
- Perhaps we should have, because those numbers tell an interesting story.
Ben Roethlisberger’s road record vs. his performance at Heniz Field with Ken Whisenhunt is quite interesting. Overall there’s very little difference between how Roethlisberger performed on the road and at home from 2004 to 2006. In fact, his completion percentage was a little higher, and he still threw more touchdowns than interceptions on the road.
On the critical statistic of wins and losses, Ben Roethlisberger’s winning percentage at Heinz Field was only slightly better than on the road. Likewise, his passer rating was only down slightly. It should be noted that, if the “Roethlisberger is a game manager” motif was unfair at this stage of his career, Ben Roethlisberger himself claimed to only be the supporting cast of a roster that included stars like Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith and Troy Polamalu.
- Mike Tomlin replaced Ken Whisenhunt with Bruce Arians, who made little secret of his intent to loosen Ben’s leash.
Here’s how Ben Roethilsberger’s home and away statictics with Bruce Arians look:
Under Bruce Arian’s tutelage we start to see a wider gap emerge between Ben Roethisberger’s performance and record at home, and away from Heinz Field. His completion percentage on the road was down under Arians by 3%, his interceptions were slightly up, but Ben Roethlisberger’s passer rating took a hit on the road under Arians of about ten points. However, the differential between Ben Roethlisberger’s winning percentage at Heinz Field and on the road under Bruce Arians was double what it was under Ken Whisenhunt.
- So how does Ben Roethlisberger’s record road record and home record vary under Todd Haley’s first four years?
Here’s where the numbers get interesting:
First, his overall winning percentage under Todd Haley is down, which is part is due to the fact that the Steelers, contrary to Mike Tomlin and Kevin Colbert’s protests, were rebuilding in 2012 and 2013.
- And that should show you just how much Ben Roethisberger means to the Steelers.
Because Ben Roethlisberger’s performance, in terms of accuracy, throwing more interceptions, and sacks is better under Todd Haley than it was under Bruce Arians. So credit Todd Haley with doing something right. But don’t pat him on the back too hard….
…You can see that under Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger’s performance at home is better than his performance on the road. His completion percentage is stable on the road, but his sack number are up, his interceptions numbers are similar to what they were under Arians, but Ben Roethisberger is throwing far fewer touchdowns on the road, and his passer rating reflects it.
Under Todd Haley’s first four years, for the first time in his career, Ben Roethlisberger has a below .500 winning percentage on the road.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Home and Road Records with Todd Haley by Season
How do these trend play out on a season-by-season basis? The numbers don’t tell us a whole lot, but they do suggest but it is the tendency suggests an alarming trend.
In 2012, there was little difference between Ben Rothlisberger’s performance at home and on the road, except that his winning percentages away from Heinz Field began to dip, but other factors probably account for that.
Ben Roethlisberger’s performance at Heinz Field in 2013 and on the road was very similar, except that his winning percentage was down, but like 2012 this was probably due to other factors.
In 2014, Ben Roethlisberger’s road record remains stable, but his performance away from Heinz Field begins to dip in a couple of key areas.
Many of Ben’s performance metrics on the road and at home are stable across the first four years of Todd Haley’s tenure, but the difference in Ben Roethsiberger on the road and Ben Roethlisberger at home gets noticeably bigger in 2014 and 2015 – which lay outside of the Steelers current rebuilding window.
It is in 2014 and 2015 that Ben Roethlisberger starts taking more sacks on the road than he does at home. His touchdown numbers plummet (although they were bad in 2013 too) and his completion percentage dropped by 6% in 2015. Worse yet, Ben Roethlisberger’s winning percentage on the road fell to its worst level in 2015.
Ben Roethlisberger’s Road Record in 2016…
So how are the trends holding up halfway into the 2016 season. Quite frankly, the early returns are not good:
If you had to write a book on the 2016 Steelers at this point you would title it “A Tale of Two Roethlisbergers.” He’s really looking like two separate quarterbacks at Heinz Field and on the road.
To be fair to Ben NO ONE played well in Philadelphia. And in Miami and at Baltimore Ben was injured. Likewise, against Miami his defense was missing Cameron Heyward and Ryan Shazier, who define the concept of “Difference maker.” Likewise, in Miami Todd Haley inexplicably abandoned the run in a game when Le’Veon Bell was looking like he could take over the game.
And, for most of the season, the Steelers have rotated 4th or 5th WR’s alongside Antonio Brown.
Will Ben Roethlisberger’s Road Struggles Continue?
What to make of all of this? Somewhere out there are probably statics on how a quarterback’s play drops off on the road. My guess is that Ben Roethlisberger’s road record under Ken Whisenhunt was probably better than that average, that it was probably at about that average under Bruce Arians, and is below that under Todd Haley.
Late in their careers, word was that Peyton Manning couldn’t play in the cold and that the wheels fell off Brett Favre after Thanksgiving.
- Could the late game story on Ben Roethlisberger be that he struggles on the road?
The raw numbers suggest that, but it is impossible and unfair to make that assertion without assessing the performance of the entire defense along with other offensive skill players in question during the timeframes we’re looking it.
Ben Roethlisberger made a name for himself in his second year by leading his team to Super Bowl XL with three straight playoff wins on the road. But the numbers do not lie. Under Todd Haley, Ben Roethlisberger’s road record shows that he struggles when he’s away from Heinz Field and it would be ironic if that trend defines the latter part of his career.