Ben’s “Rust” Issue, Part 3



via Sporting News

This post is mainly to tie up a few threads before I launch into the sequel, which is to compare the issues we’re finding with Ben to other quarterbacks. As far as Ben goes, we’ve looked at the general numbers in Part 1 and broken them down some more in Part 2. 

Now we will look at whether there is anything to the idea that the Steelers “play down” to sub-.500 opposition. This seems as if it shouldn’t even be debatable, as the record under Mike Tomlin is fairly clear. Or is it? The difficulty is, it’s all very well if a team is under .500 at the time to say “See, the Steelers suck against bad teams.”

But take the game against the 1-5 Chiefs last season, for instance. The Chiefs had been losing, but not by a lot, and after beating the Steelers they went on to win out the remainder of the season—10 games in a row, in case you weren’t counting. So were the Chiefs a bad team or not? They had not just a losing record but a dismal one when they played the Steelers, but proved to be a very good team by season’s end.

So here are the games again, but grouped by result and opponent record.

Wins after Ben sits for any reason: 11

  • Teams with record at or over .500 at time of game: 8
  • Teams with record at or over .500 at end of season: 6

Losses after Ben sits for any reason: 12

  • Teams with record at or over .500 at time of game: 6
  • Teams with record at or over .500 at end of season: 6

Wins after Ben returns from injury: 1

  • Record at or over .500 at time of game? No
  • Record at or over .500 at end of season? No

Losses after Ben returns from injury: 5

  • Teams with record at or over .500 at time of game: 3
  • Teams with record at or over .500 at end of season: 3

As always, we’re working with a super small sample size. But here’s the percentages:

After Ben sits for any reason, 73% of the opponents in a win were at or over .500 at the time of the game, whereas only 50% of the opponents were at or over .500. Which does tend to support the “Steelers suck against bad opponents” theory.

However, at the end of the season the number of teams the Steelers beat drops to about 55%, which is quite similar to the 50% of opponents in losses.

But the theory isn’t really supported, if you can call a single game indicative, by the numbers in Ben’s sole win after an injury, as it was to a sub-500 team (Cleveland) who remained sub-500.

As for the losses, the two teams with sub-.500 records to whom the Steelers lost when Ben came back were the 2009 Raiders and the 2012 Chargers. And if you look at the stat lines the two games were very different.

Ben actually had a pretty good game against the Raiders. It’s just that the great Bruce Gradkowski blew him away. Here’s Ben’s line:

  • Stats: Attempts/Completions: 24/18; Completion %: 75.0; QB rating: 123.3; TD/INT: 2/1

And here’s Bruce’s:

  • Stats: Attempts/Completions: 33/20; Completion %: 60.6; QB rating: 121.8; TD/INT: 3/0

Okay, so they weren’t that great. But Bruce played a good game, and the difference was the interception—something to which Ben is particularly prone when he returns from an injury.

The Chargers game in 2012 was a different matter. Here’s Ben’s stats:

  • Attempts/Completions: 42/22; Completion %: 52.4; QB rating: 87.9; TD/INT: 3/1

The Chargers, despite having Philip Rivers at QB, were pretty bad, and their offensive line had basically just been signed off the street that day. It should have been an easy victory for the Steelers, but Ben didn’t play well at all, and the Steelers’ D followed suit.

If you look at the two injuries from which Ben was returning, though, they are quite different, and I’m guessing this accounts for one of Ben’s better post-injury lines in 2009. In that case he was coming back from a “concussion-oriented thing.” That was Mike Tomlin’s characterization.The team never actually came out and said Ben had a concussion. Things were different then.

The 2012 game, though, was Ben’s first game back after the injury he sustained in Kansas City. Ben said the doctor told him it could have been fatal. It was an SC Joint sprain (Sternoclavicular), if I recall correctly, which is part of the shoulder support system, but one of the ligaments attaching to the ribcage was involved. Or something like that. I don’t even play a doctor on TV…

Ben’s demeanor at the press conference showed that he was rather shaken by this, although it just added to the legend of him as a drama queen. At any rate, it’s hardly surprising that he would be rather spooked at his first game back (and a 52.4% completion rate certainly looks like a spooked QB), whereas a concussion (or “concussion-oriented thing”) was still considered no big deal by players back then.

to be continued

One comment

  • Stats can lie, but your eyes seldom do. Watching Ben in the first three quarters last week was painful. My eyes can never unsee that performance. Everything about it was awful, watching him struggle like that.

    He definitely comes back too soon. The delta between his first game back and the second game is waaay too big. Simply because he’s able to go out there and perform doesn’t mean he’s able to go out there and perform up to his own standards. An injury serious enough to make you miss a game will affect your muscle memory and your timing. It takes time and repetition to get those back. It clearly took Ben three quarters to get them back last week. If he can’t practice during the first part of the week, it may be best to either sit him or bring him in off the bench.(I know that’s counter-intuitive, but it’s worked before)

    One of the great ironies that Ben has a rep as a drama queen, but he takes an incredible beating out there, and comes back from injury sooner than he probably should. It’s a tough call for Tomlin, though, because an injured Big Ben is probably better than a healthy LJ., so long as Ben’s arms and legs still total four.


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