PITTSBURGH — Despite offensive inconsistencies contributing to a third straight loss, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin still has confidence in his quarterback. Tomlin was adamant Tuesday when asked whether Ben Roethlisberger remains the right quarterback for the offense.
“Absolutely,” Tomlin said. “What he does and what he’s done makes me really comfortable in saying that.”
Roethlisberger, who Tomlin said sustained a “hip issue” during Sunday’s 27-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers, completed 26 of 40 attempts for 232 yards with one touchdown and one interception.
After leading a scoring drive on the opening possession — one capped by a 45-yard strike to Diontae Johnson — Roethlisberger and the offense struggled to replicate the rhythm the rest of the evening. Roethlisberger missed a handful of throws to open receivers, including two to JuJu Smith-Schuster that, if caught, appeared to be destined for the end zone.
“It’s him some, it’s us collectively some,” Tomlin said, explaining the passing game’s inconsistency. “We’ve just got to keep working. Sometimes it can be attributed to the altering of plans late in the week because of player availability or guys not being available. …
“We’ve had some big-play opportunities, we [haven’t] cashed in on them. We need to cash in on them. They’re a big component of moving the ball and scoring, particularly when you’re not working as efficiently as you like on possession downs, which we aren’t. … We’re also going to work to connect on a higher percentages of these chunk opportunities because that aids us in terms of ringing up the scoreboard, as well.”
In the first three weeks, Roethlisberger was often under duress from the pass rush, but that wasn’t the case Sunday.
He was pressured only on 7% of his 40 throws and was hit just five times. According to ESPN Stats and Information, it’s the lowest pressure percentage by a QB with 40 pass attempts in a loss since 2013.
Even so, he left Green Bay with the “hip issue,” his second in-game injury this season following the left pectoral injury he sustained against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Tomlin, though, said he’s not any more concerned about Roethlisberger’s level of safety behind the line given his age and mobility than he was a year ago.
“Not out of the ordinary,” Tomlin said. “I’m sure if you reviewed the tape and looked at these visits [news conferences] from the first 11 weeks of last year and probably said similar things. He was upright and we were undefeated.
“There’s probably a component of just being in your late 30s and playing this game and playing that position and particularly when you’re not playing winning football and you get somewhat one dimensional, there’s collateral damage that gets associated with that for him and for us.”
Much like his assertion a week ago that he wasn’t going to hit the panic button, Tomlin also didn’t appear worried with the trajectory of Roethlisberger’s performance, asserting that almost everything is fixable.
“Everything except mobility,” Tomlin said with a chuckle. “I don’t have an answer for that, or lack thereof. Ben used to be able to run really good when he was young. Those days are behind him.
“Other than that, I don’t see much that’s not a discussion in terms of technical alterations or quality of play that can be improved.”