The Clutch Enigma: Ben Roethlisberger, Part I

Is Ben Roethlisberger clutch? Kyle Rodriguez looks at the question, starting with a simple look at playoff performances. 

As with Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger has two rings in his young career, along with another Super Bowl appearance. Like Tom Brady, Roethlisberger has been blessed with an exceptional defense early in his career, and through big wins in the playoffs has gathered the mantra that he is a clutch quarterback. 

So, in evaluating Big Ben, what do we see in his playoff performances? If the mantra of “clutch” is true, than it should correlate to the playoffs, the big stage for the NFL, where every game is the difference between going home and staying alive. Of course, they don’t tell the whole story, and situational stats and drive success must be taken into consideration. But, to begin, we’ll examine Roethlisberger’s playoff games versus his regular season play. 

Reg. Season Games Completion % Y/A Yds/Gm TD % Int % Sack %

Rating

2004 14 66.4% 8.9 187.2 5.8% 3.7% 9.23% 98.1
2005 12 62.7% 8.9 198.8 6.3% 3.4% 7.9% 98.6
2006 15 59.7% 7.5 234.2 3.8% 4.9% 8.93% 75.4
2007 15 65.3% 7.8 210.3 7.9% 2.7% 10.42% 104.1
2008 16 59.9% 7 206.3 3.6% 3.2% 8.93% 80.1
2009 15 66.6% 8.6 288.5 5.1% 2.4% 8.99% 100.5
2010 12 61.7% 8.2 266.7 4.4% 1.3% 7.6% 97
2011 15 63.2% 7.9 271.8 4.1% 2.7% 7.23% 90.1
Total 114 63.1% 8 233.1 5% 3% 8.66% 92.1

 

Playoffs Games Completion % Y/A Yds/Gm TD % Int % Sack % Rating
2004 2 57.41% 7.54 203.5 5.56% 9.26% 3.57% 61.3
2005 4 62.37% 8.63 200.75 7.53% 3.23% 6.06% 101.7
2006 - - - - - - - -
2007 1 69.05% 8.02 337 4.76% 7.14% 12.5% 79.2
2008 3 60.67% 7.78 230.7 3.37% 1.12% 8.25% 91.6
2009 - - - - - - - -
2010 3 59.34% 6.84 207.33 4.4% 4.4% 9% 76.4
2011 1 55% 7.2 289 2.5% 2.5% 11.11% 75.9
Totals 14 60.64% 7.7 225 4.89% 4.16% 8.09% 83.7

Roethlisberger’s playoff statistics are very underwhelming at first glance, and when examining them closer for clutch performances, they become even more glaring. 

2004: Played poorly in both games, threw fourth quarter pick against the Jets that allowed them a second chance to win the game (got lucky as they missed the FG twice). In overtime the majority of offense was the run game, although he did have one big third down conversion. 

2005: Only one close game (Indy), and Ben only threw two passes in the fourth quarter of that game (both incomplete). Also played one of the worst Super Bowls ever by a quarterback (Rating of 22.6). 

2007: Bad game overall, but good drive to get within 5 in the fourth quarter. Not much of a factor for the go-ahead drive (2-5 for 8 yards), good QB sneak for a 3rd down conversion though. Incomplete pass on two point conversion, allowing the Jags to win with a field goal. Lost a fumble with 30 seconds left. 

2008: Three solid games including the game winning drive and touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. Clutch playoff performance.

2010: Very good game against a tough Baltimore team, including the game winning TD drive. Stinker against the Jets, including a pick and two sacks in the second half (only 3 completions), as well as a safety on a fumbled snap. Semi-decent game in the SB, but threw 2 picks and three straight incompletions to lose their chance at a game winning drive. 

2011: Had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but took three sacks and ran out of time. Didn’t see the ball in overtime. 

I don’t want to take 2008 away from Roethlisberger, for it was a great postseason for him, especially the back-and-forth in the Super Bowl as Kurt Warner and Larry Fitzgerald tried to carry the Cardinals to an improbable finish to their Super Bowl run. 

Nevertheless, it’s extremely difficult to look at Roethlisberger’s playoff stats, at any point in his career, and label him a clutch quarterback. It’s again a case of his defense and run game carrying him to Super Bowl wins, although he did finish it during 2008. Like Eli Manning, who never won a game in the playoffs when his opponent scored more than 20, Roethlisberger relied on a top defense, as he never won a game where the opponent scored over 25 points (and never lost if they scored less than 25). 

Next we’ll look at his situational stats as a whole, as well as comparing him to Eli Manning and Tom Brady. 

Kyle J. Rodriguez

About Kyle J. Rodriguez

A film and numbers guru, Kyle writes about the NFL and the Indianapolis Colts for Bleacher Report, Draft Mecca and The Football Educator, and is a co-founder and associate editor of Colts Authority. Kyle also is a high school sports reporter for the MLive Media Group in Michigan, covering high school sports across the state.

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