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Roethlisberger off to Best Start of Career, and It Should Continue

2020 has defied everything about the term normal: Wearing masks have become a part of everyday life, football stadiums remain close to empty on game day, and the Pittsburgh Steelers aren’t off to such a slow start. Following a 38-29 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, the Steelers reached a 4-0 start to their season for the first time since 1979.

As of late, both the Steelers and franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have been known to begin their season slowly, whether it be on the scoreboard or simply terms of play. Some believe head coach Mike Tomlin’s lack of play time for starters in the preseason may be a catalyst for such events, while others believe Pittsburgh just takes a little more time to shake off the rust than the rest of the league.

Roethlisberger is no stranger to slow starts. Only three times since 2005, Roethlisberger held an average passer rating of 100.0 or higher: 2005, 2012 and 2016. Two of those years (2005/2016) saw the Steelers appear in the AFC Championship, with a Lombardi trophy brought back to Pittsburgh in 2005.

Roethlisberger’s passer rating through four games in 2020? 110.4, the second-highest in his career as a full-time starting quarterback. It’s also the second time he’s thrown 10-plus touchdowns in four games, but only has one interception compared to the four in 2016.

While planning championship parades now shouldn’t be a priority, the Steelers are 4-0 thanks to dominant defensive play and the revival of a Hall of Fame quarterback once thought to only be a shade of himself.

Heading into a prominent week six match-up with a 4-1 Cleveland Browns team, Roethlisberger looks to continue an impressive performance against a Philadelphia defense in which he completed nearly 80% of his passes with three touchdowns and zero interceptions in route to victory.

Assessing Roethlisberger’s most impressive performance thus far:

Third Down Prowess

Prior to Sunday, the Eagles defense ranked fifth in the NFL for third down conversion success, allowing the offense to convert on just 37% of plays to keep the chains moving. Roethlisberger and the rest of the Steelers offense had other ideas, converting 11 of 15 third down attempts.

Not to overstate the importance of third downs, but putting up points on the scoreboard often takes a handful of key third down conversions from the offense. Roethlisberger completed all 13 of his passes on third down for a total of 158 and two scores on the afternoon.

Clutch? Possibly. Key? Absolutely. 

On third down, the Steelers found success with three different types of plays:

Slants

The slant route may be one of the more efficient routes used in play-calling, with one or two short steps before a quick cut inside, giving the receiver leverage to catch the ball in short-yardage situations and potentially add more damage after the catch dependent on the situation. 

Pittsburgh targeted receiver Chase Claypool all three times they ran a slant concept, seeing a vast amount of success. On the first play, the