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Steelers quarterback plagued by spotty play

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Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011

When Ben Roethlisberger has been good, he's been real good this year. But when he has been bad, he's been real bad — and it hasn't been unusual to see both happen in the same game.

Even though Roethlisberger is on pace to surpass his career averages in yards, touchdown attempts and completions, his inconsistent play has led the highly regarded Steelers offense to sputter at times through the first six games.

"We all have been up and down, just not the quarterback," receiver Antonio Brown said. "In the process of us being up and down, we are still 4-2."

The Steelers are 4-2 and a half-game behind first-place Baltimore in the AFC North heading into Sunday's game at Arizona, and Roethlisberger's play hasn't been a concern with the coaching staff.

That includes his accuracy.

Roethlisberger is completing 62 percent of his passes, but he has missed some easy throws over the first six weeks.

"Accuracy is not an issue," quarterbacks coach Randy Fichtner said. "He has always been a very accurate quarterback ... I wouldn't look too much into that. It is a lot of who you play, circumstances of when you are throwing it, situations like third-and-long. The thing about Ben is that he always gives you a chance."

Just two years ago, Roethlisberger completed a franchise-record 66.6 percent of his throws. In fact, Roethlisberger owns the top four completion percentage numbers in franchise history and seven of the top 10, making this year's erratic accuracy unusual.

"I just know how important it is to him, but more importantly, he wants to make plays and the plays he should make," Fichtner said.

Roethlisberger has played like a Pro Bowl quarterback at times and like a rookie during others - sometimes during the same game.


> > Roethlisberger threw three interceptions against Baltimore and had a 52.9 passer rating. The next week, he completed 80 percent of his first-half passes against Seattle in leading the Steelers to a 17-0 halftime lead.

> > He threw for 364 yards in a win over Indianapolis, followed that with a stinker in Houston when he completed 53 percent, then was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week after tying a franchise-high with five touchdown passes against Tennessee the following week.

It hasn't been limited to game-by-game, either. At times, the inconsistencies can be traced from half-to-half.

> > Roethlisberger's first-half completion percentage is the second highest of his career (65.4); his second-half percentage is second lowest (58.2).

> > Roethlisberger helped the Steelers to a 17-3 halftime lead with his 113.8 passer rating against Jacksonville last week, but was fortunate to have had three potential interceptions dropped by the Jaguars.

"I guess it's good that we are 4-2 and playing inconsistent football," Roethlisberger said. "If we were 2-4 or 0-6, I think we would have some issues."

Fichtner knows that Roethlisberger is — and has been — invaluable to the offense, especially with things that go unnoticed.

"He is good at back-shoulder throws, he is good at throwing away from coverage; he is good at letting a guy have a chance to make a play even though he is covered," Fichtner said. "Those are the things that you look for out of your quarterback."

And, of course, winning games, too.

"We are winning the games, so we aren't going to complain right now," Roethlisberger said.

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