Patriots

Patriots

FOXBORO -- It doesn't matter how Ben Roethlisberger has looked in recent weeks. Bill Belichick fawned over him Wednesday like he was playing like one of the best quarterbacks in the league. 

Roethlisberger ranks in the middle of the league in a few key categories like yards per attempt (13th) and rating (15th), and only Jets rookie Sam Darnold has thrown more picks than Roethlisberger (15 to 13). In his last four games, Roethlisberger has thrown nearly as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (seven).

But when asked about Roethlisberger's ability to extend plays, Belichick took his time lauding the Steelers veteran passer. 

"He's as good as anybody at that," Belichick said. "He's strong. He stands in the pocket, stiff-arms defenders, throws the ball. He's got great length himself to be able to see over practically everything. 

"He's got a tremendous arm. He can deliver with no windup or step into the throw. He can just flat-foot it and fire it 50, 60 yards downfield. He's got great poise, great patience. He knows how long he can wait. Usually, a lot of times, he waits until the bitter end and then delivers the ball on time."

Belichick referenced Roethlisberger's 97-yard touchdown throw to JuJu Smith-Schuster in Denver at the end of last month as a prototypical example of what he's willing to do to complete a pass. Standing in his own end zone, Roethlisberger took a hit to float one to Schuster, who did the rest to give the Steelers a lead in the third quarter. 

 

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"That's the kind of thing he does," Belichick said. "He hangs in there until the last second to make those throws. He's tough. I have a ton of respect for him."

Based on the numbers alone, though he's in the middle of the pack league-wide, Roethlisberger is having a Roethlisbergerian season. He's completing 67 percent of his passes, his best mark since 2015. He's averaging 7.7 yards per attempt, again his best since 2015. And despite having thrown a number of picks, his interception percentage is currently its best since 2014 thanks to the number of attempts (546, most in the NFL) he's thrown. 

And despite the fact that he's dealing with a rib injury, one reason the Patriots should expect Roethlisberger's best is because he's at home. His rating at Heinz Field (104.0) is more than 10 points better than when he's away from PIttsburgh (92.1). His yards per attempt (8.19) are way up versus what he does on the road (7.30), and his touchdown-to-interception ratio is vastly improved in Pittsburgh (4-to-1) versus away (4-to-3).

He won't be among the toughest challenges the Patriots have faced this year when you consider Belichick and Brian Flores have had to prep for Patrick Mahomes, Deshaun Watson, Andrew Luck and Aaron Rodgers. But, in Pittsburgh especially, Roethlisberger is still dangerous.

And if Belichick's press conference Wednesday is any indication, he'll be hammering home that fact with his players this week. 

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