Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 10/24/12
Six games into the Todd Haley-Ben Roethlisberger relationship, one thing is certain: Roethlisberger is thriving.Big Ben is off to the best start of his nine-year career, despite having a new offensive coordinator (Haley) with a new game-plan, and even though Pittsburgh had no running game to speak of through the first five games. The Steelers are only 3-3 (with all 3 losses on the road), and the defense has yet to really show up yet (at least not to the level Pittsburgh fans are used to).Here is what Roethlisberger is on pace for, if he can remain healthy for the full 16-game schedule (something he’s done only once, in the Steelers’ 2008 Super Bowl season):414 completions (his career high is 337)That would be the 7th-best single-season mark in NFL history4,712 yards (his career high is 4,077)29 TDs / 8 INTs (would easily be his best single-season ratio)35 sacks (would be the second-fewest in the past 7 seasons)Roethlisberger is currently 5th in the league with a quarterback rating of 98.6; his career best is 104.1. He is hovering around his career best for completion percentage, at 66.0, just 0.6 behind his 2009 season.THE STEELERS HAVE averaged 23.3 PPG through their first six games, which is middle-of-the-pack (17th-best, just ahead of the New York Jets and just behind San Francisco). There is obviously room for improvement in that area.What the offense has done better than any other this season, though, is convert third-down situations into first downs; the Steelers are converting at nearly a 54 percent clip, about 6 percentage points ahead of the next-best teams (New Orleans and New England).2012 Pittsburgh 3rd-down conversions (by game):11-for-19 vs. DEN8-for-15 vs. NYJ8-for-14 vs. OAK6-for-14 vs. PHI7-for-15 vs. TEN10-for-16 vs. CIN50-for-93 this season (53.8%)INSIDE THE NUMBERS2012 Pittsburgh Steelers (through six games)3rd-and-long situations (9+ yards)13 conversions in 26 attempts (50%)3rd-and-short (3- yards)16 conversions in 24 attempts (67%)Including 5-for-5 vs. Cincinnati in Week 7Inside 10-yard line situations4 conversions in five attempts, leading to four TDs & one FG3rd-down rushing attempts13 conversions in 17 attempts (76.5%)Two attempts were Roethlisberger scrambles, with 1 conversionAfter 2 of the failed attempts, the Steelers successfully ran for first downs on 4th downAttempts by RB100% - Jonathan Dwyer 5-for-5 (all vs. CIN last week)100%  - Antonio Brown 1-for-180%   -  Isaac Redman 4-for-567%   -  Baron Batch 2-for-3, TD50%   -  Ben Roethlisberger 1-for-20%     - Chris Rainey 0-for-1Roethlisberger on 3rd-and-long17-for-23 (74% completion), 289 yards, 12.6 Y/A, TD, 0 INT, 1 sackGood news: in the past two games, the Steelers have faced just 4 total 3rd-and-long situations, after averaging nearly five such situation per game through the first four gamesRoethlisberger on all 3rd downs76 drop-backs45-for-70 (64.3%), 4 TDs, 0 INTs34 conversions611 yards (35% of his passing yards this season)8.7 Y/A4 sacks2 scramblesPassing distribution on 3rd down*First-down conversions in parentheses     11 rec (10) – Antonio Brown (174 yds / 15.8 YPC     10 rec (7) – Heath Miller (107 yds, TD       9 rec (6) – Mike Wallace (135 yds, 2 TD / 15.0 YPC       8 rec (7) – Emmanuel Sanders (107 yds / 13.4 YPC       3 rec (1) – Isaac Redman (39 yds       3 rec (2) – Jericho Cotchery (35 yds       1 rec – Chris Rainey (14 yds)POINTS TO PONDERThe Steelers have done a great job converting 3rd-and-short opportunities, and (based on a small sample size) appear to have found a comfort level with Dwyer at running back.Roethlisberger has done a fantastic job this season at avoiding sacks on 3rd down, and has not thrown an INT on 3rd down.Roethlisberger’s completion percentage on third downs (74) is off the charts, and his 12.6 Y/A underscores how well he and his receivers are connecting to move the chains.Speaking of receivers, it’s obvious now that Brown (and TE Miller) are the Steelers’ best options on 3rd downs – with a shift away from Wallace since the middle of last season.After facing numerous 3rd-and-long situations early in the season, the Steelers are doing a much better job of putting themselves in more realistic conversion situations the past two games.Bottom line: No matter how well opposing defenses do against the Steelers on first and second downs, Haley, Roethlisberger and the Steelers appear quite comfortable on third down, no matter what the situation is.This will cause headaches for all opposing defensive coordinators until someone (some team) finds a way to get the Steelers' offense off the field.
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