Ben Roethlisberger, Baker Mayfield by the numbers: Steelers & Browns QBs make history in offense-light game

The last “Monday Night Football” game of the 2021 NFL regular season was exactly what most expected. The Steelers and Browns participated in a classic AFC North battle, where Pittsburgh won 26-14 thanks to a solid defensive performance and a great performance from rookie running back Najee Harris.

All the attention was on Ben Roethlisberger in this one, as the veteran Steelers quarterback played in what many believe was his last home game. Big Ben was featured prominently in Pittsburgh’s game plan and earned the win, but even he admitted it wasn’t pretty at all.

“You know what? It’s funny because [it] probably [didn’t go] the way he wanted it, plus victory, “Roethlisberger said of the team’s performance in a post-game interview with ESPN’s Lisa Salters.” That is all that really matters. That has been the story of my career. It’s not always pretty, but we find a way. “

Indeed, Roethlisberger had his share of struggles during the contest, but was matched by Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield on the other side of the field. In fact, when the numbers are broken down, the two combined for one of the worst quarterback shows of the 2021 NFL season.

Ben Roethlisberger Stats vs. Browns

Roethlisberger wasn’t particularly bad against the Browns. He wasn’t particularly good either.

The 39-year-old veteran couldn’t get the ball much downfield, a problem that has limited the Steelers’ offense the past two seasons, so he had to settle for a lot of checkdowns. As a result, he racked up just 123 passing yards while completing 24 of 46 passes for a touchdown and an interception.

Roethlisberger averaged just 2.67 yards per pass attempt despite throwing so much the ball. How bad is that? His record is the second worst in NFL history for a quarterback to throw more than 40 passes behind only Jesse Palmer. Roethlisberger is only the fourth player in NFL history to throw more than 40 times in a game and finish with a mark of yards per attempt of less than 3.

Year Player Team Yards per attempt
2003 Jesse palmer Giants 2.56
2022 Ben roethlisberger Steelers 2.67
2016 Derek Carr Assailants 2.85
2006 Bruce gradkowski Buccaneers 2.9

Incredibly, 34 of Roethlisberger’s passes came before halftime, but he still failed to reach 100 yards on those attempts. That was the first time it happened in the last 40 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info.

Roethlisberger also posted a passer rating of just 56.2 during Sunday’s game, marking his 15th worst rating in 246 career starts. It’s also his lowest level since posting 37.8 in a five-interception game against the Jaguars in October 2017.

Interestingly, Roethlisberger’s 6.5-yard average goal depth isn’t the lowest of his 2021 season. According to PFF, Roethlisberger’s lowest ADOT came in Week 15 against the Titans, at 5.0.

So while Roethlisberger got the win, he certainly had a tough outing, as he indicated. However, he arguably played better than Mayfield, who had one of his worst games as a professional.

Baker Mayfield vs. Steelers Stats

Mayfield completed his first pass against the Steelers to Jarvis Landry. It was for 20 yards. After that, things got ugly.

Each of Mayfield’s next 10 passes was incomplete, marking the longest streak of incompletes since 2019, according to ESPN. He had trouble passing the ball past the Steelers defensive line, which knocked down three passes while his receivers registered a couple of drops. He also threw an interception during the streak where he didn’t see David Njoku open and tried to force him on Donovan Peoples-Jones.

Mayfield will eventually bounce back a bit, but still completed only 42.1 percent of his passes against Pittsburgh. That’s good for the 12th worst completion percentage among starting quarterbacks this year and the second-worst mark of Mayfield’s career in the NFL. He also became the first quarterback since 2017 to have five batter passes down the line of scrimmage while being sacked the last five times.

Speaking of sacks, Mayfield was sacked nine times in this contest. That’s tied for the most sacks in a single game this season with Justin Fields. The blame falls partially on Mayfield’s offensive line, specifically right tackle James Hudson, who allowed five pressures and three sacks on Monday, but Mayfield should have thrown the ball faster as well.

Mayfield’s final stats don’t look terrible. He completed 16 of 38 passes for 185 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. However, he posted just a 53.1 passer rating, the fourth-worst mark of his career, and averaged just 4.9 yards per pass attempt. That was better than Roethlisberger’s total, but it wasn’t enough to prevent the passers from making a dubious history with their performances.

Obviously, Mayfield was in pain. He has dealt with several injuries throughout the year, the most notable of which is a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder. Still, it was a tough outing, and that’s what allowed Roethlisberger and the Steelers to keep the Browns at bay for most of the night.