Grading Ben Roethlisberger

October, 19, 2010
10/19/10
11:02
AM ET
Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is back. But is he all the way back? Not quite.

The AFC North blog covered Roethlisberger's 2010 debut Sunday against the Cleveland Browns and later broke down the game film of every throw to grade his performance. It's a new feature that we will do periodically in the blog.

Points are awarded or deducted on a five-point scale, depending on how Roethlisberger performed each play. Here is what we found:

[+] EnlargeRoethlisberger
Jason Bridge/US PresswireBen Roethlisberger was 16-for-27 with 3 TDs and one pick in his 2010 debut.
Roethlisberger's first drive

  • Roethlisberger's first throw was a quick out to tailback Rashard Mendenhall, who gains 3 yards to get a first down. Nice play call to get Roethlisberger warmed up. (+1 point)
  • Good pump fake by Roethlisberger and read to spot receiver Antwaan Randle El in single coverage deep against cornerback Sheldon Brown. Roethlisberger causes Brown to bite and draws a pass interference penalty. (+2 points)
  • Browns blitz to Roethlisberger's left. He sees it, shuffles to the right to buy an extra second to hit Mendenhall out of the backfield, who gains 4 yards. (+1 point)
  • On third down, the Browns field seven defensive backs, four linebackers and zero defensive linemen. Roethlisberger is confused by the formation and calls a timeout. (-2 points)
  • Browns bring same formation after the timeout. Cleveland only rushes three and Roethlisberger's pass intended for Mewelde Moore sails high and into the hands of Browns rookie cornerback Joe Haden, who returns it 62 yards. (-5 points)
Grade for drive: -3 points

Second drive

  • Roethlisberger throws another quick hitch to receiver Hines Ward for 3 yards. Basic play to get Roethlisberger back in rhythm after the pick. (+1 point)
  • Good hook route by receiver Mike Wallace. Roethlisberger throws it in the open area of Cleveland's zone for 11 yards. (+2 points)
  • Browns read the screen play and it's not there. Roethlisberger scrambles for 5 yards to make something out of a broken play. (+1 point)
  • On third-and-13, Cleveland rushes three and Roethlisberger still finds rookie receiver Emmanuel Sanders for 22 yards. Ball has good zip. Sanders is celebrating his first NFL catch as though he won the Super Bowl. (+3 points)
  • Browns blitz again and Roethlisberger holds the ball a little too long this time, which he's prone to do. He barely avoids the sack by throwing the ball out of bounds. (-1 point)
  • Browns blitz again and Matt Roth goes untouched to the quarterback. Roethlisberger shows great strength and toughness by taking a hit and still getting enough on the ball downfield to Mike Wallace for a 29-yard touchdown. Not many quarterbacks can make that play. (+5 points)
Grade for drive: +11 points

Third drive

  • Roethlisberger throws a pass a little high but Ward catches it for 7 yards. Some basic timing throws are sailing on Roethlisberger. (+1 point)
  • Pass protection breaks down and Browns linebacker Chris Gocong wraps Roethlisberger up but can't make the tackle. Roethlisberger still looking down the field, throws incomplete and gets hit by three Browns in the process. He tries too hard to make something happen. (-2 points)
  • Steelers max protect against Cleveland's blitz and Roethlisberger has time. Just overthrows Ward for what could have been a big gain on third down. Pittsburgh punts. (-1 point)
Grade for drive: -2 points

Fourth drive

  • In the first throw of the second half, Browns blitz and Roethlisberger finds Ward open on the hot route for 10 yards and a first down. Good read and throw. (+2 points)
  • Mendenhall picks up the safety blitz with a great block on T.J. Ward. Roethlisberger finds Hines Ward, who beats Wright for 26 yards. Roethlisberger is picking on Wright for big plays. (+3 points)
  • Another screen call doesn't work and Roethlisberger throws it away. It's apparent the Browns did a good job of studying Pittsburgh's screen game this week. (-1 point)
  • On a long third down, Roethlisberger tries to force the ball into double coverage and it's batted away. Poor read, poor throw. Steelers punt. (-1 point)
Grade for drive: +3 points

Fifth drive

  • Deep in Pittsburgh's territory, Roethlisberger eludes the cornerback blitz and finds Wallace, who blows by the safety with ease for 50 yards. Roethlisberger took a tough shot on the arm but the throw was still on a rope. It's another play not many quarterbacks can make under that kind of duress. (+4 points)
  • On next play, Roethlisberger drops in a touch pass to tight end Heath Miller for 36 yards against Cleveland's zone. Last two passes accounted for 86 yards. (+4 points)
  • On the same hot read from the previous drive, Roethlisberger points out the pre-snap blitz and finds Ward on a square in against -- guess who? -- Wright. Ward easily shakes off Wright's attempt to strip the ball and barrels in for an 8-yard touchdown. Three sterling throws and the best drive of the day for Roethlisberger. (+4 points)
Grade for drive: +12 points

Sixth drive

  • Roethlisberger stands patient in the pocket and finds Sanders again for 15 yards and the first down. Sanders doesn't celebrate his second career catch like he did his first. (+2 points)
  • Randle El runs a quick out to the sideline and Roethlisberger throws it to the wrong (inside) shoulder. Randle El still makes the catch but is hit pretty hard by Brown. (+1 point)
  • Browns continue to blitz on third down, and the pressure forces Roethlisberger to throw an incomplete pass to Randle El. Steelers punt. (-1 point)
Grade for drive: +2 points

Seventh drive

  • Steelers come out in a tight run formation and fool the Browns badly with a play-action pass. Wallace streaks down right sideline but Roethlisberger misses him by throwing several yards out of bounds. Roethlisberger smiles to the sideline, because he can't believe how badly he missed the open target. (-3 points)
  • On third down Roethlisberger throws too high again for Ward. Rust is definitely a factor. (-1 point)
Grade for drive: -4 points

Eighth drive

  • After Browns receiver Chansi Stuckey fumbles the punt, Roethlisberger finds Mendenhall coming out of the backfield three plays later for a first down. Mendenhall runs it in on next play to give Pittsburgh a 21-3 lead. (+1 point)
Grade for drive: +1 point

Ninth drive

  • Steelers running out the clock on first and second down. But Roethlisberger throws incomplete to Miller on third down. (-1 point)
Grade for drive: -1 point

Tenth drive

  • Steelers stay aggressive on final possession. On third down Roethlisberger finds Miller, who beats Brown in the corner of the end zone for final pass of the day. Steelers win, 28-10. (+3 points)
Grade for drive: +3 points

Roethlisberger's game grade: +22 points

AFC North blog's analysis: This was a great starting point to build on for Roethlisberger, who had not played in a meaningful game since January. As you can see above, there were some vintage plays but also several missed throws that Roethlisberger will probably make once he gets back in midseason form. I've covered plenty of Roethlisberger's starts over the past three seasons, and this was more of a B-level performance by his standards. When Roethlisberger gets back on his "A" game, the Steelers will be very tough to beat.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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