Ben Roethlisberger would like Steelers fans to relax. Now is not the time to panic, despite back-to-back losses.
"The season is not over," Roethlisberger said Wednesday, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. "I want everyone out there to just take a deep breath. I know it's kind of crazy right now. I just want everyone to take a deep breath. We've got time. That's my mindset too."
The Steelers have lost two straight games to fall to 11-2 and behind the Kansas City Chiefs for the top seed in the AFC. Despite the recent failures, Pittsburgh still clinched its first playoff berth since 2017. The team can lock up the AFC North with a win or a Cleveland loss this week.
"We have guaranteed ourselves a chance at the playoffs. We're in the postseason. We have three weeks now to get it going, to turn it around, to give ourselves the best chance to reach our ultimate goal, which is winning a Super Bowl," Roethlisberger said. "If we were starting the postseason tomorrow, maybe there would be a little bit more panic on our part.
"... We still have some work to do, to kind of get ourselves out of this lull that we're in because, like you say, every team has them. It just so happens that ours is happening right now. It's not too late for us."
The sky seems to be falling in Pittsburgh mainly because Big Ben's offense has looked so anemic of late.
Over the past three weeks, Pittsburgh has averaged 17 points per game, 5.4 passing yards per attempt, 45.3 rush yards per game and a 33.3 percent third-down rate. Astoundingly, those figures are all worse than what the Steelers put up last season when Roethlisberger was hurt for 14 games and Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges were under center: 18.1 PPG, 4.7 YPP, 34.4 third-down percent.
The blame for the Steelers' struggles can be shared between an O-line creating few holes, running backs who can't make people miss, receivers dropping passes, and a quarterback unable to stretch the field accurately.
Roethlisberger has had a passer rating below 90.0 in four straight games, which ties the second-longest streak of his career (longest was 7 in 2008-09) and is his first streak of four such games since 2010.
Big Ben has averaged just 7.0 air-yards per attempt this season, seventh-fewest among 35 qualified QBs, per Next Gen Stats.
Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner told reporters Thursday that they planned to practice the deep ball attack more in practice, per The Athletic, and he rejected the notion that he was unwilling to dial up such plays.
"I'm not afraid to throw it deep," Fichtner said, via ESPN.
The lack of downfield accuracy hasn't been a new thing this year, but it's restricted the Steelers offense. Now that the quick passing game has been curtailed by defenses, it's left Pittsburgh struggling to move the ball.
Defenses have adjusted, dropping more defenders into coverage as Pittsburgh's offense has cratered. Big Ben has struggled over the past four weeks when teams have dropped seven-plus defenders (non-blitzes). He has five INTs, a 63.6 completion percentage, 4.8 yards per attempt, a 64.4 passer rating with just two TDs in the last four games versus non-blitzes, per NGS.
Luckily for the Steelers, they play a Bengals defense this week that ranks as one of the worst in the NFL. It's the perfect time for Big Ben and his teammates to get out of their current funk. But if they struggle Monday night, Roethlisberger's heed to relax can be ignored.