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In scouting Roethlisberger, Belichick is backed up by stats

Ben Roethlisberger -- as Patriots coach Bill Belichick noted -- is difficult to bring down. Jason Bridge/USA TODAY Sports

On Monday, New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick spoke in glowing fashion for more than 80 seconds about Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Belichick got specific into what makes playing against Roethlisberger so difficult and provided statistical support in some areas.

Here’s a “breakdown” of what Belichick said and the statistics that support his thoughts.

“Very hard to tackle, very difficult to get down … on top of that he’s got great vision … very good accuracy downfield. He doesn’t have to step into the throw or have a clean pocket. Guys hanging all over him, falling down. He’s as good as anyone we play at that.”

Last season, Roethlisberger completed 59 percent of passes deemed to have been thrown while he was pressured, the highest completion percentage of any qualifying quarterback in that scenario. The NFL average last season was 43 percent.

Roethlisberger threw 82 passes when pressured last season, and none of them ended up being intercepted. Roethlisberger is among four quarterbacks in one season to throw at least 80 passes while being pressured and not have an interception since ESPN Stats & Info began tracking pressures in the 2006 season.

Perhaps the best example of this last season came in the Steelers’ Week 1 game against the Browns. As the pocket collapsed, Roethlisberger escaped and scrambled to the far right. He threw on the run 35 yards downfield to Antonio Brown, who caught the pass with Joe Haden draped over him.

“He’s not going to scramble and run for 40 yards, but he can stay on his feet, he can extend plays, he can make throws with guys all over him. He has good vision, too. Even as guys are hanging over him, his eyes stay downfield. He looks at the pattern and the coverage and finds guys in coverage.”

Last season, Roethlisberger completed 70 percent of his passes thrown from outside the pocket, the best completion percentage in the NFL. The league average last season was 50 percent.

In the past five seasons, Roethlisberger owns two of the four best single-season completion percentages on throws from outside the pocket.

Roethlisberger is the only quarterback since the start of 2006 to complete a pass thrown from outside the pocket 60 yards downfield.

A play that illustrates this well came in Week 10 last season at the Jets. With 1:28 left in the fourth quarter, Roethlisberger left the pocket and scrambled to his left. He stepped up close to the line of scrimmage and fired the ball 60 yards downfield to an open Martavis Bryant, who beat his man for the touchdown.

“He then has the ability to shrug those guys off and still look downfield and get the ball accurately downfield. He was over 40 percent last year on throws over 20 yards. That’s pretty good. Some quarterbacks have a little trouble with throws under 10 yards. He makes a lot of good throws. It will be a huge challenge for us. Nobody will be a bigger challenge than him in terms of the total package.”

Last season, the average qualifying quarterback completed 36 percent of his passes thrown 20 yards downfield. Roethlisberger completed 41 percent. It was Roethlisberger’s best completion percentage on those throws since the 2010 season (43 percent).

Roethlisberger threw eight touchdown passes on throws at least 20 yards downfield. That tied Roethlisberger’s single-season high (for seasons since ESPN Stats & Info first tracked air yards beginning with 2006), set in 2009 and 2007.

In Week 8 last season, with about 5½ minutes left in the Steelers’ game against the Colts, Roethlisberger was chased outside the pocket, and he took more than four seconds to throw the ball. He scrambled to his right and threw on the run, finding Antonio Brown in stride for a 47-yard touchdown play.

Yes, Belichick knows his foe well –- as the statistics show.