For several years now, fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers have criticized the use of wide receiver screens when it comes to talking about the offense. That criticism is not unique to offensive coordinator Todd Haley, however, as Bruce Arians was also heavily ridiculed for using wide receiver screens during his time with the Steelers.
After the Steelers beat the Jacksonville Jaguars this past Sunday, a reader emailed me to tell me that he’s tired of Haley calling so many wide receiver screens during the game. He went on to say that Haley calls those screens at least six or seven times a game.
So just how many wide receiver screens have been called so far this season?
After going through our own game charting and double checking on NFL Game Rewind, I have identified 18 plays that were either a smoke, bubble or tunnel screen to a wide receiver. That works out to 3.6 wide receiver screens a game. Being as the Steelers have run a total of 330 plays so far this season on offense, that works out to one wide receiver screen per every 18.3 plays.
I’m sure you’re all curious as to how effective those plays were.
Three of those passes were incomplete while the other 15 resulted in 106 yards gained. That’s an average of 7.07 yards per completion, but that number is inflated thanks to one of the passes completed to wide receiver Antonio Brown back in Week 1 going for 41 yards. If you subtract that one explosive play, that leaves an average of 4.64 yards on the other 14 completions.
None of the completed passes resulted in negative yardage and only two went for no gain and both of those plays happened Sunday against the Jaguars along with two of the incompletions.
Being as the Steelers only threw four wide receiver screens Sunday against the Jaguars, you’re probably wondering why it seemed like quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wasn’t throwing the ball down the field much in that game.
Well, that’s most likely because 14 of the 36 passes that Roethlisberger attempted never flew past the original line of scrimmage. Keep in mind that running backs Le’Veon Bell and LeGarrette Blount were targeted a total of nine times Sunday and seven of those passes never traveled past the original line of scrimmage.
12 of Roethlisberger’s passes, however, were thrown more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage in that game and eight of those were completed.
I don’t have a league-wide average of wide receiver screens used in a game to compare the Steelers usage to, but I wouldn’t be surprised if that number is somewhere between 3-5 per team.
Feel free to discuss these stats in the comments below and let me know if you have any questions.