Just two days ago, I wrote about how Ben Roethlisberger’s passes this year had been unusually concentrated on four main targets: starting receivers Antonio Brown and Markus Wheaton; tight end Heath Miller; and running back Le’Veon Bell.
The four combined totaled 87 of Roethlisberger’s 96 completions through the first quarter of the season, with seven of the other nine going to Justin Brown. Lance Moore and Dri Archer had the other two receptions, with Archer’s coming on an end around toss.
My calculator tells me that those four players accounted for 90.6 of Roethlisberger’s completed passes during that span. But that ratio took a big hit yesterday as the veteran slinger was feeling generous, distributing the ball to literally everybody eligible in the game short of tight end Matt Spaeth.
In total, all five wide receivers, all three running backs, and two of the team’s three tight ends, as well as the fullback, all caught at least one pass in yesterday’s win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, tying a league-high 11 targets. By the end of the game, I was rooting for a completion to Mike Adams.
It’s interesting to note that four different players caught their first pass of the season yesterday for the Steelers: namely, wide receiver Darrius Heyward-Bey; running back LeGarrette Blount; fullback Will Johnson; and tight end Michael Palmer.
Palmer also caught Roethlisberger’s lone touchdown pass in the game from the one-yard line.
Roethlisberger previously targeted Palmer in the end zone from the one-yard line against the Carolina Panthers; the result was not only a dropped pass, but an offensive pass interference call on the tight end.
Of Roethlisberger’s 26 completions against the Jaguars, 14 were caught by the core four starting players. 12 passes were caught by the rest, meaning that he more than doubled his number of completions to the rest of the roster in one game.
The core four now account for 101 of Roethlisberger’s 122 completions, with the rest making their contributions with 21 receptions.
The first-year receiver Brown led the way with three receptions for 26 yards, all on the same drive, having easily his best game of the season as a pass catcher.
Blount caught his first three passes for 17 yards, including one nifty 13-yard reception for a first down conversion, and another on third and one. Moore also caught his second pass of the year, coming up with a key 26-yarder to convert yet another third down.
Roethlisberger and offensive coordinator Todd Haley really opened up the offense today for the passing game. The Steelers ran the ball only 25 times, excluding quarterback scrambles, compared to 36 passes, with many of those runs coming in closeout time.
Perhaps this performance will establish a better trust between the quarterback and his full slate of options, many of which are new to him, and he can begin to rely upon them more to save the core four targets from bearing such an inequitable portion of the burden.