If it seems like Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger takes quite a few deep shots down the field in third and short situations, it’s because he does. In fact, Roethlisberger is currently tied for the league-lead with Arizona Cardinals quarterback Carson Palmer for the most third down deep pass attempts with 5 or less yards to go this season (14) and that’s even with him missing four games due to injuries.
During his Thursday meeting with the media, Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley was asked to explain why Roethlisberger takes so many deep shots down the field on third and short situations.
“Third-and-shorter yardage, that 1-3-5 yards, is generally the most predictable coverage you’ll get,” said Haley. “A lot of defenses choose to play man. When you know what the coverage is going to be, it allows you to potentially take some of those shots. Like I’ve said, even going back 3-4 years, most route concepts we have, there is some vertical route in there. I just think as you gain confidence and as Ben Roethlisberger gains confidence in those guys outside and with what they are doing, then it gives him confidence to take those shots. Obviously we aren’t going to back down from an aggressive standpoint. Because when you make big plays and you get field flippers, it gives you a chance to put points on the board.”
While Roethlisberger has taken more than his fair deep shots down the field on third and short situations so far this season, he’s only connected on 4 of them for 234 yards. One of those completions came Sunday night against the Indianapolis Colts and it resulted in a 68-yard touchdown to wide receiver Martavis Bryant. His other deep third and short pass attempt in that game also went to Bryant, but unfortunately the wide receiver couldn’t make the grab in the end zone for a score.
Roethlisberger has been stellar so far this season in throwing the football short in third and short situations as he’s completed 16 of his 22 pass attempts in those situations for 136 yards and 4 touchdowns. Additionally, 10 of those other completions resulted in first downs.
Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, it will be interesting to see if Roethlisberger attempts to go deep on third and short. He didn’t the last time the two teams met but did complete all four of his pass attempts in those situations. The Bengals are probably going to try to take the deep ball away Sunday with some cover-2 shell just as they did back in Week 8. However, they may be without the services of cornerback Adam Jones on Sunday as he has failed to practice so far this week because of a foot injury.
In case you forgot, Roethlisberger was just 3 of 13 on all deep pass attempts against the Bengals back in week 8 with 3 interceptions. It was, however, his first game back from the MCL injury that he suffered earlier in the season that forced him to miss four games. Since that game, he is 19 of 44 on all deep pass attempts for 718 yards with 3 touchdowns and 2 interceptions.