Ladarius Green’s day ended with a bang but boy, it started with a whimper. His first target on a six catch, 110 yard day, was not a game-breaking grab. It was a 2nd and 7 drop. An ominous start.
But on the very next play, a crucial 3rd and 7, Ben Roethlisberger went back to Green and found him on a 37 yard gain that would lead the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first offensive points of the game, a Randy Bullock field goal.
To a lesser degree, Roethlisberger did the same for Jesse James, who turned an early drop into a big play later in the game.
Those chances for redemption weren’t accidental. As has been Roethlisberger’s mantra for years, he wants to let his receivers knows he has trust in them even when those mistakes happen.
And that’s a line Roethlisberger repeated again after the game.
“Without forcing it, that’s kinda always been my thing,” he told reporters. “When a guy drops a ball or doesn’t make a play, I want to know that I’m coming back. I don’t want them to wait all game and go in the tank or whatever. So I wanted to come right back to them and let them know that I’m not thinking about that last one and they shouldn’t either.”
That isn’t just a line or a cliche or a feel-good element either. There’s a tangible benefit and Green spoke to it after the game.
“That was big,” Green said via Steelers.com when asked about that importance. “I had just dropped it and he came back to me, believed in me, and I was able to make a play. That helped boost me up the rest of the game.”
With a receiving core that isn’t established beyond Antonio Brown and Le’Veon Bell, that trust and belief is crucial. There is a leap of faith because someone like Green is just starting to work his way into the fold or a guy like James is trying to take that next step. The same has applied to Sammie Coates over the season and probably every other player involved in the offense.
So when Ben Roethlisberger, a probable Hall of Fame quarterback, says he has faith in you, it’s hard not to rise to the moment.
That’s what James and Green did. And it played a big role in the Steelers’ victory.