Trying to stay balanced with play calling in the NFL is certainly a tough chore as score, down and distance and other variables make it challenging for offensive coordinators to do so. However, when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers last season, offensive coordinator Todd Haley and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did an excellent job of remaining balanced in certain down and distance situations.
According to Connor Orr of NFL.com, the Steelers were tied with the Kansas City Chiefs for the most balanced offense in the NFL in 2016 on first and 10 plays. Orr has the Steelers run/pass split at 49.5%/50.5% and if you’re curious, that was on 418 total offensive plays.
Further research of mine shows that the Steelers averaged 4.08 yards on all first and 10 runs and 6.33 yards on all first and 10 passes.
When it comes to third and 1 plays last season, the Steelers offense was the third-most balanced in the NFL with a run/pass split of 60%/40%, according to Orr. However, as Orr also points out, the Steelers were the third-most pass-happy offense in the NFL last season when it comes to that down and distance.
Being as you’re probably curious to know what happened on those third and 1 pass plays, I researched them for you and in total, the Steelers threw the football just 8 times on that down and distance with only two going for incompletions.
Not to digress, but one of those two incompletions you likely remember well as it was a pass by backup quarterback Landry Jones to tight end David Johnson in the game against the Miami Dolphins. That dubious play call was Jones’ first pass of the game after he had relieved an injured Roethlisberger. Additionally, that pass play came after three runs by running back Le’Veon Bell that totaled 26 yards.
The other third and 1 incompletion was a pass from Roethlisberger to tight end Jesse James in the game against the New York Giants. Do you remember that play? While the pass was a tad low, it still hit James in his hands and he dropped it.
If you’re scoring at home, Roethlisberger was 6-of-7 on his third and 1 pass attempts last season for 58 yards, or 8.29 yards per attempt.
While balanced on those two aforementioned downs and distances, the Steelers offense leaned heavily on the pass on second and 10 plays with a run split of 31.6%/68.4%. You’ll be happy to know, however, that the Steelers averaged 8.33 yards per pass play on second and 10 in 2016 and that was fourth-best in the league.
We’ll definitely be tracking how balanced the Steelers offense is in 2017 on all of these downs and distances and in a future post I will look at just how balanced that unit has been since Haley arrived in Pittsburgh.