Devil’s Advocate: Too Deep Too Often

You may recall for the past several offseasons that I ran an article series called The Optimist’s/Pessimist’s Take. I used it to explore different issues and topics the Pittsburgh Steelers were facing and took a positive or negative approach, examining each side in a separate article. This is essentially the same idea behind that, only condensed into one article for every topic.

In this version of the idea, I’ll be playing the Devil’s Advocate for both sides of the issue, looking at the best-case and worst-case scenarios in trying to find the range of likely outcomes of what is likely to happen for the Steelers relating to whatever topic the article is covering.

When it comes to the process of trying to construct a championship roster, the reality is that there are a ton of moving parts, and several ways to acquire said parts. There are a lot of things that can go right or wrong in not always predictable ways, so I think it’s helpful to try to look at issues by seeking out the boundaries of the likely positive or negative results.

Topic: Are the Steelers overly reliant on the deep passing game?

The deep pass is a tricky thing to pull off, for a number of reasons. It’s not a very easy thing to do, for one thing, provided that the defense doesn’t blow the coverage. Because of the distance involved, it takes time to deliver a pass down the field, and that gives the defense time to react to it.

Never mind the fact that you also have to be accurate with the deep pass. But by and large the Steelers have been a successful deep passing team over the course of Ben Roethlisberger’s career, and he has had some of his greatest successes in this department in recent years.

As has been recently noted, he has more touchdown passes on deep throws than any other quarterback in the league. If I recall correctly, Antonio Brown had one of, if not the most, receiving touchdowns on deep targets as well.

But when it doesn’t work, it has a tendency to set you back significantly, and we saw that during stretches last year, partly fueled by injury. We also so them struggle later in the year to convert in the red zone, which could have a sort of symbiotic relationship with the deep passing game.

One reason to pump the brakes on the discussion of the Steelers throwing the ball deep too often is the fact that they are getting a very prominent deep threat back this year in Martavis Bryant, and Sammie Coates could be another.

But perhaps a more judicious usage of the deep pass could be wise, if they continue to attack this way. A frequent target for a deep shot is in third and short. Not only is that difficult to pull off, it’s also become a part of their scouting report, making it more predictable to defend.

Which side do you lean closer toward?

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