Big Ben And The Craptastic Third-Down Offense

It wasn’t too long ago that the Pittsburgh Steelers, with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger on the field, were among the best in the league on the offensive side of the ball in terms of converting on third downs. But at the moment, and so far through the first three games of the 2017 regular season, they have been something akin to garbage in that aspect of play.

Sunday was no different, as they converted just four of 11 possible third downs, which frankly fits in with what they have been producing so far. During the season opener against the Browns, they didn’t so much better, converting just five third downs on 13 attempts.

One would think that they would do better at home, but that is where their ineptitude truly shined a week ago from Sunday. During the game against the Vikings, they only managed to convert three of 13 third downs.

Now, to deviate slightly, the Steelers defense should also be commended for their work in holding their opponents’ feet to the fire on third down so far this year as well. The bears converted just four of 12, the Vikings five of 15, and the Browns three of 12. For the non-math whizzes out there, that is 12 of 39 so far, good for just 30.1 percent on the season, and uh, that’s good. They rank fifth in the league, in fact.

But this is about the craptastic offense, and not one of the positive aspects of the defense. The Steelers are only converting about 32 percent of the time on third down right now, and that’s not going to cut it. That’s tied for the seventh-worst in the league.

So let’s take a look at what happened on Sunday, shall we? They kicked things off with a three-and-out, facing a third and seven. Ben Roethlisberger misfired high and wide to Jesse James on a corner route, but the tight end slipped anyway.

On the following drive, Roethlisberger did connect with Antonio Brown for a conversion needing two yards, but three plays later he was sacked on third and eight. It was a delayed cornerback blitz that they didn’t account for that got to him.

On the next drive, an illegal shift wiped out a 10-yard run, and two bad passes in a row set up a third and 15. They set up a screen for JuJu Smith-Schuster that actually picked up 14 yards, but they put themselves in a horrible down-and-distance situation.

Terrell Watson converted a third-and-one, and then Roethlisberger found Brown for 10 on third and two later in the game, but was it after that. An off-base lame-duck pass on third and 10, another third-down sack…the day just wasn’t good.

A lot of it had to do with them putting themselves in third and longs, but Roethlisberger passing up an easy conversion to throw goal-line to Martavis Bryant from the 14 on third and three, and then looking for Brown on third and six later while having James available over the middle, were the worst examples.

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