Despite the Pittsburgh Steelers putting up 42 points against a very tough Jacksonville Jaguars’ defense, the offense still had several miscues that, in part, cost them the game. Twice, the Steelers went for it on 4th and 1. Twice, they failed. Neither time did Ben Roethlisberger sneak it. One was a toss to Le’Veon Bell, a disastrous loss of four, and the other playaciton that fell incomplete to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
So the obvious question after the game was: why no sneak? Roethlisberger didn’t offer much of an answer. “It’s over my head,” he said, per this tweet from the NFL Network’s Aditi Kinkhabwala.
Is Ben Roethlisberger willing to run a QB sneak? "I'm for it."
And the reason that one wasn't called on either of the #Steelers' fourth-and-a-foots? "That's over my head."
Reminder: Roethlisberger is 18-of-19 when running on fourth down in his career.
— Aditi Kinkhabwala (@AKinkhabwala) January 14, 2018
Clearly, a deflection to the coaching staff and Todd Haley.
The fact the Steelers didn’t sneak it may be a disappointment but hardly a surprise. The sneak has been taken out of the playbook and hasn’t been run since 2015. Which is odd considering how successful Pittsburgh is at it. Here’s a great nugget from NFL Research.
Ben Roethlisberger on 4th-and-1 rush attempts in his career, including playoffs:
18 first downs
Highest success rate (94.7 percent) of any player with over 10 attempts since 2004 (including playoffs)
Steelers on 4th-and-1 today:
0-for-2 (Bell run, Ben pass)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 14, 2018
That’s right. Ben is 18/19 on career sneaks, even better than Tom Brady, widely regarded as the league’s best at them.
In Pittsburgh’s mind, their goal is to protect Roethlisberger from taking the beating of a sneak. That, clearly, is a debatable mindset, especially in a playoff game. That’s taking the all out of Ben’s hands, who has said he is all for running them. Here’s what he told Jeremy Fowler when this issue came up in Week 3’s loss to the Chicago Bears.
Ben Roethlisberger on QB sneak: 'It's not like I'd say no. I'd love to do it.' Steelers don't run it.
— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) October 25, 2017
Tomlin and Haley have pulled the plug on QB sneaks. And in doing so, pulled the plug on their 2017 season.