The Pittsburgh Steelers faced a few 4th down and short situations in their Sunday home playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars and in both instances, they failed to get a first down despite going for it. Additionally, neither time did quarterback Ben Roethlisberger try to run a sneak. Because of that, several have wondered if Roethlisberger not running a quarterback sneak was a result of either him asking not to because of injury concerns, or the coaching staff not wanting him to because of the same reasons.
On Tuesday, Roethlisberger addressed the quarterback sneak topic during his weekly interview on 93.7 The Fan.
“I truly have never said I don’t want to run it and I don’t have the freedom to check to the quarterback sneak because we don’t have that call if we’re not in the huddle,” Roethlisberger said. “Obviously, if we’re in the huddle, we can call a quarterback sneak and you do it. If you’re at the line of scrimmage, we don’t have a call to get to a quarterback sneak.”
Roethlisberger went on to say that because there’s no audible for a quarterback sneak that he just can’t whisper an audible for that to his offensive linemen at the line of scrimmage. He went on to add that he has lobbied for keeping the football in his own hands in short yardage situations in the past and that he invites physical play for himself in those kinds of situations.
“I’ve actually asked Coach [Mike] Tomlin when we get to like the two-yard-line, two-point play, to spread the defense out, go empty and run quarterback draw,” Roethlisberger said. “I’ve asked for that and he laughs at me and says, ‘Ben, maybe in your younger days, not now.’ I literally, I still ask for that sneak I would love the quarterback sneak.”
About an hour after Roethlisberger expressed his feelings about possibly wanting to handle the football more in short-yardage situations, head coach Mike Tomlin was told what his quarterback had said during his own end-of-the-season press conference. Tomlin was asked point-blank if he would consider making a quarterback sneak more a part of the offense moving forward based on what Roethlisberger said earlier in the day.
“That’s one of the best things about that guy,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger. “His will is continually on display, particularly at those critical moments. Man, he wants to be the guy. He wants to be the reason why. I work to not stifle that. I encouraged that. I appreciate that, but then we make decisions that we deem appropriate in circumstances.
“So, it may include what you talked about, it may not include what you talked about. Sometimes when it comes to those decisions it has nothing to do with his skill set at all or what he’s willing to do. It might just be based on what the opponent does. So those are decisions that we have to make. It’s really not anything extraordinary about it. It’s just part of ball.”
Perhaps the most interesting thing about this entire subject is the fact that Roethlisberger doesn’t have an audible that he can make at the line of scrimmage that allows him to call his own number, so to speak. You would think that he would and it’s really not much different than him audibling out of any play to another one based on what he sees. Perhaps he will be given that opportunity moving forward.
In case you’re curious, the Steelers haven’t run a quarterback sneak in roughly the past 40 or so games. Can you imagine New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady going that long between sneaks? Sometimes it feels like he does it 40 times in a single season.
With Roethlisberger now saying that he will return for at least the 2018 season, we’ll now have all offseason to discuss QB sneak-gate instead of wondering about whether or not he’ll retire.