Despite him currently leading the NFL in passing yards through the first four weeks of the 2018 regular season, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has struggled when it comes to him connecting not only with wide receiver Antonio Brown anywhere on the field, but deep and outside the numbers to all his receivers as well.
With the only real change in offensive wide receiver personnel from last year being wide receiver Martavis Bryant now being gone, Roethlisberger was asked Wednesday if the team no longer having his speed to stretch the field vertically is somehow responsible for him not being able to connect with Brown as much as he’d like to so far this season.
“Well, Martavis is one of those kinds of freaks that don’t come around very often in terms of deep field speed,” Roethlisberger said. “We’ve had a Mike Wallace here, kind of had one guy like that, but I think guys like JuJu [Smith-Schuster] would probably argue with you that he’s got the deep speed and I think James [Washington] will probably tell you the same thing. Justin Hunter; and Hey-Bey’s [Darrius Heyward-Bey] still I think one of the fastest guys in the league. So, I think it really just comes down to me being able to get the ball to them when they’re down the field.”
Roethlisberger also said Wednesday that even though Bryant’s no longer in Pittsburgh, he doesn’t see opposing safeties treating Brown any different, or giving him any more attention, than they have in the past.
“Not any more than they have in the past,” Roethlisberger confirmed. “He always gets that safety look leaning. So, it’s just a matter of me being able to get them the ball.”
Roethlisberger was also asked if he now sees opposing defenses defending against the sideline throw to Brown more or different than they may have in the past.
“I don’t know that they’re particularly trying to take away the sideline or anything,” Roethlisberger replied. “I haven’t noticed anything like that. I think it’s just like they always do, put two guys on A.B., one guy’s holding, one guy’s watching.”
When asked about the possibility of moving Brown around more in the formation such as putting him in the slot moving forward to perhaps help Roethlisberger connect with the star wide receiver more frequently, the quarterback confirmed they’re already doing that on offense.
“We have, and we did,” Roethlisberger noted. “I mean, the first two of the first three plays of the game [against the Baltimore Ravens], he was in a slot. So, we do move him around, still draw a lot of attention wherever you go.”
I’ve already documented quite extensively how Roethlisberger and Brown have failed to connect often enough this season and most of the blame, in my opinion, goes to the quarterback for that. It’s quite astonishing that Brown has been targeted 21 times in total by Roethlisberger on throws of 10 or more yards down the field and that only 4 of those have resulted in completions. A lot of those incompleted throws included the football landing out of bounds.
“I mean, we’ve seen so many things in the last nine years, it’s hard to show anything different,” Roethlisberger said Wednesday when asked if teams are doing anything different regarding covering Brown that they already haven’t seen the last eight seasons. “I think I just got to play better to help him get his numbers, which will then in turn help get us wins.”
Roethlisberger was right on with that response. As soon as he starts playing better and throwing the football down the field better to other players not named Brown, that’s when the offense should really start clicking again.