There are a lot of issues surrounding the Pittsburgh Steelers right now, a fact that I’m sure you need not be reminded of. The most perplexing has been the disconnect between quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and wide receiver Antonio Brown, the two of whom have had an unusually difficult time hooking up for much of the year.
While, quite frankly, the bulk of the responsibility lies on the quarterback and the inaccuracy of his passes, both short and deep, it’s also true that defenses have not been giving him much room to work with. They have at times even put two defenders against him at the line of scrimmage.
Roethlisberger was once again asked to address this topic when he spoke to reporters yesterday. One of the questions he was asked was if the team was trying to do different things to put him in opportunities to get open and make more plays, such as getting into the slot.
“We have, and we did”, Roethlisberger said as we noted here yesterday. “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”.
So, is what Roethlisberger said true, and has it been effective?
Well, let’s start with usage. So far he has played 31 of his 287 snaps in the slot, which is nearly 11 percent of the time, and that is not taking into consideration personnel packages in which there may not be a slot receiver.
Last season, he took just 88 snaps from the slot on 1000 snaps, including the postseason, which, the easy math tells you is 8.8 percent. So we do see an increase in usage of about 23 percent from last season. He saw 113 snaps out of the slot out of 1240 the year before, which was 9.1 percent. His current usage is more in line with what they were the two seasons prior to 2016.
Now—has it been effective?
Well, he has been targeted on 10 of his 31 snaps out of the slot, which is a significant ratio of nearly one third of the time. Only five of those passes have been completed, one of the incompletions being an interception. The five completions have netted 17 total yards, with a long of six. Four of those passes have come on third down, and resulted in one conversion.