As part of his weekly preview of his team’s next opponent, Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin made sure to point out Tuesday during his weekly press conference that not only does Atlanta Falcons star wide receiver Julio Jones not yet have any receiving touchdowns so far this season, his positional counterpart, rookie wide receiver Calvin Ridley, has six of them.
“It’s interesting, you know, Julio being the guy that he is and getting the touches and the attention that he gets, and rightfully so, he’s got zero touchdowns and Ridley’s got six,” Tomlin said.
Tomlin then proceeded to compare how the start of the season those two Falcons wide receivers have had somewhat matches the start that his receivers, Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith-Schuster, have had via quarterback Ben Roethlisberger being able to connect more so with the latter than the former through the team’s first four games of the regular season.
“I just think that speaks to some of the things that usually transpires during the first quarter of the season as people get familiar with new weapons, if they work to minimize old or existing weapons,” Tomlin said. “And I think the same thing could be said about what’s going on with Ben and A.B. in terms of people working hard to minimize them and the opportunity that it created for some of our guys.”
While I understand the point that Tomlin is trying to make, Jones still has 29 receptions for 502 yards on the season while Ridley, the Falcons first-round draft pick this year, has only caught 15 passes for 264 yards with 6 being touchdowns. Also, Jones has been targeted by Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan 46 times through four games while Ridley had been targeted just 21 times in total. By the way, Ryan entered 2018 having connected 63.2% of the time with Jones on pass attempts and this season that percentage is right at 63.0.
Roethlisberger, on the other hand, entered the 2018 season having connected 66.5% of the time previously with Brown on all pass attempts thrown his way. Through the first four games of this season, however, that percentage sits at 54.7 and while not awful, it’s way off what it should be and like it or not, much of the blame for that needs to go on Roethlisberger and he agrees.
The Steelers quarterback talked Tuesday morning on 93.7 The Fan about what it is so far this season that certainly makes it look like he and Brown aren’t yet on the same page with one another in the passing game.
“It doesn’t help when I’m not playing well,” Roethlisberger said. “When you’re not playing good football and not getting the guys the ball, it’s gonna look bad. And I think the other thing is, is that we have looked so good together in the past, just putting up gaudy numbers and being on charts with some of the best that ever played the game in quarterback-wide receiver comparisons.
“So, when you look at it compared to that, if you’re having what other quarterback-wide receiver tandems would call an average to good year, it would be a down year for us. So, I think you also have to kind of compare it to, or people are comparing it to, exceptional years we’ve had the last four or five years.”
Once again, I understand the explanation Roethlisberger is attempting to give for him not yet hooking up more regularly with Brown so far this season but quite honestly, the Steelers quarterback could have stopped with him initially saying that he’s not playing well and especially when he’s targeted Brown in the team’s first four games.
While Roethlisberger did connect with Brown via a very nicely targeted back-shoulder throw in the end zone this past Sunday night in the team’s home loss to the Baltimore Ravens, as you can see in the animated gif below, his other throws that went uncompleted to the wide receiver weren’t good at all. I also noted the high percentage of bad throws made by Roethlisberger to Brown in the team’s first three games this past Saturday.
Regardless of the reason or reasons why Roethlisberger and Brown aren’t connecting with each other as much as both would like to start the season, neither the quarterback nor the team’s head coach are seemingly worried about it entering Week 5.
“I’ve seen that tandem a lot over the years. They’ll smooth it out, they’ll find that rhythm,” Tomlin said of Roethlisberger and Brown.
The quarterback agrees with his head coach.
“It’s so early, there’s still a lot of time for us to get back clicking,” Roethlisberger said.