The Pittsburgh Steelers throw the football more frequently than any team in the NFL, so it’s no wonder that Ben Roethlisberger leads the league in pass attempts. As I highlighted earlier this week, he is currently on-pace to record the third-most pass attempts in a season in NFL history, as well as the third-most passing yards, and the fourth-most completions.
Does offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner care? No.
Asked if there is any reason that his team’s run play percentage is so low compared to most teams, his answer, according to the team’s communication’s department, was a simple “no”. The same answer was given in response to a question about whether or not that was a surprise.
“I’ve got a 15-year veteran quarterback and Antonio Brown”, he said. “You guys just said he’s all [number one wide receiver], right. I mean, why aren’t you going to throw it?”.
Roethlisberger has attempted 472 passes this season, completing 312 of them for 3664 yards, throwing 24 touchdowns to 12 interceptions and averaging 7.8 yards per pass attempt. He is the only player in the league this season who has thrown for at least 250 yards and a touchdown in every game, and is just the fourth player to do that for at least the first 11 games of a season.
Meanwhile, he has spread those passes to 13 different targets—14 if you include the pass that he caught himself—ranging from Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Vance McDonald, and James Conner to Roosevelt Nix, Xavier Grimble, Justin Hunter, and Jaylen Samuels. He has thrown a touchdown to eight different players so far this year.
11 of them have gone to Brown, with whom he has had some disconnect this year. Brown only has 71 receptions despite being targeted 122 times, a catch rate of under 60 percent. Fichtner said that he sees no reason for the disconnect, but “we’re going to keep throwing it to him though”.
The Steelers will probably need to get everything they can out of their passing game this week against the Los Angeles Chargers and Philip Rivers, Roethlisberger’s draft classmate back in 2004, who is having one of the best seasons of his career and is tied for the second-best record in the AFC.
It’s actually remarkable to think about how prolific the Steelers’ offense has been this season in the passing game even considering the reoccurring disconnect that we have seen on and off between Brown and Roethlisberger.
Brown only has three 100-yard games so far this year, with his season-high being just 117 yards. He has never recorded double-digit receptions in any game this year, and has only twice has more than six in a game. But it’s caught at least one touchdown in nine of their 11 games, so that kind of makes up for it.