It’s certainly not a story for a quarterback to be happy with the offensive balance when it skews heavily towards the passing game. On the surface, it looks like the Pittsburgh Steelers have been pass, pass, pass in 2018. But Ben Roethlisberger made an interesting point countering that common argument. Speaking with reporters today, he pointed to their heavy screen game as a substitute for the run game.
“One thing you have to understand from the outside world, a run and a pass,” he said via the team website. “To a lot of people, a run is when you hand the ball to the running back. We look some of short screens, some of our short passes as run game alternatives. I think those numbers get a little skewed sometimes.”
Screen passes function like run plays. Low-risk without high reward. Getting the ball quick to playmakers. But with screens, an offense can spread the field out a bit more, force defenders to process additional information, and win in space as opposed to a confined area.
Against Oakland, with the run game stuck in the mud, the Steelers relied on a ton of screens. That was how they best utilized Jaylen Samuels, a better receiver than runner at this point of his career. Samuels biggest play of the game was a 23 yard reception that came on a short screen pass.
For Roethlisberger, it’s all about being efficient, effective, moving the ball, and putting up points.
“We need to have efficient plays regardless of where they’re at.”
It is true though that Roethlisberger is on his way to shatter his career high in pass attempts. He’s still leading the league with 546 of them through 13 games. That puts him on pace 672 this season; only once in his career, 2014, has he surpassed 600 in a season.
Perhaps with his rib injury and a lowly ranked Patriots run defense, the Steelers will have more “true runs” this weekend. Then again, given their lack of success against Oakland and the possibility James Conner doesn’t play, maybe not.