If there is one single thing, outside of bringing Ben Roethlisberger back from his injury, that is capable of dramatically changing the quality of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense right now, it would be in improving the ball security of the position players. Whether through fumbles or drops, some of which have led to interceptions, there are plays that are being left on the field because people are just not securing the football well enough.
While this has been an ongoing issue, Sunday night’s game really put it under the magnifying glass, as they had about six or so dropped passes and put the ball on the ground four other times due to fumbles. They were fortunate to recover two of them. One was returned for a touchdown on a botched snap.
Offensive coordinator discussed this issue yesterday and offered that a contributing factor could be the lack of opportunities that the skill position players have had available to them this year. “I’ve challenged the group that we’ve got to do a better job at protecting the football”, he said.
“I would not lose as much hair and I wouldn’t be as gray if we just protect the football in all these games”, he went on. “You know, what I think what happens is, if you’re not touching it a lot, especially skill players, they get the ball and they want to go make something happen, and you want to be a playmaker like you are. Every time it isn’t time, you know. So, we put the ball on the ground. We’ve left some balls out there just in catching, and I think those are the small things this week that we’ve just got to keep talking about that are so important. Don’t forget the details and the fundamentals”.
Ball security was inevitably going to be a bigger this year if only because Antonio Brown was among the most sure-handed players in all of the NFL. Not having him out there inevitably means more passes going to players who will drop more.
And everybody has been living up to that so far this year, whether JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Vance McDonald, or Jaylen Samuels. Donte Moncrief’s tenure with the Steelers lasted only half a season because he couldn’t hold onto the ball.
“Maybe when there might be fewer opportunities, maybe in the pass game, maybe how games play out, the amount of plays, maybe you overdo it sometimes and want to make more out of it than what it really is”, Fichtner said of the uptick in dropped passes. “First thing that must be done is you’ve got to catch the ball. You know, and they all know that. They’re professionals or they wouldn’t be here if they couldn’t catch the football. So again, that would probably just go back to fundamentals”.
Playing a Thursday game doesn’t give them much of an opportunity to address that, but they will have 10 days off afterward. Perhaps during that time they can re-instill the fundamentals into their skill players.