I honestly don’t know that I have seen a Pittsburgh Steelers game in the Ben Roethlisberger era in which they had more dropped passes than they did on Wednesday afternoon against the Baltimore Ravens. Determining what is and is not a drop has an element of subjectivity to it, but you could make a good case for anywhere between say, five or nine on the day. And if some weren’t drops, then they were still plays that the receivers could have, even should have, made.
Everyone who was targeted more than a few times was involved in it, too. We saw drops from Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Eric Ebron, and even JuJu Smith-Schuster, and they even managed to put the ball on the ground, even if it had the good sense to spill out of bounds.
It is indisputable that the receivers’ failure to hang on to passes that hit them in the hands played a major role in the game, spoiling multiple trips inside the red zone and failing to extend a drive on 3rd and 5 with under four minutes to play in a game that, at the time, was 19-7. So who takes the blame? Roethlisberger, of course, according to the man himself.
“I need to be more accurate with my passes. I need to give them better chances to make the plays”, he said after the game. “There were some plays made today when they needed to be. Look at the James Washington catch. What an unbelievable play by him to go up and make the play”.
“I don’t want to talk about the negative”, he added, seemingly acknowledging the fact that there were plays to be made that were not. “I’d like to talk about that positive play that he made. Plus, a lot of JuJu’s plays were tough, grind-it-out plays”.
There were some quality plays, to be sure, and he’s right to highlight them, but given that more than a third of his incompletions were the result of drops—on a day that he completed 36 passes on 51 attempts—it emerges as an obvious point of discussion.
You can certainly fault him for ball placement on some passes, and in other instances, defenders were able to influence the result of the play, even if it could have been a catch. But by and large, Roethlisberger’s throws were catchable consistently throughout the evening. Not enough of them were caught.
Roethlisberger is always going to take the blame. He always has, and really, that’s what the quarterback should do. Put the ball in better spots and you increase the odds of good things happening. But this one was still on the receivers. Like Mike Tomlin said after the game, there’s really nothing to be proud of for them after this one.