Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger targeted a season-high nine different players during Monday’s game against the Washington Football team, which included all five of their wide receivers, two different running backs, tight end Eric Ebron, and…backup tackle Jerald Hawkins. Roethlisberger looked the big man’s way on 3rd and goal late in the first half. It did not work out as well as Chris Boswell’s pass to Alejandro Villanueva a couple years ago, their last big man touchdown.
Perhaps inspired by Sunday’s big man touchdown by the Cleveland Browns, this was the first time in Roethlisberger’s entire career that he has ever attempted a pass to an offensive lineman—and it went to Jerald Hawkins for an incompletion.
It is not the first completion that he has ever thrown to an offensive lineman, however. Back in 2014, he had a pass intended for Heath Miller batted down at the line of scrimmage, which was caught by center Maurkice Pouncey, picking up zero yards on 3rd and 9.
In this case, the play came on their fifth play from goal to go, after getting a new set of downs due to an unnecessary roughness penalty. On 3rd and goal from the 1, Hawkins failed to get a clean release off the line of scrimmage thanks to Montez Sweat.
As a result of that slowdown, Roethlisberger’s pass was long, Hawkins falling as he attempted to position himself to field the ball. Needless to say, it did not work out, setting up 4th and 1, on which Benny Snell was stuffed to force a turnover on downs.
The fact that Roethlisberger had never before attempted a pass to an offensive lineman is actually surprising when you consider the fact that the Steelers have probably made greater use of the tackle-eligible than any other team since 2012.
That was Todd Haley’s first year as offensive coordinator, and they began using that role to break in young linemen. Mike Adams, Kelvin Beachum, Chris Hubbard, Chukwuma Okorafor, and Zach Banner, among others, have all seen meaningful snaps playing in that package.
None of them were ever targeted before Hawkins saw the ball come his way on Monday. And he didn’t even start the season on the 53-man roster. He was picked up after Banner suffered a torn ACL in the opener. That moved Okorafor into the starting lineup, leaving Hawkins as the swing tackle and extra lineman.
In the end, the defense forced a three and out, and the offense responded with a one-play touchdown drive, so ultimately the missed opportunity didn’t really cost them anything in the long run. They have now put that one tape, but given how it worked out, it may be another 17 years before they attempt another pass to an offensive lineman.