The offseason is inevitably a period of projection and speculation, which makes it the ideal time to ponder the hypotheticals that the Pittsburgh Steelers will face over the course of the next year, whether it is addressing free agency, the draft, performance on the field, or some more ephemeral topic.
That is what I will look to address in our Buy or Sell series. In each installment, I will introduce a topic statement and weigh some of the arguments for either buying it (meaning that you agree with it or expect it to be true) or selling it (meaning you disagree with it or expect it to be false).
The range of topics will be intentionally wide, from the general to the specific, from the immediate to that in the far future. And as we all tend to have an opinion on just about everything, I invite you to share your own each morning on the topic statement of the day.
Topic Statement: The Steelers will have success getting the deep passing game going over the course of the final three games of the regular season.
Explanation: The Steelers have not been great on deep passes this year. Ben Roethlisberger ranks 17th in deep passing yards (throws 20-plus yards in the air), according to Pro Football Focus, and his five interceptions are second-most, though he is tied for the fifth-most touchdowns. His adjusted accuracy rate ranks 21st out of 23 qualifying quarterbacks, behind only Drew Lock (who has the most interceptions) and Joe Burrow).
It’s not as though the Steelers have always struggled down the field. It’s generally been a pretty big part of their offense, but this hasn’t been the typical year. They haven’t had the usual offseason to get everything working, and that has had an effect.
In recent weeks, they have been thrown scheduling obstacles that haven’t given them time to work on t heir issues. They have extra time this week, playing on Monday night, and they have talked about making a concerted effort to get this area of the game back on track.
They have the talent to do it, which is my biggest reason for believing that they will have more success down the stretch. Chase Claypool in particular needs to make some more plays, and James Washington is seeing a bigger role in recent weeks.
The Steelers’ best deep passing play has been the defensive pass interference penalty, and they can’t count on getting that. Even on some of those instances, there were plays left on the field that they weren’t making.
This is an ongoing problem without a clear answer. They might hit some 20-yard throws, but the homerun ball isn’t there, and it hasn’t been pretty much since week two. Roethlisberger’s deep passing mechanics are not where they need to be, and they haven’t given defenses reason enough to respect this area of the game.