Depending upon which source you look at, the Pittsburgh Steelers probably dropped anywhere between a dozen to a dozen and a half balls over the course of the past two games. No matter what reference you want to cite, the bottom line is that they have been putting a lot of balls on the ground—way too many, in fact, and the consensus is that they have dropped more passes than anybody else in the NFL.
But that is largely a byproduct of a really, really bad two-game stretch (which also has happened to feature more than 100 pass attempts, mind you), with multiple players having multiple-drop games in consecutive weeks, namely wide receiver Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron.
Although even he had a ball in the end zone last week that he failed to come down with, third-year wide receiver James Washington is generally recognized as one of the players on the team with better hands than average. He came up with two of the team’s biggest plays last night—without dropping one.
“I don’t think there’s anything to work on”, he told reporters after the game when asked about how they can address the dropped passes. “We just have to focus. You know, I feel like a lot of us are kind of thinking about the next move instead of just catching the ball first. That starts with the person. I know the group of guys we have that will focus in”.
A big part of the Steelers’ offense is turning short passes into long gains, and that requires shifty athletes who are able to turn upfield with the ball, break a tackle or two, and pick up yards after the catch. It’s a crucial skill set in managing this offense.
But you have to catch the ball first before picking up the yards after it. It’s a two-step process, and if you’re too busy concentrating on getting the second step down, you are more likely to make a mistake when it comes to completing the first.
Even though some of the Steelers’ skill position players were known to have some warts such as inconsistent hands, that cannot be an excuse for drops, especially not at the rate that they have been dropping balls in recent weeks.
Earlier in the season, new wide receivers coach Ike Hilliard was getting a lot of love for the work that he was doing with this young group. Now the pressure is on him to get them to buckle down and focus on the fundamentals of the catch, starting with seeing the ball through your hands.