A 4th and 1 sluggo to Anthony McFarland probably wasn’t the playcall anyone was expecting when the Pittsburgh Steelers ran it late in Monday’s loss to Washington Football Team. And Ben Roethlisberger is putting the blame on himself for not making an accurate enough throw. Talking to reporters Wednesday, Roethlisberger broke down what went wrong on the play.
“The safety was kind of cheating over his way a little bit, so I threw it to the outside probably a little more than I should have to a running back,” he said via the Steelers’ YouTube channel. “I’ve got faith and belief in everybody that they can make every catch, but that throw probably was more suited for a receiver to make.”
McFarland ran a good route and to be fair, Washington was certainly confused pre-snap, rushing LB Jon Bostic over to cover him. But Roethlisberger’s throw was to the outside and McFarland struggled to adjust back for the ball. As you would expect from a rookie running back not known for his receiver background on a play that likely had hardly been practiced before.
Here’s a look at the incompletion.
Roethlisberger continued to detail the adjustment on the throw he should’ve made.
“If I could have it back, I would have put it inside just a little bit more. Not a lot because like I said, the safety was kind of on his way over there, but just to keep him from drifting and trying to catch over the outside shoulder. I would have put it more up the field and maybe let him make the play. Looking back on it again, maybe not even throwing it up the field. He had [Jon] Bostic beat a little bit, maybe make him slow down and make the catch.”
Though these things have the benefit of hindsight, it may have been smarter to snap the ball on a quick-count while Washington was out of position. For about two seconds, McFarland was all alone to the bottom of the screen. A quick throw and screen could’ve sent him racing into the end zone.
But the problem with that is trying to work with a rookie running back on the fly and ultimately, Roethlisberger touched on the most important point of all.
“I shouldn’t put a rookie running back in a position to make a wide receiver-type catch in my opinion.”
That was the problem with the playcall. Going for it was fine. Throwing the ball was fine (they sure couldn’t run it). Coming out in 13 personnel in an empty formation and asking your rookie RB to make a play on a call that was barely practiced in the biggest moment of the game? Not fine. It was overthinking, being too cute, feeling you had to make the chess-not-checkers playcall to put one over on the defense.
That’s happened too often in crucial moments the past two weeks. It’s costing this offense points and Monday, it probably cost them a win.