Just how bad has the usage of play-action by the Pittsburgh Steelers offense been the last several years? If you follow this site religiously, you probably already have a good idea as to how to answer that question. If, however, you have been in denial when it comes to the Steelers usage of play-action, or in their case the lack thereof, the latest graphic posted on Twitter by Ben Linsey of Pro Football Focus on Friday should provide a lot of context for all.
The Steelers are in their own tier when it comes to play-action usage and success over the last five years.
— Ben Linsey (@PFF_Linsey) May 28, 2021
Since 2016, a span of five seasons, the Steelers play-action rate has been just 12.3%, which ranks them last in the NFL. Additionally, the Steelers 6.1 yards per play-action dropback also ranks last in the NFL over a span of the last five seasons.
The theory revolving around most of these awful stats is that Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hates using play-action and that specifically, he hates turning his back to the opposing defense. Roethlisberger has never really addressed that theory, however, but it is hard to deny the fact that he probably doesn’t like using play-action much.
While many feel the lack of play-action and effectiveness when used by the Steelers is related to the team’s running game being poor the last few seasons, there have been several published studies done over the years that show that a good or bad running game doesn’t have any real impact on play-action working more successful. Google those if you don’t believe me and I know that many of you don’t.
Will new Steelers offensive coordinator Matt Canada get Roethlisberger to use more play-action in 2021 and possibly out of the pistol formation as well? We shall see and that’s what many of us are hoping for. For however it might help, the Steelers running game should improve quire drastically in 2021 on the heels of the team spending their first three draft picks this year on running back Najee Harris, tight end Pat Freiermuth and center Kendrick Green.
As a counterpoint to the Friday tweet from Linsey, Aaron Schatz of Football Outsiders weighed in on the topic as well and you can see what they had to say below. His comment is essentially that Roethlisberger and the Steelers aren’t good when they use play-action.
Football Outsiders has written about this over and over again. The #Steelers are constantly last in the league in PA and have a reverse split where they are better WITHOUT play action than with it. This trend goes through multiple coordinators and both Big Ben and backup QBs. https://t.co/UZHumQicse
— Aaron Schatz 🏈 (@FO_ASchatz) May 28, 2021
Roethlisberger has yet to address the media since the draft so it will be interesting to see if he’s asked about play-action the next time that he does. That could happen as early as next week.
You can count on us doing having tracking of the Steelers play-action usage throughout the 2021 season and there will be multiple posts dedicated to that tracking and the results as well.