Steelers Play-Action Usage Far Below NFL Average, Per Pro Football Focus

By now, you should be well-aware of the fact that Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is not a fan of using play-action. If you need a visual reminder of just how little Roethlisberger uses play-action, Sam Monson of Pro Football Focus did just that on Twitter on Tuesday. That graphic shows how the Steelers drastically don’t use play-action when compared to the rest of the NFL.

The reason for the lack of play-action by Roethlisberger and the Steelers offense? It could be combination of several things. For starters, the Steelers’ running game has been quite bad the last three seasons. Additionally, it’s common knowledge at this point that Roethlisberger isn’t fond of turning his back to defenses as part of some play-actions being carried out. Instead, Roethlisberger would rather be in the shotgun or pistol to have a better opportunity to read coverages.

According to Michael Lombardi of The Athletic several months ago, last season Roethlisberger was in the shotgun on 573 of his 608 passes. Additionally, the Steelers also ran a lot of empty-set groupings with four wide receivers on the field in 2020, and Roethlisberger attempted just 34 passes with two receivers on the field last season, according to Lombardi’s post.

“(Roethlisberger) hates playing under center, never wanting to turn his back to the defense, thus eliminating the play-action passes that might help the Steelers’ offense make chunk plays down the field,” Lombardi wrote.

Moving forward into 2021, it will now be interesting to see if the Steelers’ offense runs more play-action with Matt Canada now installed as the team’s new offensive coordinator, and if Roethlisberger would commit to turning his back to defenses as part of that. Instead of using so much shotgun moving forward, perhaps an increase in pistol formation might be a nice compromise so that more play-action can be used, and so that Roethlisberger can still face the defense.

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