The Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense looked anemic until they started running a bit of a no-huddle look for their one touchdown drive in the second quarter. That’s not to suggest that things dramatically improved, but there was at least a spark of life, if fleeting.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger likes to run out of the no-huddle. The problem is, as he said multiple times last week, they don’t have much of a no-huddle package this year, with four rookies on the offense, more new starters beyond that, and a new system with new verbiage. He said that their play selection dropped from 50-100 plays down to about a dozen.
And head coach Mike Tomlin seemed to echo that sentiment when he talked about that disastrous 4th-and-10 swing pass to Najee Harris. In so many words, he basically said that they’d run out of plays they were able to run.
“We had fired all of our bullets at that juncture in terms of some of our play selection”, he told reporters after the game. “It just wasn’t a good enough play to get in there. They had a picket fence, if you will, because of situations just like the conversation we were having over here. They’re going to allow you to probably throw and catch the ball in front of them, but you’ve got to do some things after that. They had a bunch of guys running along the goal-line like happens whenever it’s fourth and goal from the eight or nine or whatever it was”.
Down 24-10 with just over three minutes left to play, the Steelers found themselves on the Cincinnati Bengals’ 11-yard line facing 4th-and-10. The Bengals initially showed blitz on the play, before dropping their blitzers into coverage, making the decision to toss a sideline pass out to the running back look particularly daft. I admit my mouth hung open after watching that unfold.
After the game, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger actually said that they had anticipated the Bengals playing a ‘picket fence’ defense, suggesting that this was actually the designed call rather than an audible built off of the defense’s blitz presentation.
“You’re a little limited from that far out of what you can do”, he added, acknowledging the strain of being on the 11 facing 4th-and-10. “Except maybe throw a ball up. In hindsight, maybe we should’ve taken a shot to the end zone. I wish I would’ve done that”.
He didn’t, though, and they didn’t even come close to properly blocking up a swing pass to the running back, especially in light of the notion that they actually anticipated the defense that they got. Which leaves my mouth hanging open all over again about this decision as well as how it was executed.