Five weeks into the NFL season and we are seeing a dramatic increase in teams going for it on fourth down.
Coach Mike Tomlin mentioned this Tuesday in his presser and downplayed the usage of analytics. Tomlin attributed it to “more mobile quarterbacks” across the league. That’s something the Steelers don’t possess, thus why their fourth down rate is low compared to the rest of the league.
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger addressed that same question Wednesday in his media press conference.
”I assume that the appropriate answer is because of analytics,” the veteran said. “That’s become such a big thing in the NFL. People want to put trust in their quarterback or their offense and figure why not take another shot with it. I think if you have a manageable situation, why not?”
Roethlisberger’s comments certainly corroborate another reason as to perhaps why the Steelers don’t go for it often, as they are towards the bottom of the league as far as the usage of analytics goes. The Browns, for example, are tied for the league lead with the Lions in fourth down attempts this season with 11. In a recent ESPN survey with NFL executives, the Browns were the most analytically-driven team by a landslide.
The Steelers rank tied for 22nd in fourth down attempts with five. Those attempts are partially due to being down late in games, as they’d likely be lower on that list if that weren’t the case. Obviously fourth down attempts are a bit skewed towards losing teams in having to go for it late in games, but the Steelers also don’t have any conversions, one of just three NFL teams. The other two, the Seahawks and Chiefs, have just two and one fourth down attempts this season.
In other words, the Steelers have been the worst team in the league in such situations. Seeing Lamar Jackson’s Ravens, Russell Wilson’s Seahawks, and Kyler Murray’s Cardinals in the bottom ten perhaps partially debunks Tomlin’s mention of mobile quarterbacks being a reason as to teams going for it more often.
Roethlisberger talked about his conversations with Tomlin about it.
“I’ve joked with Coach Tomlin about it before. It’s not hard to quarterback sneak sometimes, Coach Tomlin.”
Roethlisberger’s obviously joking, but fans were quick to criticize Tomlin’s decision to punt on a 4th-and-1 in a loss to the Raiders in Week 2. Despite not having a mobile quarterback or a team filled with analytics, we’ll see if the Steelers adapt to the NFL’s changes around the league as the season continues.