Following each game in the 2021 Steelers season, I will be highlighting the play or event in the game that is the turning point. These aren’t meant to be anything earth-shattering, but meant to take a deeper look at how we arrived at the outcome of the game that may be hard to see during the first live watch.
Last week, I complained about the Steelers never making this an easy article to write with their games, having twenty different turning points back and forth. Be careful what you wish for, right?
The Steelers came out against the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday and laid down an extremely one-note game. Unfortunately, for them and Steelers Nation alike, that one note was way off-key.
I joked with the idea in my head about making the turning point in the game being the opening kickoff, because from that point on, the two teams were playing different sports.
However, the Steelers’ first offensive drive stuck out to me and set the tone for the rest of the day. After letting the Bengals gash them in the run game all the way to the end zone, it was time to see if this was going to be another shootout between Ben Roethlisberger and a promising young quarterback.
That would be answered quickly, on only the third play from scrimmage.
The Steelers lined up in a three-receiver bunch set to the right, with Chase Claypool as the WR1, Pat Freiermuth as the point-man, and James Washington as the WR3. We’ve often seen wide-release outs from the WR1’s in this type of formation and the shortened splits.
When the play starts, you start to see just that, a bunch of sit routes and a wide-release out by Claypool, until Claypool starts to work up the field. Just as Roethlisberger alluded to in his press conference, it’s double-move, he steps up in the pocket and throws it to Claypool.
He threw the ball just a bit sooner than he wanted to, as he was feeling the backside pressure:
“I had to step up in the pocket. I had to let go of it a little sooner than I wanted to. It was a double move,” Roethlisberger said to reporters Sunday following the loss to the Bengals, according to video via the Steelers’ official YouTube page. “I let go of it like he was going to go outside him and he ended up going inside him. It wasn’t the wrong route. It’s just, I let go of the ball probably a little too soon, and unfortunately worked out the way it did.”
While Roethlisberger didn’t bag on his receiver for the route, because it’s still an awful throw, I don’t think it’s being looked at enough. Go back and watch the route from Claypool again. He does an awful job selling this as an out route. There’s nothing he does on the initial out to make the cornerback jump him.
He quickly looks back at the quarterback and takes FOUR steps after that to get upfield. This is why Roethlisberger sees and assumes the receiver is going outside. The ball is already in the air by the time Claypool cuts back inside. There’s zero suddenness to this route. The number one rule as a receiver is to not confuse your quarterback, and his lack of suddenness did just that.
I know Claypool isn’t necessarily known for his agility or athleticism, but there should be about two steps with his head turned around and then one hard jab step to break upfield. This whole route is just one lonnnnnngggg curl route.
Not only will the cuts create more separation for Claypool, but it gives Roethlisberger more time to see where Claypool is headed, and Claypool more time to track the ball. It’s a win-win.
I’m not taking any blame away from Roethlisberger, as after all the bad from Claypool, he still manages to get open. This had the potential to be a big play as long Roethlisberger throws this ball inside and about five more yards upfield. However, just as Roethlisberger said, he was looking for Claypool to be outside the corner.
After this drive, the thoughts of another offensive shootout were whisked away, never to be seen again, as the Steelers would only muster a measly three points the rest of the half. They’d enter the locker room at halftime down 31-3, and this one was as good as gone.
What did you feel was the turning point of the game? Leave your thoughts and comments below!