Five plays after a Tennessee Titans’ fumble by tight end Anthony Firkser that Pittsburgh Steelers’ cornerback Arthur Maulet forced, the Steelers found themselves in great field position trailing 10-0.
Looking to capitalize on the turnover, the Steelers started the ensuing offensive possession with a bang as wide receiver Chase Claypool ripped off an 18-yard run on an end-around, before tight end Pat Freiermuth hauled in an 11-yard pass two plays later, putting the Steelers in good field position.
What looked like a promising drive came to a deflating end as the Steelers’ offense stalled and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was forced to settle for a shot play on 3rd and 4 to Ray-Ray McCloud of all receivers that fell harmlessly incomplete, forcing the Steelers to settle for a 36-yard Chris Boswell field goal.
The failed 3rd and 4 play was a microcosm of the Steelers’ season as Pittsburgh again took a shot play on a third and short, easily manageable situation as part of a first half that was rather disastrous for the Steelers’ offense as a whole.
Following the 19-13 win over the Titans, Roethlisberger explained the reasoning behind taking a shot to McCloud on 3rd and 4, rather than trying a shorter pass to move the chains.
“We jumped the ball quick with an RPO. They had too many guys in the box, so, you kinda have to pick a throw, and Ray had press, and he’s a quick little jittery bug type receiver that you expect it can win,” Roethlisberger said to reporters after the win, according to audio provided by the team. “Gave him a chance. I thought he did a great job. He kind of got walled off. I was kind of expecting or hoping for a flag, but you go there because it’s either him or probably Diontae on the other side…Those are kind of your two options. And I wanted to give him a chance to make a play. Like I said, I thought he was interfered with, but you know, it is what it is.”
It’s a bit frustrating to hear Roethlisberger say that there were truly only two options in the passing game after pulling the ball on an RPO on third and short. That’s poor design overall.
Roethlisberger certainly went in the right area with the football, but it’s just a poor play from the start, considering McCloud never created separation and had no real chance of making a play on the football. The only good outcome would have been an interference penalty on McCloud that would have moved the chains and set up a first and goal, but anytime you’re playing Joe Flacco Football (chuck and pray for a flag), it’s never going to go the way you want it to.