During the 2021 season, the Pittsburgh Steelers certainly struggled when it came to their offense being able to produce explosive plays consistently. Even so, the offense still managed to register nine explosive plays of 40 yards or longer on the season. On this quiet Sunday before the team gets their 2022 mandatory minicamp underway, I thought it would be fun to look back at the five longest plays that the Steelers offense registered in 2021.
5 – 2021-10-03 vs Green Bay Packers – 1Q – 10:10 – 3rd & 4 – Packers 45-yard-line – Ben Roethlisberger pass complete deep right to Diontae Johnson for 45 yards, touchdown. Penalty on Rashan Gary: Defensive Offside, 5 yards (declined)
This big play against the Packers came early in the game and on the Steelers first offensive possession. This 45-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson came on what was essentially a free play due to Packers edge rusher Rashan Gary. It was a deep pass to Johnson down the right side and it resulted in Roethlisberger’s 400th career touchdown pass of his career.
Air Yards = 36 & Yards After Catch = 9
4 – 2021-10-31 vs Cleveland Browns – 4Q – 1:48 – 2nd & 8 – Steelers 28-yard-line – Ben Roethlisberger pass complete short right to Diontae Johnson for 50 yards (tackle by Grant Delpit)
This big play against the Browns came late in the contest and essentially put the game away for the visitors. It was a short slant pass to Johnson from Roethlisberger as part of a RPO play against man-coverage. Johnson’s defender was easily rubbed off on the play and the Steelers wide receiver took a short pass and gained 48 additional yards after making the catch.
Air Yards = 2 & Yards After Catch = 48
3 – 2021-10-10 vs Denver Broncos – 1Q – 12:09 3rd & 6 – Midfield 50-yard-line – Ben Roethlisberger pass complete deep right to Diontae Johnson for 50 yards, touchdown
Yet another big play of 50 yards went to Johnson in the October home game against Broncos and this one also came during the team’s first offensive possession. This deep pass from Roethlisberger to Johnson on a third and 6 from midfield also went down the right side. Johnson beat his man inside and then stacked him down the field. Roethlisberger dropped the throw into Johnson to the outside and the wide receiver did the rest for the score.
Air Yards = 35 & Yards After Catch = 15
2 – 2021-09-19 vs Las Vegas Raiders – 4Q – 12:14 – 2nd & 7 – Steelers 23-yard-line – Ben Roethlisberger pass complete deep left to Chase Claypool for 52 yards (tackle by Johnathan Abram)
The Steelers second-longest play from scrimmage in 2021 came in Week 2 against the Raiders at Heinz Field. On this fourth quarter deep pass, Roethlisberger threw deep down the left side of the field to Claypool, who was able to catch the football while going to the ground. Claypool had the presence of mind to get up quickly after making the catch to gain a few more yards on the play. This pass would ultimately serve as Roethlisberger’s second-longest air yard completion of the season.
Air Yards = 41 & Yards After Catch = 11
1 – 2021-10-10 vs Denver Broncos – 2Q – 5:11 – 2nd & 7 – Steelers 28-yard-line – Ben Roethlisberger pass complete short middle to Chase Claypool for 59 yards (tackle by Justin Simmons and Von Miller)
The Steelers longest play from scrimmage in 2021 also came in Week 5 of the season against the Broncos and it also went to Claypool. This time, however, Claypool caught a quick pass in the middle of the field from Roethlisberger via a quick slant and gained significant yardage down the opposite side of the field after securing the football. Claypool was covered by Broncos edge rusher Von Miller on the play and that obviously was a huge mismatch that favored the Steelers.
Air Yards = 6 & Yards After Catch = 53
Summary: While these five plays did net 256 yards of offense, it’s interesting to note that 136 of them came after the catch. Four of these five plays also came in the Steelers first five games of the season. That means that the offense only produced four more double explosive plays in the team’s final 12 games as one other one came against the Raiders in Week 2. Johnson was on the receiving end of three of these five plays while Claypool obviously had the other two, which were the two longest of the season. Johnson had the only two touchdowns in these top five longest plays. The Steelers will obviously have both Johnson and Claypool back in 2022. The Steelers were one of two teams in 2021 to not have an offensive explosive play of 60 yards or longer. The other team was the Baltimore Ravens.