Add Ben Roethlisberger to the list of people who think the Pittsburgh Steelers need to take more shots down the field. In episode four of his Footbahlin’ Podcast, the former Steelers quarterback said he believes the team is lacking the explosive play element in their game.
“Take some shots down the field. Now whether that’s play-calling, whether that’s Mitchell [Trubisky] not throwing it if it was called, I don’t know, but I just kept sitting there like come on, you’ve gotta back a defense up,” Roethlisberger said. “Every once in awhile, take one shot.”
Pittsburgh had one explosive play against the Patriots on Sunday, and it came at the very end of the first half as the team tried to scramble to get into field goal range after Nelson Agholor’s touchdown put the Pats up 10-3. It came on a 24-yard reception to George Pickens down the sideline. After that, Pittsburgh didn’t have any other play that would be considered an explosive play. That’s not a way to win games, because it makes your offense predictable.
If the defense knows you won’t even try to take a shot, they can play their safeties up and take away the run game and limit the short to medium passing game. That’s pretty much what happened on Sunday, and it was surprising to see Pittsburgh not even really attempt to do anything downfield. Even during the last few years of Roethlisberger’s tenure, they would at least try and take a shot every now and then. It usually wouldn’t work, although there were times where it did (last year in Week 2, Roethlisberger hit Chase Claypool deep down the field in the fourth quarter, and he had two long touchdown passes to Diontae Johnson last season). It’s still early, but right now, the attempt hasn’t even really been there.
The play-calling definitely needs to be improved, but there are concepts where receivers can make a play down the field. Right now, I think the issue is Mitch Trubisky just hasn’t been throwing the ball downfield. He did in the preseason, but through two games, he seems content to take the safer, shorter option. At some point, both the play-calling, decision making and execution from both the quarterback and offensive coordinator have to be better.
This team isn’t going to win many games at all scoring just one offensive touchdown a game, and while taking more shots downfield is far from a cure-all, it at least adds another element to the offense and keeps the defense on its toes. We’ll see if Pittsburgh does so on Thursday night against Cleveland, or if they’ll be content to dip and dunk and try to ride their defense to another win like they did against the Bengals.