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Mitch Trubisky: ‘There’s Definitely Freedom’ In Play-Calling, But Defense Dictates Where The Ball Goes

One of the biggest conversations that is taking place in Pittsburgh right now, at least as it concerns the Steelers, is the state of the passing game and precisely who is in charge. It’s been somewhat striking, for example, over the course of the past week to first hear offensive coordinator Matt Canada describe the solution of throwing the ball over the middle of the field more being to throw it there more; and for quarterback Mitch Trubisky yesterday to say that the solution is to call concepts that put players there.

As usual, the truth is certainly somewhere in between, which even Trubisky acknowledged to a degree. Following Sunday’s loss to the New England Patriots, he was asked about what level of freedom he has in terms of where the ball is going. “Yeah. There’s definitely freedom”, within the offense, but you can only run what’s available.

“But based on what the defense does, where I want to go with the football, it’s not based on what the call is or what the concept or what our guys is running”, he said. “I’m not just going wherever I want with the ball. Based on what they give us, there’s a best option within each play to tell you were to go with your eyes and where to go with the ball”.

At the same time, the tape does reveal that there is not exactly a robust assortment of route combinations that feature targeted crossing routes and other concepts that play to the space between the hash marks. The offense continues to be dominated by play outside the numbers, a statement that gets truer the far away from the line of scrimmage you get.

“I felt like I was doing my job out there, getting the playmakers the ball when they need to get to”, Trubisky said of his own performance within the offense that was called. “Sometimes it’s where I want the ball to go based on matchup, whether it’s man or zone, and then based on the call, just doing your job and getting the guy the ball at the right time”.

The ‘luxury’ in situations such as these is that you can place blame at the feet of just about anyone or anything and you’ll almost certainly be partially right. There are issues in both the play designs and the play calls as well as in the execution of those calls, both in the identification from the quarterback position and in the routes run—as well as in the protection in allowing those routes over the middle to properly develop.

This is unfortunately not something that we ought to anticipate changing in the near future. Not that, as we’ve talked about very recently, putting the ball over the middle of the field more is actually going to fix anything. It’s simply another item on the menu of a rather mediocre buffet.

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