Every Tuesday at 11:00 a.m. ET Ben Roethlisberger joins the Cook and Poni show on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh, and many Steelers fans wait to hear what their favorite franchise quarterback has to say about the previous week.
After the Week 3 loss to the Chicago Bears, the conversation was much more political than football related, but the conversation eventually turned to what went wrong once the players took the gridiron at Solider Field.
Throughout Roethlisberger’s conversation, he was asked what exactly went wrong with the offense, and mainly the passing game. Of course, in typical Roethlisberger fashion, he took the blame for the defeat, and rightfully so.
Roethlisberger wasn’t very good on Sunday, and his play on the road the last there seasons has been anything but stellar. Nonetheless, there was one comment he made which made me stop in my tracks.
Take a look at what Roethlisberger said about his day on 93.7 The Fan:
“You know I had a bad day at the office. Usually a bad day at the office for me is throwing interceptions and not completing balls, and I gave up a sack fumble...didn’t see the guy coming off my blind side, so I’ll take the blame for that one, for not seeing the “hots” and getting the ball out of my hands.
“You know we just weren’t on our details. There were some details I wasn’t on, making the right reads and throwing, maybe trying to force it to AB, because AB and I have such a great relationship and trust I know he’s going to be doing the right thing every time when other guys might not be on the right step or the right depth I know where AB is going to be, and that forces me to zone in on him because we’ve created big plays and we make things happen and I just need to be better at taking what the defense gives us and making the right throw.”
As I was listening, it was status quo for No. 7, then he said what I never thought I would hear him say: “maybe trying to force it to AB”
Of course, AB is Antonio Brown, and any quarterback who doesn’t look his way first would be clinically insane, but Roethlisberger’s connection with Brown has almost turned into an over focus on No. 84 when he is going out for a pass.
Throughout the first three games of the season, Brown has been targeted 36 times. Second on the list? Martavis Bryant with 18. Yes, 3 games is a small sample size, but doubling up the player second on the list means the quarterback might be looking his way just a bit too much.
If you watch the film of the Week 3 loss, there were several occasions where Roethlisberger not only stares down Brown on specific plays, usually 3rd downs or inside the red-zone, but he overlooks wide open targets in the process. By what Roethlisberger said during his radio show, he saw the same thing on film.
While this isn’t likely the only time Roethlisberger has noticed his tendency to always look Brown’s way, whether he adapts is another question entirely. After all, of those 36 targets, Brown has caught 26 of those intended passes.
Does this mean Roethlisberger should ignore Brown? No.
Should he avoid looking his way in clutch moments? Absolutely not.
Does it mean Roethlisberger should be scanning the field, and realizing he has other options throughout the game? YES.
The Steelers play the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4, and this defense knows how to take Brown out of a game, or at least minimize the damage he can cause to a defense. It will be paramount for Roethlisberger to trust his “keys” and take what the defense gives him, and with the Steelers offensive weapons, those options should be plenty good enough to move the offense, even against a stout Ravens defense.
With that said, if Roethlisberger is eyeing down Brown too much, for whatever reason, there is a good chance the Steelers offense can’t fully click on all cylinders because of it. When a defense doesn’t have to worry as much about Eli Rogers in the slot, or Jesse James down the seam, it becomes easier to defend.
The Steelers offense should be a pick-your-poison unit which is based upon taking the one-on-one matchup. To do that, Brown might have to lose some targets, and the team might just have to spread the ball around. Roethlisberger finally sees it, now it is time to see if he goes onto the field Sunday at M&T Bank Stadium and does it.