The Pittsburgh Steelers had their nifty winning streak snapped at the hands of the Denver Broncos in week 12, and after their 24-17 loss the team now has to turn the page quickly before they host the red-hot Los Angeles Chargers at Heinz Field in Week 13.
Today in the Black-and-gold links article, we take a look at Ben Roethlisberger’s harsh criticism of rookie wide receiver James Washington on his weekly radio show. Roethlisberger has utilized his 93.7 The Fan show on more than one occasion to send messages to teammates, and he did just that to the rookie from Oklahoma State.
Let’s get to the news:
Ben Roethlisberger calls out James Washington for dropped pass against Broncos
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger offered some strong words Tuesday for wide receiver James Washington, whose drop of a deep pass Sunday was the latest miscalculation in an unproductive rookie season.
Washington left his feet and tried to make a diving catch in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-17 loss to the Denver Broncos.
On his weekly 93.7-FM radio segment, Roethlisberger criticized Washington for not only dropping the ball, but for his leaving his feet when he could have continued running.
“He has to make it,” Roethlisberger said. “I just think he didn’t trust his hands. For some reason, he jump/dove. I’m not really sure what he was doing. We look at it (on film), and coach got on him pretty good yesterday.
“We took a long, hard look at it. James needs to run through that, and it’s a touchdown.”
The play happened on second-and-8 from the Steelers 41 with 4:40 left in the third quarter on the series after the Broncos had tied the score, 17-17. Running down the right sideline, Washington had his hands on the ball but dropped it at the Broncos 22.
After another incomplete pass intended for Antonio Brown, the Steelers punted.
Of the 10 players that were targeted for passes Sunday, Washington was the only player who did not have a catch. He was 0 for 3 on passes thrown his way. For the season, Washington has caught just eight of 25 targets, a 32-percent rate that is the lowest among NFL receivers with at least 11 targets, according to Pro Football Focus.
“Yes, he’s a rookie, but you’re not going to be out there if you‘re not going to make those plays for us,” Roethlisberger said.
The second-round draft pick’s lack of production has led to a reduction in playing time. After playing in 86 and 79 percent of the offensive snaps against Baltimore and Carolina, respectively, Washington was on the field for 54 percent of the snaps against Jacksonville, and that number was reduced to 23 percent against Denver.
Washington was on the field for the final offensive snap when Roethlisberger threw an interception to Broncos nose tackle Shelby Harris.
“He needs to have confidence in himself,” Roethlisberger said. “When you have trust and confidence in yourself, you use your hands and you catch the ball. I felt like when he jumped and dove, whatever you want to call it, it showed a lack of confidence in himself and his hands.”
Mike Tomlin on whether Broncos’ blocked field goal was legal: ‘Not my deal’
By: Joe Rutter, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Mike Tomlin was in no mood Tuesday to discuss the legality of the Denver Broncos formation when they blocked a field goal in the first quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 24-17 loss Sunday.
The Steelers coach deferred questions about Justin Simmons’ block of Chris Boswell’s 48-yard attempt to NFL senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron.
Riveron, who made the replay review decision that denied Jesse James’ touchdown catch last season against New England, issues a weekly video that details some questionable officiating calls.
“I’ve got too much other business to focus on,” Tomlin said. “Not my deal.”
Le’Veon Bell’s bitter divorce with Steelers was years in the making
By: Jeremy Fowler, ESPN
Technically, the relationship between Le’Veon Bell and the Pittsburgh Steelers is still alive. The team owns his rights. They can place the transition tag on him this offseason, which would spark a labor fight.
Realistically, only practical business would lead the Steelers down that path.
Sentiment is gone.
Two years of rocky negotiations and broken promises have left relationships frayed, paychecks forfeited and a divorce almost finalized.
An examination of the Bell saga from both sides shows he seemed destined for a yearlong holdout.
That Bell’s locker remained untouched for the first 10 weeks of the season gave hope that an All-Pro would rejoin the backfield. Players would glance at that wooden No. 26 nameplate and wonder if this was the week. They eventually realized the exercise was futile at best, making closure in the form of pillaging his locker that much easier. “I guess we just had to move on,” cornerback Mike Hilton said.
Tension had bubbled under the surface for some time, though. Many inside Steelers headquarters embraced a belief that Bell simply did not want to be in Pittsburgh any longer, destined to forge a free-agency path in the name of underpaid running backs.
Negotiations offered hints. Some with the team felt Bell sent mixed messages during the process, vacillating from big per-year payouts to heftier guaranteed money.
In the end, the Steelers would go as high as $14 million per year, but guaranteed money was an issue.
Bell told ESPN in October an offer of at least $40 million in guarantees would have facilitated a deal with Pittsburgh. The Steelers offered $17 million guaranteed on a five-year, $70 million deal, Bell says. Though the particulars of those guarantees are unknown, it’s likely that $17 million was the signing bonus and they counted the first year as essentially guaranteed since they wouldn’t cut him months after doing a deal.
Either way, Bell’s demands, coupled with his jet ski excursions and night club appearances in early September, gave the Steelers reason to believe he had set his sights on 2019.
But Bell had his frustrations with a front office that told him in January they planned to lock him up and put the franchise tag to bed. Bell was hurt the Steelers followed up those promises with what he felt was a flimsy contract structure. Basically, the Steelers don’t guarantee money beyond the first year of a deal, but in return they try to honor the contracts of their homegrown players who have impact.
Bell called that “monopoly money” because the Steelers could walk away from the deal when they wanted. In his eyes, it was far from a compromise.
”They want to have it both ways, and that’s not fair,” Bell said.
Tim Benz: Like it or not, Big Ben needs balance
By: Tim Benz, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
The Steelers play in prime time at home on Sunday night against a team with a good record. The Chargers are 8-3.
That’s normally a winning formula. Ben Roethlisberger will probably throw for 300 yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions like he did against the Carolina Panthers when they came rolling into Heinz Field with a 6-2 record and on a hot streak three weeks ago.
So, criticism of Roethlisberger or the passing game for some recent miscues isn’t a prediction of future results.
In fact, the result I expect Sunday is something to the effect of 34-30 Steelers with Roethlisberger having a great night.
But, if that happens, it’ll likely be complemented by a more consistent running game. Because when the Steelers run effectively, they score. And they win. When they become too pass reliant, they usually don’t.
The Steelers have seven victories and a tie thus far in 2018. Five of those results featured 100-yard performances from James Conner. A sixth saw Conner exit early in that 52-21 blowout of the Panthers. At the time of his departure, Conner had 65 yards on just 13 attempts.
Roethlisberger has been held under 300 yards passing four times this year. The Steelers are 3-1 in those games. The two games in which Big Ben exceeded 400 passing yards resulted in losses against the Chiefs and Broncos.
It’s not just about the yardage totals either. It’s about attempts. Just look at the pass-run ratio.
For the sake of simplicity, let’s count sacks as pass-play attempts and runs by Roethlisberger as rushing attempts — since runs-by-design go into the stat book the same way scrambles do.
This year, three of the Steelers’ four highest point totals occurred in games when the ratio has been nearly even, or in favor of the run.
“We strive for balance,” coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday. “Balance being, we are capable of attacking in the ways that we choose.”
I think Tomlin and his quarterback should choose passing a little less.
The only game in 2018 when the Steelers ran more frequently than they passed was the 52-point Carolina romp. The 41-17 victory over Atlanta saw an even 29-29 split. And the 33-18 defeat of the Browns featured a 37-31 pass-run ratio.
The outlier was when the Steelers scored 37 points against the Chiefs. They threw 61 times and ran just 13 in that game. But they lost, 42-37.
That’s a theme. Not only does more passing usually fail to equal more points. It’s also failing to equal victory.
Check the other losses this season. The Steelers put up 14 points in a loss to the Ravens when the pass-run total was 48-11. It was 60-16 in the loss to the Broncos when they only posted 17 points. Even the 20-16 win in Jacksonville saw the Steelers’ third-lowest point total of the season. And that was another game where the offense skewed pass-heavy, 50-11.
Critics of these numbers will say winning via balance can be a false equivalence because of how the defense and special teams perform. They’ll argue that, when a team falls behind, it needs to pass in hopes of closing a gap. Like the Steelers against Kansas City.
And they’ll say big early leads because of the pass allows for the run game to flourish late.
But that blow out of Atlanta? Conner had 71 yards at halftime. The split was 17 throws and 14 runs. The Carolina beatdown? Again, 41 of Conner’s 53 yards were before the half, and the split was 13-11 pass-to-run.
Defenders of the Steelers approach advance that the team is leading its division at 7-3-1 with the most lopsided pass-to-run ratio in the league.
My response is, maybe Roethlisberger and company would be 9-2 or 9-1-1 and leading the AFC if they stayed on the ground more often, particularly against Denver on Sunday.