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Steelers Film Room: Errors in the passing game lead to loss against the Saints

Ben Roethlisberger struggled against the New Orleans Saints on Sunday and, as a result, the Pittsburgh Steelers struggled. The Steelers' defense is no longer the juggernaut that can overcome a sub-par performance by their quarterback. Now, more than ever, this is his team. How Roethlisberger plays during the final four games will go a long way in determining the Steelers' hopes for a berth in the post-season.

A theme of Steelers Film Room over the past year and a half has been the effect that a potent offense can have on the entire team. A great offense can help a mediocre defense, but a great defense cannot help a mediocre offense. A great offense can possess the ball and force the other team out of their gameplan by staking an early lead. This can lead to the opposing offense becoming more one-dimensional, which can then lead to more sacks and turnovers.

However, the one caveat is that it's harder to be consistently good on offense than it is to be consistently good on defense. Offense relies more on timing, poise and all 11 guys being on the same page. Defensively, if you're good, you're good. There's not a lot of fluctuation.

On Sunday, we saw an example of the Steelers' offense, which has shown a lot of good this year, being inconsistent for the reasons I stated above. The difference this week was that the culprit was the QB. Ben did not play a good game. It happens. As has been widely stated since the game ended, the Steelers should have been winnning 14-0 at the end of the first quarter. That changes the entire complexion of the game. But they didn't get the lead they should have, and the Steelers are 7-5 as a result.

This play should have led to the Steelers first touchdown:

As Steeler fans, we have seen Ben make this throw 100 out of 100 times. As a matter of fact, I can't ever remember him missing this throw. Ben escapes the pocket, allows the receiver to uncover from the defender, and then delivers a 10-15 yard throw. Ben has no reason to rush this throw. He just missed it.

This next play is another example of a play the Steelers have rarely missed this year:

The Steelers are killing the Saints on the ground at this point of the game. The Saints have no choice but to load the box and play Antonio Brown one-on-one. This has to be a touchdown.

Ben is trying to throw it back-shoulder to Brown, and Brown is trying to get past the defender. That is what leads to the incompletion. But the press coverage from the defender pre-snap normally converts whatever route the receiver has to a go-route. You can't run a hitch against press-man. Normally, you throw back-shoulder for two reasons. First, you have a go-route called and the corner is playing off. So instead of trying to run past a guy playing 8 yards off of you, you throw back-shoulder. Second, the corner is stacked on top of you, thus leaving a window open for the back- shoulder throw.  In this example, Brown doesn't let the corner stack him, instead he gets even with him. Receivers refer to this as "Even, then I'm leaving," which means that once a receiver gets even with a corner in man coverage, he will be able to run past him.

And, that's exactly what Brown does. Maybe Ben gave Brown a hand signal or something to say he was going to throw back-shoulder. I don't know but I think this one is on Ben.

This last one is on Ben and Todd Haley:

I would have run this play until Sean Payton punched Rob Ryan on the sidelines. The Steelers ran this play three times. LeVeon Bell was wide open each time. Because of the success the Steelers had running the ball, and because Heath Miller is still in this personnel grouping, the Saints have to keep their regular personnel in. This means that when Bell motions out, he has a linebacker covering him one-on-one.

Why only run this play three times? There's no way they could have covered Bell, none. The Steelers ran the same running play in the fourth quarter against the Tennessee Titans because they couldn't stop it. Well, the Saints can't cover Bell with a linebacker. I guarantee that every time the Steelers didn't run this play, Ryan breathed a sigh of relief.

Also, there was some talk post-game about Ben being rushed into some throws. Yes, that did happen, but Ben also missed throws badly when he had a clean pocket. The pocket on this play is as good as it gets. The game is 6-0 at this point. This is a third-down conversion. After this play is when all of the bad occurred.

The good news is that Ben is a fierce competitor. I would expect a much better game from him, in a more important matchup next week against the Cincinnati Bengals.