Steelers Offense Has Gone From ‘Dink-And-Dunk’ To ‘Chunk-And-Clunk’

Last year, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense was referred to as a “dink-and-dunk” one. Monday night in the 20-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, it was anything but that. In fact, you could probably call it a “chunk-and-clunk” one.

Penalty plays included, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger threw 9 passes 20 or more yards down the field Monday night and completed just one of them with one of those incompletions resulting in a penalty on Bengals cornerback Adam Jones for defensive pass interference.

To take the distance theme even further, Roethlisberger threw 13 passes 17 or more yards down the field and completed just three of them. Roethlisberger’s average pass distance Monday night was a very uncharacteristic 12 yards and that includes all passes thrown during the game.

Now, I am all for the Steelers offense being more vertical than they were last season, but I never expected it would go from one extreme to another.

For starters, the Steelers wide receivers never really were able to gain much separation Monday night and the current offensive line can’t consistently provide the time needed to allow for so many deep passes.

On top of everything else, not having a running game took away the threat of play-action and Roethlisberger is at his best with the deep ball when he has that going for him.

When offensive coordinator Todd Haley meets the media Thursday, I hope he is asked if the deep passing game was by design and if so, what his reasoning was for it. It’s a complete 180 from what the offense did last year and it certainly didn’t work Thursday night in Cincinnati.

  • Matt Searls

    More like stink and stunk. Looks like we drink and drunk until we sink and sunk.

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    This is a very important topic IMO. We need to play smarter. When you watch Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or Aaron Rogers or Drew Brees – Look at what type of routes their receivers are generally running… Short outs. Short ins. Short slants. Short crossing. Short rubs. That should tell you something. They are high percentage plays. They usually get separation. They keep the QB clean. They keep the ball in their possession.

    Ben is not accurate on his deep throws. He never has been. Our WR’s are small and speedy. They can’t go up and fight for errant passes. If you really want success on the deep balls, start throwing them back shoulder short on purpose. Let our WRs use their strengths. Stop on a dime and come back for the ball. Ben’s completion % will increase. Our WRs will draw more PI’s. And it will cause opposing CBs to start looking back for the ball early, which loosens coverage.

  • Russ Ruffing

    The WR’s are terrible – Antonio Brown a #1? Please…but people need to start looking at the facts, and that is that Big Ben is not an elite QB anymore. Since the Super Bowl loss to Green Bay, name me one game that he has won for the team. In clutch time, he now losses games for the team rather than wins. His accuracy was abysmal last night, and the protection was decent most of the game. Granted the play calling is terrible, but Ben still had WR’s open that he missed. At least 6 blatant misses.

    He looks like a bottom ten QB in my humble opinion. They cannot pay a man what they are paying him to be a bottom ten QB in the NFL.


  • Richard Edlin

    I don’t think he’s a bad QB at all, and I think this is an overreaction. His cap hit is madness when you take the large numbers also paid to a large number of the players on defense – Ben aside, few of the offensive position groups are paid anywhere close to league average, so it’s unsurprising that they’re less than great. It would help if 20% of our roster wasn’t currently injured …

    I do agree Ben’s deep accuracy is poor but the key problem for me is that he tries to extend every play … sometimes pitching the ball out of bounds is a better option than forcing a low percentage pass, but he doesn’t get that.

    Ultimately, we can have a rock star defense or a rock star quarterback, but there’s a reason why the only teams that have both are those with quarterbacks still on their rookie contracts. Anything else is unaffordable after a short period of time, and the only reason the Steelers have managed is because we’ve persistently mortgaged current performance against future salary cap hits. This is fine as long as everyone stays healthy and performs but if they don’t we end up with e.g. the $5m dead money on Colon; Woodley likewise would have been asked to take a pay cut or let go from many teams after last season, and Troy’s play this year belies the fact that he’s not earned this salary for several years prior to this. Colon aside, we only really played hardball with Harrison and he was too arrogant and entitled to consider playing for only a significant amount more than he was worth elsewhere.

    Look at who the Ravens lost last year … the Steelers aren’t an exception, Colbert isn’t magic, and the cap situation is seriously out of balance. This is going to take a few years to get right, and the mythical increase in the salary cap isn’t really going to take care of it when the general wages for decent squad players increase with the cap too.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I wonder if Haley is clueless. I have defended him but the last 2 weeks he has refused to come up with a game plan that fits the way we play.

  • Bell Cow

    Yeah they are going to waste the final 4-5 years that Ben has left in his career rebuilding this team.

  • Bell Cow

    Losing Mike Wallace was huge. Anyone who doesn’t think that Wallace was by far a better receiver than Brown or Sanders is simply lying to themselves.

  • steeltown

    One thing is evident.. we need Heath Miller back

    Another thing I see is we need a bigger WR out there, they need to draft a BIG WR for Ben’s remaining yrs, I like A.Brown and Wheaton and think they are necessary parts to this thing but a BIG WR to go along with Brown and Wheaton would be ideal

  • Bell Cow

    Agreed. Brown, Sanders, and Wheaton are solid #2 and #3 receivers, but they aren’t true #1s.

  • WilliamSekinger

    I’m sorry but I just don’t agree with most of you guys about Haley. Last year when Haley forbade Ben his deep passing, sandlot football game, he was on pace for a MVP type season. This year, since Haley has given Ben more latitude in changing plays and calling audibles everything has fallen apart. Put the shackles back on Ben for the good of the team. He may not like it (he didn’t last year) but at least the offense might be semi decent moving forward.

  • TsarPepe

    News flash: not only do we not have a WR#2, we also don’t have a WR#1. Brown is a slot receiver, and that’s all. Same for Sanders. So far at least, neither of them has shown that they can beat corners on the outside consistently.

  • TsarPepe

    The Steelers were very macho this off-season, showing their muscle to Wallace and Harrison. But when those two left, the Steelers were left with a defense that generates no pass rush whatsoever, and an offense that has no game beyond 5 yards from the line of scrimmage. Good job, tough guys!

  • Gloria Burke

    You’re insane.

  • Mike Carroll

    I don’t think Dink and Dunk was going to win them (or anybody) a championship. It didn’t for the Patriots and they perfected that system. The problem with dink and dunk is that it restricts your offense to a small part of the field and come playoff time a good defense will get on top of it and smother it.

    I prefer seeing the Steelers play the way they did last night and lose rather than put work into a flawed offense that might generate some regular season statistical success, but leave them incapable of winning in the playoffs. Just recall how the Ravens won the Super Bowl last year. Or, better yet, how the Steelers won their two recent Super Bowls. In the case of both teams, their offenses played some poor games during the regular season, but personally I think that adversity helps train your team for the playoffs. Peyton is the best regular season stat QB of all time, yet for some reason he is average at best in the playoffs? Huh? Why? Because he perfects a system that is put on tape for 16 weeks, but has little experience playing under the adversity and stress of playoff football. Opponents finally disrupt his script and he has no idea how to improvise and rebound.

    I could go on and on with my thoughts on offensive philosophy, although I think few people share these ideas. Maybe the Steelers don’t get it done this year, but I’m glad to see they are working on a downfield component to their offense. I believe Ben and the offense will start winning these types of games as the season goes along.

  • Mike Carroll

    Ben had a poor game no doubt. He sailed way too many high passes, but we’ve seen that happen to him before and things have worked out just fine. The Steelers may need only 9 wins to make the playoffs this year and there is still plenty of time to accomplish that.

  • Delroy Ross Jr.

    He is not a better “all around” reciever than brown. AB has superior rout running skills than wallace will ever have. Wallace just brought the deep threat dimention to the offense, which let brown work underneath.

  • Mkeller

    Ben was throwing up prayers. The WR screen was snuffed out every time. Anything he completed short the WR was tackled instantly with the exception of Sanders’ long catch and run. And that was thrown 12 or so yards down field. I think its evident that for the 2nd week the receiving group as a whole were no threat to the defense.
    It’s a bad offense all the way around. Art II wanted it so I hope he’s enjoying it. End around to Cotchery…you gotta be shitting me?

  • Bell Cow

    Ok keep telling yourself that. Teams aren’t game planning for AB like they did for Mike Wallace. Wallace is the superior player and he will prove that over time. AB got #1 WR money, but he is an overpaid #2 WR who can return punts.

  • SteveM2

    What’s small about Derek Moye?

  • Bob Loblaw

    As much as losing Harrison stung, I’d rather have an improving Jones in there over a declining Harrison. I know Harrison isn’t getting a ton of snaps, but he has one tackle in two games, and he’s a serious liability when dropped into coverage.

  • Luke Shabro

    Nice. Good description of that $h!t show last night

  • Luke Shabro

    Why didn’t we try to eat the Bengals up with 10 yard curl routes like they were doing with us? Let’s throw 20 more screens for 0 gain or negative yardage

  • StarSpangledSteeler

    Bingo. How quickly we forget the MVP type numbers from this time last year. We are down our #1 TE, our #1 RB, our #1 FB/TE is hobbled, and our #1 WR left in FA. You cannot expect Ben to overcome that by freelancing. Tom Brady is in a similar situation. His numbers are way down. But he is at least being disciplined and getting the ball out quickly.

    Look at the Bengals 2 big plays last night. A dink and dunk check down pass to Bernard who took it to the house. And a pass to their TE up the seam. These are the same exact plays Haley calls when we have all our guys healthy.

  • Luke Shabro

    People that bemoan the loss of Harrison clearly weren’t watching him last year.

  • Bob Loblaw

    Peyton airs it out plenty, it’s a bit flawed to say that he isn’t successful in the playoffs because he doesn’t go long. He definitely does.

    Honestly, I’d rather the Steelers complete passes than trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. Brown, Sanders, and Jericho aren’t our deep threats. The don’t have the body control to win balls in the air, the height, or the raw speed to get separation. As long as those three are our only receivers on the field, that long ball isn’t going to work, no matter how much we try it. If they aren’t able to get it after three plus years with Ben, what makes you think they’re going to magically flash that ability?

  • steeltown

    You keep bringing him up to me on every thread, yes he will help this season in the redzone, but he sure doesn’t seem fit to be a #1 or #2 WR

  • MP34

    Great commentary by these two writers.

  • JPDQ

    I don’t see Ben playing for this team more than 2-3 more years. Not with the abuse he’s taken. I think we’ll continue to see his play decline, they’ll ask him to take a pay cut (like all their old stars), his agent will cry foul, and they’ll release him a couple years into his last contract.

    I’m also not too sure that all the injuries, particularly concussions, aren’t already having an effect on his abilities. This CTE stuff is real, and it’s taking a toll on a LOT of players.

  • Marcus

    Yes, this article hits the main source of the problem in my opinion. I said this after the Tenn game. I was excited about Haley after the first couple games last year, but I have lost all faith. I honestly think they would be better off running their 2 min offense all game, and just let Ben call the plays..

    I think they have a big identity crisis right now.

    The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over, expecting a different result. What they are doing isn’t working, and frustrating part is they keep doing it. They are going to have evolve if they expect to get through this. Or they could just keep giving Redman the ball, which I’m sure they will keep doing.

  • JPDQ


  • Mike Carroll

    Oh, I do not mean to suggest that Peyton is all dink and dunk, but I can see how it came off that way as I began to blend multiple ideas that I consider to be related. My main points are:

    1) The Steelers are better off with a downfield passing component. A short passing game may substitute for a running game, but it comes at the expense of downfield passing which is needed to make the defense play on a larger field.

    2) The regular season is important for 2 reasons. Getting into the playoffs and preparing your team for when they get there. Playoff football is about playing through adversity and being able to play off script as needed. Teams are well prepared for those circumstances when they’ve experienced it throughout the year.

    As for the wide receivers, I think they may be good enough. If the team can improve the running game, play action will open things up much more and the receivers will make plays.

  • Luke Shabro

    Todd Haley: “Hey that crossing route really works! Throw it out of the playbook!”

  • Dan

    I disagree. Incompletions are an effect of the combination of QR and receiver. Some are the QB’s fault, some are the receiver’s fault and many are a combination (along with db play). Ben is still above average on accuracy (not perfect now, but never was), but I would say he is a bit less mobile than in the past. There’s still good elusivity, but he’s easier to run down and he’s definately more fragile. I would consider him a top 12 QB, but certainly the offense as a whole is having problems, so there’s not much hope for a great season statistically, and the Pro Bowl isn’t even in the conversation at this point.

  • Dan

    I hate to bash coordinators when players are the ones that fail to execute, but have to admit if the Bash-Haley bandwagon makes a stop in my town, I’d be tempted to climb aboard. Three runs up the middle to establish the run game? More like three runs up the middle to establish the three-and-out game. Ponderous, man, just ponderous.

  • HopalongCassidy

    You are right on ! Someone needs to tell Tomlin because he has no clue.

  • JPDQ

    “Three runs up the middle to establish the run game? More like three runs up the middle to establish the three-and-out game. Ponderous, man, just ponderous”

    – This is awesome. I can hear The Dude saying this. Thanks for the chuckle!

  • cencalsteeler

    Excellent post! These receivers strengths are YAC. If they keep up with the short slants, crossing patterns, etc., the cb’s might bite eventually opening up separation for the long ball.

  • SteveM2

    You obviously didn’t watch #14 in the preseason games because, if you did, you would’ve seen more potential than merely a red zone target. BTW…two mentions isn’t “every thread”, as you incorrectly infer.

  • steeltown

    Preseason against 2nd and 3rd Team Defenses, is exactly that, preseason against 2nd and 3rd Team Defenses.

    As I mentioned on the other threads, hopefully he will help us THIS year in the redzone, but till I see more of Moye and more production I will maintain stance that we need a BIG playmaking #1 or #2 WR

  • motown_98

    Just unbelievable they had Cotchery run the end around. Haley’s offensive playcalling is horrible! Really getting tired of the screen pass for no yards all game long.

  • cencalsteeler

    Believe it or not, those quick screens actually have some potential. Problem is, Paulson is not getting out there quick enough to take on the lead block. If they designate someone to get out there quicker, some very nice gains can be made.

  • Thomas Rancy

    Seems to me like ben in throwing to spots instead of receivers based purely on timing, overshooting them almost all the time because that spot/timing assumes no contact during the route. DAMN YOU BUCKET DRILLS!!!! all the non-timing route/improv throws are always right on the money by my count.
    We just gota face it, Ben is not Tom Brady or Kurt Warner lets stop trying to make him play like him with the fine timing shit. Let Ben be Ben and stop trying to fix what was never broken in the 1st place!!

  • Fr33th1nk3r

    LOL. The fans have been complaining since last season that his offense is uncreative and we don’t play to Ben’s strength, which is the vertical passing game.
    So the next week, they throw it long– and that is wrong too.

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I do not mind the first 3 plays or the end around to Cotchery, there will be plays in every game that we scratch our heads. I am looking at the whole work of the game and just do not understand what he was thinking. It is just perplexing. Is he trying to get us back for the SB we beat him in when he was with the Cardinals? Dont know?

  • Delroy Ross Jr.

    You still feel the same way about Wallace? Teams are not game planning for AB now huh?