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Third Down And 9.08 Yards To Go Has To End


Over the course of his career, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has proven to be very good on third downs, but not even he could overcome the 9.08 average yards needed on the12 third down opportunities that he faced Monday night against the Cincinnati Bengals.

“Easily. Easily that’s scenario,” said head coach Mike Tomlin when asked Tuesday during his press conference if the trouble on third downs is due to what is happening on first and second down. “If you just took a snap shot of the third down opportunities in the game, third-and-eight, third-and-nine, third-and-10, globally speaking, you’re not going to convert a lot of those or not going to convert those at the type of rate that’s going to allow you to be successful.”

The Steelers lack of success on first and second downs against the Bengals was not only a result of a poor running game, but also an insistence to pass down the field too much on first downs.

Of the 15 first down and ten throws that Roethlisberger made in the game, nine of them traveled nine or more yards past the line of scrimmage and five of those nine were thrown 20 or more yards down the field. Only four of those nine throws were completed which meant that the other five throws set up second down and ten situations.

Staying way behind the chains on third down all night made it easy for the Bengals to defense as it not only took away the threat of the run, but the underneath passing game as well. As a result, Roethlisberger was having to throw nine or more yards down the field on third downs on average.

In case you are curious, the average of Roethlisberger’s third down throws was a whopping 16.56 yards. Do you see the problem?

In order to stay ahead of the chains Sunday night against the Chicago Bears, the Steelers offense has to get the short passing game going on first and second downs while attempting to mix in the run. This means the use of quick slants to the wide receivers, a few bubble screens and designed screens to running back Felix Jones out of the backfield.

Remember Jones? He’s the former first-round draft pick of the Dallas Cowboys that has caught 128 passes for 1,066 yards during his first five years in the league. He is more than capable out of the backfield as a receiver and by making the Bears respect him early Sunday night, it should open up the middle of the field more for short crossing completions to Emmanuel Sanders, Antonio Brown and now hopefully Markus Wheaton.

In addition to Jones, fullback Will Johnson needs to be more involved in the short passing game as well. He was only on the field for seven snaps Monday night. If they aren’t going to use him as a fullback or tight end more, why is he even on the roster? A fullback that can catch, are you kidding me?

Make no mistake, Roethlisberger will be able to take a few shots down the field against the Bears, but he has to earn them first. Keeping the offense in third and manageable situations, however, has to be his primary goal unless the Steelers want a repeat of Monday night.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • Bilgewater D

    There’s any easy explanation for the lack of a short passing game. And its not Haley. Roethlisberger hates these plays. They won’t be called often as long as Big Ben is the QB.

  • greeny

    Then we should keep Haley and get rid of Ben. After all, Haley is a proven winner and Ben is not.

  • Busforever

    As long as those runs on 1st and 2nd gain no more than 1 yard, you need to mix it up with those quick slants, hitch, FB flat, and all thoses easy throws for 4-7 yards. We don’t have a running game, so we simply need to trust our QB making those short gains. If not, it just doesn’t make any sense to have a franchise QB (and his contract).

  • charles

    Nobody seems to be mentioning how many passes Ben simply missed. He made a number of poor passes in the over ten yard range. And the Oline seemed to be giving him ample time.

  • chris ward

    Mind blowing that Will Johnson only played 7 snaps.

  • cencalsteeler

    Ryan Clarks recent interview said that they need to concentrate on stopping the run better. When they are able to stop the run, it turns the opposition into a one dimensional passing team and it makes things easier for the defenses. The Steelers offense is providing that luxury to opposing defenses before they take the field. Fix the run game, everything else will fall into place.

  • Bilgewater D

    Never said to keep Haley.

  • Lamarr56

    Yah I bet he can run better than any of our backs did last night. Will Johnson is an athletic freak, and our offense needs someone like him now more than ever.

  • Guest

    “third down and 9.08 yd to go” per Dave B’s post…

    I’m sorry but the comedian in me says… we need that purple pill they constantly pitch on TV to revive this dead, limp thing they call offense~!

  • Mike.H

    “third down and 9.08 yd to go” per Dave B’s post…

    I’m sorry but the comedian in me says… we need these purple pills they constantly pitch on TV to revive this dead, limp thing they call Steelers offense~!

  • Mike.H

    Confession time: I was the fly in the wall in the Steeler draft room.

    “they” saw this coming so they drafted Landry in the 4th round… buzz… I fly off.

  • psteelers

    There aren’t any offensive coordinators around that will Ben a pocket passer they can blame Haley, they blamed arians, whiz saw the writing on the wall. Ben is a offensive coordinator killer. He can’t play qb on schedule. He needs to run around and wait until guys are WIDE open to name throws consistently. Let’s admit it. who can we hire? They’re aren’t any plays where you want your qb to hold the ball forever.

  • sean mcmartin

    It looks like noone but Moye and sometimes Cotchery are capable of making long distance catches, sanders and brown dont have the size to jump and use their bodies to block out defenders , they are too small. paulson should be benched as soon as anyone else is healthy.

  • Weiss Chad

    Read the winners and losers article

  • Bob Loblaw

    A bit of their problem last night with the run was the lack of Foote, and Timmons being moved I think. Foote worries me in coverage, but he’s solid against the run.

    Also, being on the field for 3/4ths of the game doesn’t help either.

  • T R

    Ben can not make bad pass like he made against Cincinnait or he will have 3-5 interceptions agains that Bears Defense.. and the receivers and RB have got to hold the ball tight.. they are strip pros.

  • Mike.H

    What the H… an identical post by the parallel universe me!

  • r4kolb

    Wow Dave you see what a lot of us noticed too. So, you see it, we see it, but yet Haley doesn’t…..hmmm… makes one think. It’s amazing how Haley has taken Ben and made him average. The thought was to keep Ben upright though….oh wait, that’s not working either.

  • Davide

    I completely agree.
    Maybe living far from USA my perception is the same: Ben like scramble, fight…being an hero…he’d prefer to win 1 game in this way than 10 with short (non spectacular) passes, ala Tom Brady or Peyton Manning….
    ….it sounds sad but it just my opinion…

  • Lizard72

    Wait I can’t see the gif! WTH?

  • Tom Savastano

    I find it hard to believe that there is not a TE better than Paulson out there to sign..but then im not a scout..

  • SteelerCop

    Big Ben hates this offense…and He doesn’t trust his O-line…Don’t expect much from him!

  • Carl Eagan

    The people who claim Ben hates short passes have never actually watched a game. If they had they would see that when he runs the no-huddle the majority of passes are short completions. Ben has to run the no-huddle to survive the O-line is trying to get him killed and the bubble screens consistently called never work and don’t forget the obligatory end around. It’s really amazing that the so-called experts who pontificate that Ben hates the short pass don’t see him call the short pass or runs when he has the no-huddle.

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