Roethlisberger Not Big On Using An Extra Offensive Lineman Inside The Red Zone

Earlier this week, I wrote about how the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has struggled inside the red zone this season and on Wednesday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to give his thoughts on the subject.

“We scored twice down there but we kicked field goals,” started Roethlisberger. “That’s why I think I was so disappointed after the game. We won, and I am happy about that. But we should have been better.

“The first time we got back down there, I think it was after Ryan Clark’s interception. We really tried to pound, bring the extra tight end in, Mike Adams, and really tried to run the ball, because it worked the last time down there, when we grinded, picked up the extra yards and got the touchdown. That time it didn’t work. Their defensive line stopped us.

“I just think when we get down there we need to keep staying aggressive and not get too conservative and bring in the extra lineman and play that conservative role. We have great weapons. We can still spread them out and run the ball. So we will take a look at what we can continue to do to get better down there. ”

Roethlisberger was then asked if he was wanting to take more shots as opposed to pounding the football.

“Not necessarily, just having the people on the field, the right personnel groups at times,” he said. “Like I said, the first time we got down there after Ryan’s interception, it worked. We had all the big guys. We used it. They stopped us.

“We just have to make sure that we go in there with the right mentality every time. Just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it’s going to work the next time.”

So being as Roethlisberger has a problem with the red zone personnel groupings being used, I thought I would look at what was used on offense in the last two games.

According to our game charting, in the game against the New England Patriots, the offense ran 13 red zone plays. On those 13 plays (4 drives), 11 personnel was used on all 13 of them. The offense scored three touchdowns on those four drives and all three scores went to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.

In the win over the Buffalo Bills last week, the Steelers offense ran 16 plays (5 drives). The breakdown of the personnel groupings used on those drives consisted of 11 (5 plays), 12 (6 plays), 13 (3 plays) and 22 (2 plays). I should note that Mike Adams was used as an extra tight end on 8 of those 16 plays and the two touchdowns came via 13 and 22 personnel groupings.

The biggest beef that I have with the Bills game is that the Steelers ran on seven of the eight plays that Adams was in the game for. In addition, of the 28 plays Adams was in the game for against the Bills, the offense ran the ball 22 times. I can certainly understand Roethlisberger’s beef here, because when Adams is in the game at tight end, he has one less legitimate pass catching weapon on the field. If offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to use some 12 or 22 personnel groupings inside the red zone in order to run/pass out of, he really should consider putting tight end Michael Palmer or fullback Will Johnson on the field along with Heath Miller as both are legitimate pass catching options and both should be able to handle run blocking duties when it is called for it.

On Thursday, Haley will have his usual session with the media and you can bet he will be asked about the comments made by Roethlisberger on Wednesday. His response to those questions will certainly have my attention.

I have nothing against using Adams as an extra tight end in short yardage situations, but inside the red zone, he needs to give Roethlisberger more options when it comes to eligibles.

  • SteelerFanInMD

    Dave: There is a word missing from the title.

  • steeltown

    I have no problem with using Adams in the redzone as an extra blocker, as long as you don’t make a habit of doing it all the time and being predictable, which coincidentally is happening when Adams is on the field, more often then not its a run. I agree with Ben in that Cotchery, Sanders, Palmer, Will Johnson all of these guys can help block, but all can also be a threat in the passing game and the Defense will have to adjust

  • joed32

    I wonder if Adams can catch?

  • Shannon Stephenson

    You cannot be predictable in the NFL as defensive coordinators will figure you out. They will need to get a little more pass happy with Adams out there to make the unpredictability higher.

  • SumnerYoung

    Ben states, “We have great weapons.” Does he really believe that? I don’t think Todd Haley believes that.

  • HarryBackside

    It pisses me off when Ben does this stuff in public. Every time a new wrinkle is added, he gets on the radio and whines about it. He complained about the Wild Cat. He’s complaining about an extra O-lineman. I’m not saying that these thing work all the time, but I also recall that prior to the Wild Cat and Adams being used as a TE, the Steelers didn’t manage to win a single game.

    I love Big Ben, but lately he’s been sounding more and more like baby Ben. I know he doesn’t like Haley, but I don’t see how taking digs at him in public helps the team win. If he has an issue with the Wild Cat, an extra lineman, or any other wrinkle that Haley wants to use, take it to Mike Tomlin, not the microphone.

  • r4kolb

    I wonder how Will Johnson would be in that situation? Use him as your Tight End and use Dwyer as the Full Back if needed. I think it would open up a lot more options for Ben.

  • r4kolb

    He has problems keeping his hands on a 300 pound lineman trying to crush his QB. I don’t think he could handle catching the tiny little oval ball.


    If the past is an indication of how these things work, Coach Tomlin is thinking he’s saving Adams’ pass catching ability as a surprise weapon in the Super Bowl.

  • QB’s all of them want to throw every time

  • Eric

    I want to see Will Johnson used more as a pass receiver, preferably as FB, but if he is an asset at TE, than good. Reports from camp were “nobody could cover him over the middle”. Like zone blocking, that might be something that was practiced but never intended to be used in games.

  • HopalongCassidy

    When the Steelers get into the red zone, the coaches play to not screw-up and blow the field goal opportunity instead of going all-in to get a TD. This is a losers mentality. Peyton Manning would never settle for the kind of play calling the Steelers resort to in the red zone. Roethlisberger is right. However, he is also not smart enough to avoid the sacks down there which cause them to have to settle for field goals. So, he and the coaches both share in the blame. Someone in the FO needs to jack them all up !

  • Reg Sayhitodabadguy Hunt

    I believe that’s what ben was trying to say it all boils down to that line up being predictable

  • HopalongCassidy

    Well, when your team can’t run the ball inside the 10 yard line, passing might be the best option to have a chance at a TD.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Going with adams as an extra blocker inside the ten yard line is a good call, IF , you have a first and goal , that opens the run pass option, or inside the five with a run option , but the red zone as defined 20 to goal line is too early for an extra tackle unless we are inside the ten. I thin too often we are not aggressive inside the 20-25 , Bill Walsh of 49er fame thought that was a great time to put the ball in the air going for the td.

  • r4kolb

    Would be the first 5 – 11 team to ever make the Super Bowl.

  • r4kolb

    Roethlisberger has been sacked 379 times since the start of the 2001 season, the most in the league. You ought to be thanking the football gods he is our QB. If this were Brady, Manning x 2, Brees, or any other QB his career would be over by now. If he had Bradshaw’s O line he too would have won 4 Super Bowls by now.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    The personnel group should be chosen based on the expected alignment and grouping of the defense to give you the best advantage. I’m not a big believer of just getting down there and imposing your will. Defenses are just too good against the run to do that.

    No matter the grouping you plan to feature in the red zone each week, there should be a full arsenal of plays to make the defense defend all options. It’s hard for me to see how 7 out of 8 running plays out of 1 grouping is an advantage for the Steelers, given the state of their running game.

  • SumnerYoung

    Bill Walsh also had Jerry Rice and John Taylor and Dwight Clark and Brent Jones and Roger Craig.

  • SG

    Seemed to me this week he was just making a point on mixing things up. His quote was, “Just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it’s going to work this time.” And I agree with him. This team really stinks in the redzone, so I have no problem with him being unhappy about it.

  • treeher

    I think his comments are responsive, not overstated and are entirely true. We watch the game and see the same thing. Besides, I don’t like Haley either and enjoy the digs, if that’s what you want to call it.

  • HarryBackside

    He can be unhappy about it all he likes, that has nothing to do with my point. Keep it in house. Nothing good ever comes from airing team business out in public.

  • srdan

    I see your logic, but its also a sweet sale for play-action. Could go both ways.

  • srdan

    I guess what bothers me is that he is never announced as an eligible receiver. Why not do it?

  • srdan

    AB is leading pass catcher in the league. Hard to argue. How many teams are out there without even a single threat on offense?

    Beyond that, its a kick in the balls.

  • srdan

    I strongly disagree. You put BB behind a the AFC probowl line, and he will find a way to be close to the top of the league in sacks. BB is not effective in teh first two seconds of plays like the QBs you just named, he excels when they break down, and he tries to break them down.

  • srdan

    Their shortest receiver is 6’3″. Our tallest is 6′ (moye doesnt get burn).

    And in the redzone timing is evrything. BB has never been that QB, and probably won’t ever be. He needs the fades to be effective, but lacks the personnel.

  • srdan

    I agree, the days of imposing your will in the NFL have passed. The successful teams do a good job of creating mismatches.

  • RedCarpetDefense

    And this team will probably draft another O-lineman this spring and add yet another “weapon” on offense. Because O-linemen win games for you not playmakers on offense…namely big WRs who can be utilized in the game situation this article implies.
    This article “suggests” one (of many) reason(s) for the ineptitude of this team to have success.

  • Virdin Barzey

    “It’s not in my DNA, my mindset to quit on a play,” he said. “If
    something’s not there, I’ve seen quarterbacks throw it away, go down,
    (and) sometimes that’s a smart thing. For me, there’s also some big
    plays to be had, and the competitor in me just can’t give up all the
    time.” Big Ben

    Here’s one of the main reason why we will continue to struggle on offense. Ben the magician can’t compute in that head of his that the o-line is the weakest link and most injury prone group on the team. Yet the boy genius still wants to play the same way. He obviously doesn’t understand that sacks kills the offense which goes 3 and out which causes more pressure on the defense.

  • dollardoughtnut

    we now have a 6ft7 325lb TE named M Adams- BB dreams of a big wide receiver have been answered IF HE CAN CATCH THE BALL AND HANG ON TO IT

  • afrazier9

    We are definently to predictable we don’t mix it up enough so teams T off on us. That’s why we cant run the ball every body and there grand mother can see that. In side the redzone we dont use the I formation of even the Pony it’s always single back sedn the tight end in motion which is crazy to me. I think now we hit are stride and make a run for the playoffs, and yes i know i sound really crazy to think we could turn it around with this team, but i think these guys will have enough to make teams respect us GO STEELERS

  • SG

    How is that “team business?” It’s not like he said, “Haley sucks and our offensive gameplan is completely wrong. Here’s how I want to run things.” All he said was that he wanted to mix things up from time to time down in the redzone. This is why the media loves to throw any kind of story out there, because they know the general populace will overreact.

  • treeher

    He’d have to drop about 40 pounds at least

  • cencalsteeler

    First and goal- running back to the A gap.
    Second and goal- Send TE in motion, when TE gets in between G and T hike ball and follow TE.
    Third and goal- Fade route (old play was button hook in the middle to Heath).
    Fourth and goal- Suisham for three.
    Too predictable. I’m calling for gadget plays. Keep the gas on the peddle Haley! Stop getting conservative. Put up 30, odds are you win the game.

  • SumnerYoung

    Exactly my point. Ben referred to having “great weapons.” Plural. AB is a weapon, but a truly great can score from anywhere on the field, especially from within the opponents red zone. AB has 3 receiving TDs through 9 games. That’s not a great number for how many times he’s been targeted. And I don’t think any of those TDs have come from within the red zone. AB is still young though. I hope he develops a nose for the end zone.

  • srdan

    I see your point there.

    I think receivers of his size are rarely redzone threats by themselves. Steve Smith is the only one that comes to mind. The Welkers of the world need to operate underneath an umbrella of tall receivers.

    It’s tough when all teams are now staffed with a tall and athletic corner to battle the beastly receivers weekly. I think AB has his way with them in space, but hte reality is that an endzone is not that big when there are 6 dbs lurking. You have to be able to get high to catch balls.

    With all that said, I think a lot of Cotcherys success in the redzone has to be credited to the attention AB receives. Cotchery seldom beats corners 1 on 1 for a TD. It almost seems liek teams forget about him.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    LOL! Well said. His mind cannot compute! I agree 100%. It drives me crazy. At least try to establish your game plan with shorter passes and a run game. Then when you need a big play, you have a better chance of it being successful, Ben.

    I made this same point elsewhere, but look at Stafford, getting rid of the ball quick. He has 2 rookies and a 2nd year player on hid O line and makes them look great. Ben makes his line look horrible while leaving them and himself at greater risk of injury.

    Will he ever learn? I doubt it.

  • blackandgoldBullion

    Although I just bashed Ben about a few things, I definitely agree with you. There must be some ingenuity. There must be some sort of surprises in there, or you stand the chance of making crappy teams look good.

  • This is not a dictatorship is not like he threw Haley under the bus Having adams on the field takes a receiving option off that is obvious

  • Riverstko

    With that extra lineman in there it makes it so obvious its going to be a run. It can also clog the middle were the runner ends up having no space to run. I guess it really depends on the defense theyre playing against. Last week it worked, i wouldnt try it this week though lol Maybe with playaction

  • Shannon Stephenson

    I agree

  • HarryBackside

    Ben is always looking to make the big play. Give him an O-line that can hold their blocks longer, and he’s just going to hang on to it longer so he can give his WR’s more time to go down field. Ben will pass on a short throw if he things he has something developing down field.

  • HarryBackside

    Brady, Manning, or Brees would be fine, because they are fine with taking what the defense gives them. They also are better at reading coverage, adjusting their protection, and changing the play call if necessary. Those guys make their line look better than it is.

  • HarryBackside

    Questioning coaching decision is team business. If Ben thinks the offense is to conservative in the red zone, then take it up with Tomlin, not the local radio station.

  • HarryBackside

    Ben publicly questioning the decisions made by his coaches. Whether his opinion is right or wrong isn’t the point. If he thinks it’s an issue then take it up in house.

  • HarryBackside

    But he’s not just taking a shot at Haley. The team has been using Adams as a TE for weeks. If Tomlin didn’t support the idea, he would have put a stop to it.

    Stating it tactfully doesn’t change the fact that he is questioning the decisions of his coaches in public.

  • alex


    run, run, pass….run, run, pass…

    get some game, put a question mark in the Ds head…

    put Adams in and play action…SOMETHING!

    fake-o-rama…give them something…


  • r4kolb

    We will have to disagree on it then Harry. I think you’re talking out your Backside.