Film Room: Offense Filled With Missed Opportunities

By far the most frustrating thing about this Pittsburgh Steelers offense is simply the fact that they can be so much better. And the damned fact of the matter is that they are way closer than you might think. It’s just these small little issues and missed every so often that trip them up and have been holding them back all season.

Sunday’s game against the Colts was just chock full of them, and that is without even talking about the fact that they got into field goal range only to have their kicker miss his first attempt at a game-winning field goal, needing to get back down the field for him to get another chance.

The missed opportunities came early and often, starting on the second play of the game. Ben Roethlisberger delivered what for all intents and purposes should be considered a solid deep ball. But Martavis Bryant seemed to have trouble locating it again, as happened earlier this year. Only on this occasion, the cornerback played it perfectly and was able to pick it off.

Later in the quarter, following a sack allowed by Ramon Foster, Roethlisberger just missed what would have been a huge throw for about 25 yards between two defenders to Antonio Brown. That hole shot was one Matthew Stafford hit a couple times against the Steelers.

Then, early in the second quarter, the blame fell to Brown, who like Bryant seemed to have a hard time locating a long ball. The throw was where it needed to be, but the receiver couldn’t find it, and perhaps was hearing footsteps.

A frustrating number of the missed opportunities came on failed third-down conversions. The worst of all was probably the botched shovel toss to Jesse James. The toss itself wasn’t very good, but James wasn’t ready for it.

Of course, it’s hard to be ready for an improvisation, an aspect of the Steelers’ offense that isn’t as important as it once was, but also results in his targets not having the same rapport.

As the first half was coming to an end, the Steelers were driving, and driving well, only to see Roethlisberger fumble the snap, forcing him to fall on the ball and take an eight-yard loss. Do you see what kind of stuff I’m getting at at this point? Shooting themselves in the foot.

Then there was the failed hookup with JuJu Smith-Schuster on third and five on a hot route, the Colts sending six on the pass rush. Smith-Schuster didn’t seem to get out far enough, but Roethlisberger’s throw wasn’t well-positioned, and the ball was knocked loose by a defender.

Le’Veon Bell had a few frustrating incidents in this game in which he was unable to escape a one-on-one situation. This one was the most annoying, once again getting tripped up from behind, but more importantly resulting in a failed third-down conversion. He had another later in the game.

There are too many instances of the team causing themselves their own problems. It’s easy to see things going much differently if they could stop getting in their own way and hitting on some of these potential big plays. As you should see here, the throws often enough are there, but it takes two players to complete a pass.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • Conserv_58

    There is no doubt that we’ve all been waiting for this offense to achieve what we know they can. It’s frustrating to watch them get in their own way whether it be poor communication, mental lapses, poor play calling or what have you. The hope is that they finally put it all together and given that this the tenth week of the season, it’s a nationally televised home game, along with it being color rush week, it’s about time they begin to show championship form.

  • treeher

    It’s hard to buy the chemistry thing when a 20-year-old rookie comes in and looks like a seasoned veteran. Some of these guys just don’t have their heads in the game, IMO.

  • falconsaftey43

    Most of these are missed opportunities, but I couldn’t disagree more with the first play. Deep ball to Bryant was atrocious. The CB is playing way off to start the play, and bails at the snap. When Ben throws it, the CB still has a several yard lead on Bryant, and to make it worse Ben doesn’t throw it far enough were Bryant would have had a chance to out run the CB to the ball. It was short and inside on a throw where the CB was in great position to defend the deep ball during the entire play.

  • EdJHJr

    The shovel pass looks like a broken play attempt

  • mem359

    Flacco used to make a living on deep passes that were short & inside. How big was the CB? I’m wondering if Ben was trying to get a jump-ball situation for the 6′ 4″ Bryant.

  • SteelersDepot

    “Of course, it’s hard to be ready for an improvisation, an aspect of the Steelers’ offense that isn’t as important as it once was, but also results in his targets not having the same rapport.”


    To my eyes it looked as if MB could have put more EFFORT into fighting for that bomb on the second play of the game.
    Likewise I thought AB got alligator arms on his footage above.

  • Jeff Dudash

    I agree. Bryant made almost no play on the ball and you’d hope his size would allow him to win a jump ball situation, but why did Ben choose to throw to him given the coverage?* I know we’re beating a dead horse, but Ben has got to make better decisions.

    (* This is rhetorical. We all know this was Ben’s attempt to make nice with MB.)


    Both Bryant’s and ABs plays looked like poor effort.
    Disappointing!! 😕


    But infinitely catchable had a big guy like Bryant TRIED to fight for it.
    It looked like he was circling AROUND the defender hoping to get it without having to fight for the ball!

  • falconsaftey43

    1, Bryant has never been good at jump balls. Just hasn’t. Can’t force jump balls to a guy just because you want to do it.

    2. Desir is 6’1″ per his combine numbers, so he’s not short by any means.

    3. Bryant didn’t do a good job to stop the INT, but there was almost zero chance that that would have been a completion, dumb throw.

  • falconsaftey43

    I disagree that Bryant could have caught it. He needs to do a much better job preventing the INT, but no way he catches that ball. Not to mention, have you ever seen Bryant do a good job on a jump ball? I can’t. I remember many many more instances like this (not INTs but just not trying to high point it). It’s a dumb throw by Ben, period.

  • The Tony

    The JuJu play on third down. I was surprised that the defender wasn’t flagged for hitting a defenseless receiver. The hit looked clean to me but how often have you seen that hit been flagged in the league.

  • heath miller

    to me its typical of MB…. did he even know where the ball was ? the CB sure did…..but did bryant turn to find it? or is it the same old thing… he didnt turn to see the ball in the air and track it soon enough .. same as the previous week when he played.. so the CB got better position ? im not sure seems he didnt have a lot of ida where the ball was in flight? HEEEEEATH

  • heath miller

    i am so sick of hearing 2 things over and over .. ben saying this team will score 30 points consistently …. and we are what ? one of 3 or 4 teams not to do it yet this year and the only team with a winning record that has not done it ? and sooooo sick of hearing how this O has so much potential…. do we really .. 9 games… only got close to 30 twice and the one time the D scored 14 of the points…so the O has gotten close to 30 points once.. there is an old saying about the duck .. if it walks like a duck..looks like a duck…. quacks like a duck its probably a duck.. well if the O looks like crap 9 games in a row… well you can finish the rest ….. they really have not been great since those couple back to back games where ben threw like 5 or 6 TD a game and 500 yards .. .since then they have been pretty average.. I have said for the last 4 weeks the O is just grossly overrated ……….. and the D has not really played a great QB yet … now without hayden and a injured mitchell will the D be there to bail out the anemic O? HEEEEATH


    stilll God awful decision and poor throw by ben

  • Steel Realist PAul

    It’s been like this all season. Every aspect of the offense is off a bit, not quite sharp.

    Martavis seems to have lost whatever it is he had early on. On that second play of the game deep ball, he plays the ball wrong and runs outside of the DB instead of going inside with his larger frame and ‘taking’ the ball. Been this way all year. I dunno how coaches fix that.

    It’s not just Ben. It’s not just Haley’s playcalling. There’s something more holding them back.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    No way mon.. the safety doesn’t move to cover and Ben gives Bryant a 1 on 1 deep ball. He’s the bigger dude and runs under it, but goes outside the DB instead of inside. The Steelers do this all the time with AB as well, but he fights for and takes the ball away. Bryant plays it wrong.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Seriously, Bryant just has to cut inside the DB and this is in play.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    EXACTLY. Isn’t it amazing how they’re so determined to keep blaming Bryant as though they have to blame him for something. Almost like they’re hesitant/scared or whatever to place the blame on the quarterback or most of it. And most of these miscues are actually on the quarterback. The pass to Bryant was another hole shot. An accurate passer gets the ball to Bryant in that situation. Martavis Bryant was even and he was leavin and that ball should have been out in front & to the outside forcing the db to play the ball through the receiver which, if nothing else, would have caused a PI call. But instead it was another underthrown ball AGAIN.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Flacco is it has always been a better deep passer. Period. How could Roethlisberger be hoping for a jump ball with a badly underthrown ball? The only jump balls that they should be throwing to Bryant need to be in the red zone near the goal line particularly

  • ItsGroovyBaby

    It’s only because the defender did a great job of hitting Juju square in the chest. 9/10 that doesn’t happen or the receiver dips his head or shoulders a bit causing high contact.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Not good at jumping balls? You can’t be serious. When’s the last jump ball they even through Bryant? You can’t remember because they’re that rare. Martavis Bryant has a 40-plus vertical are you serious.

  • falconsaftey43

    yeah I’m serious. A good number of the deep balls he gets thrown are jump balls (i.e. not out in front that he can just run under, but shorter throws where he’d have to slow down and try to high point it over the DB). He’s not good at it. Yes he’s tall and can jump high, but doesn’t mean he’s good at going up for jump balls. He’s really inconsistent at doing it. This was a perfect example of that. He tried to just slow up and catch it at his waist instead of getting position on the DB and high pointing it.

  • heath miller

    this may be the post of the year…. exactly what i said in different words…its been like this all season .. maybe for 2 1/2 seasons…and its been that way against poor D teams so why would it suddenly click against the titans? chances are … it wont HEEEATH

  • heath miller

    it is … very few of those are by design

  • heath miller

    he was circling around because as usual he didnt turn soon enough to locate the ball leaving bens hand and a usual had no clue where the ball was… its like in his year off he forgot how to turn and look for the ball leaving bens hand and none of the coaches are smart enough to remind him to do that ..

  • falconsaftey43

    Yes it’s one on one coverage. But the DB has great position. He’s not trailing Bryant, he’s out in front with his hips already turned when it’s thrown. That puts the DB in much better control of establishing position.

    Yes Bryant plays it poorly, but Bryant always plays these balls wrong, which makes it a dumb throw. If it’s AB it’s a much better idea because he does a good job on those types of plays. Bryant doesn’t establish body position or fight for balls well. Almost never. So don’t throw passes where that’s the plan. He’s a run under it, catch it in stride guy.

    Frankly a better throw would be a back shoulder to Bryant. That’s what most offenses do when they want to attack vertically but the CB is playing deep and off the WR. Throw it on a line to the back shoulder where the WR has position.

  • CP72

    Maybe this offense is what it is.

    Ben isn’t Ben anymore. He’s statically an average quarterback. To be honest that is what his play feels like it’s been….average.

    Lev Bell hasn’t been the most complete back in the league. He looks less dynamic. Maybe injuries have taken their toll. He’s still a great pass blocker, but ever other aspect is down across the board. Conner isn’t exactly Darren Sproles either.

    I was at the game. When Conner came in and got the corner for a 10 yard gain it looked like a different speed than Bell was playing at.

    We are not the offense we all thought we’d be. I don’t know that we will ever be with two of the most important pieces of the offense showing signs of decline.

  • heath miller

    how do we really “know they can” …. where have they done it consistently the last 2 years .. since 2015 … they are getting worse .. i thin they scored 30 points like 7 times last year and one of 3 or 4 teams not to have scored 30 at least once this year… twice they were close bu the one game the D gave them 14 points .. just over rated

  • CP72

    It’s time to address the fact Le’Veon Bell is averaging 3.8 yards a carry. He’s not the dynamic weapon he was a year or two years ago.

    David Todd brought up a great point in the podcast. Bell had the corner for a touchdown in the Colts game and the defensive back ran him down. Bell looked really slow.

  • The Tony

    That would make sense. Thanks

  • Mark

    There is a lot going on with this offense
    1. Poor play calls
    2. Poor execution
    3. Not enough changes from week to wee
    4. Everyone wants the OC in the press box except the OC (I think you see the game better and can call plays better)

  • Mark

    Correct, Ben has to throw a better ball toward the sideline, worst case is incomplete. Not towards the middle where your odds diminish

  • Steel Realist PAul

    It seems like we’re basically saying the same thing. I just think they’re trying to treat Bryant like a starting WR and getting him involved. He ‘should’ be able to do more than run under footballs that fall gently into only his arms, ya know?

    When Ben launches that, I believe he’s throwing it up for Bryant to go get. If Bryant can’t do that, it’s time to draft another burner lol!

  • WB Tarleton

    Thanks for this, Matthew.

    Missed opportunities. In other words, the opportunities are there. In other words, the OC, for the most part, is calling up plays that give the team the opportunity to be successful. He cannot catch the ball. He cannot throw it. He cannot block or prevent a snap at Ben’s feet.

    Now, I am not naive enough to believe that your piece will convinve those on the ship of fools blaming Haley for every missed catch and poor throw to get off. It should but will not. People get on such a ship very willingly and never want to get off even if it is sinking.

    And none of this is to say that Haley is anywhere near perfect. (No coordinator is.) But the guy has had top flight offenses in this league. This team has been successful with him. AZ was. That he played golf in college or yelled at a player or coach are all irrelevant. As is the fact that he is not Ben’s golf buddy like Arians.

  • WB Tarleton

    Great point.

    Last year, we ran a lot better without much use of a FB. We are even using a FB more this season and the yard per carry has gone down.

    Yet, not a peep from the ship of fools about Munchak or Saxon needing to be fired. Don’t get me wrong, they shouldn’t be fired. But if “coaching” is the problem, they carry AT LEAST as much responsibility as Haley.

  • WB Tarleton

    To be fair, I have not heard too much from the team about 30 points per game for a couple of years. It is the media and PO’d fans like us!

  • rystorm06

    Flacco had Anquan Boldin who is much better than Bryant at making those contested catches. That and for some reason Flacco always had PI calls go his way even if a pass was uncatchable

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    That was a badly thrown ball by Roethlisberger AGAIN which shouldn’t surprise you since he’s been doing it all year. Nobody argues Roethlisberger’s accuracy is on point this year. Deep balls need to be thrown in front of a WR, not jump balls necessarily. Jump balls are inefficient and risky. Well run passing games do not rely on jump balls and there’s no reason we need to be relying on jump balls when Roethlisberger can simply & accurately place the ball where it’s supposed to be. The burden is on the quarterback not the receiver. It’s the quarterback who has the ball in his hand to start the play. The receiver simply has to get to a spot. If you’ve ever played basketball and or watched a point guard you’d know what I’m talking about.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Per Jeremy Fowler ESPN:
    As Roethlisberger walked out of an empty locker room after his news conference, I asked if he’d keep taking deep shots to Bryant. The two have missed on most of them this year, including an interception on the game’s second play, in which Roethlisberger admits he threw too far inside.

    There you go. Out of Roethlisberger’s own mouth. He’s not accurate. So let’s call him Ben Heave & Hope Roethlisberger!!! Lol

  • Rob

    Leading the league in rushing though, after a 3 game slump to start.

    His “inefficiencies” are often him getting stopped behind the line more than he used to I think. Some of that is on him, but some blame also has to go to the O-line which hasn’t performed up to last years expectations at all.

  • CP72

    If you gave say Lamar Miller the same amount of carries Bell has how many yards do you think he would have?

  • Jon Hartman

    The Steelers are 7-11 scoring touchdowns in the red zone when Marcus Gilbert is at right tackle. They are 7-23 when he does not.

  • Rob

    Never really been into the hypotheticals. Especially without any kind of statistical context.

    I’m not defending his play. Just pointing out that his “bad” plays mostly seem to come from him getting dropped behind the line, and if that’s not an issue on the play, he seemingly has produced well.

    His productivity has largely been the reason why we’ve been able to win many of the games this season, even if the run game is less efficient.

  • heath miller

    amazing stat

  • heath miller

    well you sue as hell hear it from ben every year till about the 3rd game of the season.. than after siting at about a 19 ppg avg thats 30 point crap stops .. shouldnt ever start … i love ben but thats on him … been time to put up or STFU (as todd haleys says over and over) lol

  • Bill

    The pass to Bryant was a Hail Mary and I get it, it either works or it doesn’t. If you must blame someone, both Bryant and Ben share it. Receiver was well covered and the throw was short. On the Brown play I believe AB was looking the ball more to the inside where it should have been thrown because there was no defender there. As it was, I believe that ball was too far out of bounds to be caught (QB was hit). On the shovel pass, ball is nowhere near James. The Ju Ju one looks like bad route & bad throw.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Actually nobody on the Steelers has talked about the 30 points thing this year, and it was pretty much dead last year too. They know better. But they talked about it too much in the past for it to completely die when it comes to the ‘media’, and in this rare instance I include myself in that. And yes, they are one of just 5 teams not to hit 30 points this year and they’re the only team with even close to a winning record to fail to do so.

  • WB Tarleton

    Just to be clear, I was not criticizing you (the media) nor even the fans about the 30ppg talk. This team SHOULD be scoring that or close to it and criticizing the offense for lack of scoring is fair.

    I just wanted to point out that I have not heard talk from the Steelers about that goal. 🙂

  • Tom Lazaroff

    On the Leveon shoestring tackle, something seems wrong about the patterns. AB, McDonald and LB are all bunched in the exact same area. Can’t be the play design. Maybe McDonald is way late into his pattern? He’s really slowed down at the line – he gets hit by a rusher, then gets held up by the linebacker. He and AB are crossing – almost like a pick play. Maybe McDonald is the intended receiver, but it takes too long to develop and Ben dumps it off to Bell? Or AB is running too shallow of a route? Bell’s defender is looking for his jock after a nice fake by Bell. And he gets the separation you want. It’s actually AB’s man who makes the tackle. One of those three is mistimed or running the wrong route.

  • francesco

    Ben’s long throw to MB was thrown a second or two too early. MBhad no idea when Ben threw that ball.

  • francesco

    Ben talked about scoring 30 points in preseason.

  • mezzetin1

    Most likely.

  • John

    Having watched quite a bit, I am coming to the conclusion it is not Ben. He makes numerous throws and is clearly playing within the system. Our playmakers are not making plays and our line is not blocking all that well. Bell may be the most overrated runner in the league. He is good when the O-Line is blocking and his hesitation moves work. Otherwise he is slow, and gives us little burts off the edge or in any breakaway situation. He also is not the physical back Bettis was. It also really looks like there is a major coaching or personality problem on the team. You reporters should dig into this and find out. Someone knows.

  • Matthew Marczi

    Can you provide a source for that?

  • Aj Gentile

    The Colts baited Ben into throwing that ball. They knew if they moved the safety over to cover AB, and had one on one coverage on Bryant, Ben would throw the pass he did.

  • francesco

    July 26, 2015 to Ed Bouchette.

  • Matthew Marczi

    That is…two years ago. I thought you were talking about this year.

  • francesco

    When Ben stated that he reasoned that it was possible because of his OL.
    The OL is better this year than last year.

  • Matthew Marczi

    The OL was better last year, actually. But the point is that I said nobody has talked about scoring 30 points *this year*. I know they talked about it in 2015. Should this offense be capable of scoring 30 points? Yeah.