Roethlisberger Explains Last Two Dubious Play Calls During Final Drive

With 1:08 left in the fourth quarter of the Sunday night game against the Baltimore Ravens, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger connected with wide receiver Antonio Brown with a deep pass down the right sideline for a gain 34 yards. At that point, the Steelers offense was just on the outer limits of field goal range and with 1:02 left on the clock it was probably assumed by many that three consecutive running plays would be called and executed in order to not only gain a few extra yards, but also perhaps force the Ravens to burn their two remaining timeouts. While the offense did run on first down, the next two plays were both passes and that probably left several fans and analysts scratching their collective heads in bewilderment.

After Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell gained two yards on his first down run, the Ravens used their next to last timeout with 56-seconds remaining in the game. However, instead of running again on second down, Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and threw a high-arching deep pass to tight end Xavier Grimble while off balance. Grimble was covered very closely by two Ravens defensive players on his vertical route and thankfully the pass from Roethlisberger dropped harmlessly incomplete before the deep safety could arrive in time to intercept it.

On third down and 8 from the Ravens 28-yard-line, Roethlisberger looked to pass again after getting the snap. This time, however, the quarterback had to escape a little pressure to his left and while ultimately being taken to the ground by a Ravens defensive player, he was able to get rid of the football to wide receiver Eli Rogers. The wobbly and off-target pass went off the outstretched hand of Rogers and thankfully hit the ground incomplete.

While Steelers kicker Chris Boswell did follow those two dubious play calls with 46-yard field goal to give Pittsburgh a 39-38 lead, there were still 42-seconds remaining in the fourth quarter when he kicked off and thus plenty of time for the Ravens offense to get 30 yards in order to give their great kicker Justin Tucker a chance to win the game with a long field goal. Thankfully, the Ravens offense wasn’t able to do that and the Steelers held on for the win.

After the game was over, Roethlisberger was asked to explain the reasoning behind the two passing play calls.

“The call came from the sideline and they brought kind of a heavy blitz on the first one,” Roethlisberger said. “[I] kind of threw it to a spot where I knew maybe there was a chance that our guy could get it, but it was kind of a safe spot to throw it to. You know, that’s kind of a tough call because we put a guy in position that hadn’t really been there throughout the week. And then the second one, really it’s about the same sort of thing. They brought the pressure and just don’t take the sack. You know, just try to get it out of my hands there at the end because four, five, six yards could be a killer there.”

Judging by Roethlisberger’s response, the quarterback sounds like he wasn’t too happy with that particular play call on second down and especially being as Grimble was the primary target and not fellow tight end Vance McDonald, who had to leave the game in the second half with a shoulder injury.

In short, and Monday morning hindsight aside, the Steelers should have called a straight-ahead running play on second down in an attempt to not only get Boswell a few yards closer, but also force the Ravens to burn their last timeout. Sure, the Ravens defense was stacked at the line of scrimmage, but even so, there needs to be faith that Bell at least won’t lose yardage on a run.

As for that third down passing play, it’s a good thing Roethlisberger wasn’t ultimately sacked. Had he went down at the Raven’s 34-yard-line, then Bozwell would have had to make his fourth down kick from 52-yards out.

In summation, and assuming offensive coordinator Todd Haley called both of those passing plays, shame on him. Thankfully, Boswell bailed him and the rest of the team out with his 46-yard field goal.

  • ryan72384

    Ben loves taking subtle shots at Haley. And they were awful playcalls by Haley so he deserves the criticism. As you all know I’m not a Haley fan in any way shape or form. But c’mon Ben. You lobbed a fair catch for anyone to grab that would have ended the game if it was picked. Terrible decision by Ben.

  • Ken

    All I know for sure is, there wasn’t a Steeler fan breathing for a good spell on that first throw that bounced off the moon and finally came down…. geez

  • Smitty 6788

    Haley is bailed out each week for the most part. His turtling last night put the Ravens back in the game.

  • Mutatedgenome

    Should have run twice. They got lucky.

  • Ichabod

    Foolishness…unless we have no faith at all in the OL. Maybe that’s why we pass on 1st and goal from the one

  • Darth Blount 47

    Perplexing. Mind-boggling. And after I went back and watched it again last night, I was actually even MORE scared the 2nd time — that somehow what I watched unfold the first time, was some sort of dreamy mirage and this time… that Neil O’Donnell-esque duck, was gonna get picked off like it should have. The 2nd one that just missed to Rogers/Bryant was just desperation and a bit off, no real harm, since Boswell has stones the size of Maryland. But that one to Grimble, my Lord that was horrific and vomit-inducing.

  • capehouse

    Shame on Todd Haley!

  • Michel Smiffi

    That’s a HC decision. He gives Haley the call for a medium/deep pass play, Haley calls the specific play.
    Tomlin screw that one.

  • DirtDawg1964

    That is not how it works. Haley calls the plays. Ben has the ability to audible. Tomlin does not participate in the calls throughout the game.

    Most HCs don’t tread into that territory. It’s not micro managed to that level.

  • Matt Manzo

    Glad I wasn’t the only one! Has anyone defended the two pass plays being called?

  • Sam Clonch

    Boz is the biz. He’d have gotten it from 52 all day! Hated the call as much as anyone, but Eli really WAS as wide open as could be on 3rd down.

  • charles

    Haley haters just pitiful, especially given D performance and special teams’ Bryant play. MB should get traded to Brownies or just shown scissors.

  • Mark

    Bogus, I saw Ben yelling at them to keep call plays to be aggressive and if he thought the pass wouldn’t work he has the ability to change to a run. I hate the way he throws Todd under the bus and acts as if he can’t audible. BOGUS Ben again!

  • Yes, it was totally crazy and irresponsible…despite the arguable truth that since the Ravens were likely going to sell out against the run, presumably someone would beat the coverage to either score or set Boswell up for a chip shot. On the other hand, a run on second down forces the Ravens to burn their last time out. A run on third down and we stop the clock with three or four seconds…just enough time for another ‘Boswell’ walk-off win.

    The thing is, all-out pressure forced two incompletions–we’re lucky they weren’t sacks–and left the Ravens with easily enough time to beat us, considering 1] our recent pass defense and 2] all they needed was 30 or 35 yards and 3] they had a time out to work with. That we subsequently won the game was wholly a matter of luck. I say this because 1] if Maclin doesn’t get injured they don’t burn their last time out, 2] if Maclin checked his position relative to the sideline before making the catch, Tucker kicks a game-winner from 51 yards and we’re crying in our beer. Dumb, by Haley, really dumb.

  • Mark

    Thank you, I dislike when people try to blame Tomlin for the decisions of his OC and $120 mln QB!

  • StolenUpVotes

    I was okay with the calls. They were geared to pack the line and a fg from that range isn’t a gimme in hinez field

  • pittfan

    I had time to yell 15 WTFs before that ball hit the ground. Woke the neighbors.,..

  • Brenton deed

    Some times you get so smart you outsmart yourselves.

  • pcantidote

    That first one was actually the Dilly Dilly play. It almost ended in the pit of misery.

  • Brenton deed

    Why not a sweep with DeCastro and Nix leading? I’d back Bell against any defense with those two leading.

  • Steeler Nation!

    I disagree. Haley may make every play call. But any and every HC has veto power if they wanna use it. Or to say, “run the ball”. Doesn’t mean he tells him what play, but play type.

  • PaeperCup

    The first one I almost broke my TV. Literally right before that snap I told my wife how good and mistake free of a game Ben was having. yeah my heart stopped.

    The second play, tough play to make, but Eli was open and would have been a good play. Too much pressure though.

    I don’t completely agree with those upset about clock management, wanting Tomlin to run the ball. FGs are not gimmes at Heinz field. I thought it was imperative that they give Boz a better opportunity. Good thing that guy is clutch

  • Ken Krampert

    Once again, we win despite poor situational football. If Haley did indeed make those ill advised play calls, then Tomlin is just as much at fault for not over ruling them. That was not the time to be overly aggressive. It smells of a Tomlin “gut” call.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I was more bothered by the play to Grimble. Had they scored a touchdown; a bigger lead but more time for the ravens to comeback for a core of their own. I just wanted a first down so they could eat clock and the Ravens remaining timouts so Boz could get with time expiring.

  • PaeperCup

    I’m with you there. The first down does so much more to seal that game. Gets in closer for an easier FG attempt, and also allows another 3 plays to run run run the clock down.

    With Tucker on the other team, I did not want to give them even 20 seconds, I thought a first down, and getting one via pass did make sense. That throw to Grimble was just YUCK

  • Dan

    I’d be singing a different tune now if we’d have lost, but with them stacking the line against the run, there’s a good chance we’d have been tackled at or behind the line of scrimmage. We had been having a successful day with the passing attack and it was reasonable to give it a shot to make it an easier FG or even a TD. Overall, I’d probably have chosen the plays that ensured the clock kept moving, but of all Tomlin’s clock management decisions, this doesn’t even make my top 50 worst decisions.

  • Ken Krampert

    I’m with you on this 100% Steeler Nation. Tomlin has overruled with “gut” calls many times. Maybe not specific plays, but run or pass for sure. He made the fake kick call in Seattle a few years ago. That was a real winner.

  • Zombie Nixon

    Haley is an idiot….

  • Steeler Nation!

    Oh crap I forgot about that one! But there are times I like the aggressiveness. Like last year vs Chiefs in playoffs. The pass to get the 1st down to ice the game. Doesn’t always work, but I like the mentality. Anyway, could’ve been Haley’s call, but MT could’ve nixed it.

  • Dshoff

    It’s easy to second guess those passes. I’m not a Haley fan, but that FG was no gimme from that distance. We would have screamed bloody murder at Haley if we ran three times for minus one yard and Boswell missed the FG. If we would have been on say, the 20 yard line, 3 runs would have been a no brainer.

  • Ken Krampert

    I like intelligent aggressiveness. That situation called for conservative all the way. Burn their timeout, run the clock down to like 12 seconds. Both Haley and Tomlin are at fault. Haley for the play calls and Tomlin for not over ruling them. Ben should not be placed in that situation of changing those bad calls. If he changes it and something goes wrong, it is his ass. Sound situational football warranted 2 runs up the middle. Any positive yards would have helped on top of the clock management.

  • MP34

    I saw the same thing, and I’m pretty sure Ben wasn’t yelling at them to “run the ball.” I agree, bogus!

  • Steeler Nation!

    I agree, but my guess is they wanted to set Bos up a little better for the game winner. Didn’t work out, and incomplete passes stopped the clock

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    An inch difference and Eli gets that first down. I’m just glad we won.

  • Keshav Gupta

    I wonder if Steelers coaches thought that Ravens had three timeouts left. Those were the dumbest plays I have seen Steelers coaches call. Fortunately for them T.J. Watt bailed them out. If Baltimore had won Steelers coaches would have lot of explaining to do.

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Sweeps run too big of a risk for a big loss as well. Of course you could be joking after seeing Bell get tackled on the 2 pt. conversion attempt with Nix and DeCastro both missing their blocks completely!

  • Hypo Cycloid

    Terrible calls. Passing has many risks in that situation. 1 – Risk of sack and losing big yards when we need the field goal. 2 – Risk of interception and game over. 3 – Risk of incompletion and clock stoppage giving the Ravens time and/or T/O.
    Running has little risk in that situation. Risk of fumble is about the same as during a pass play where the qb or the receiver can fumble as well. Running even against a defense stacked against it still has good probability of gaining some yardage. At least they would lose the last T/O. You have to kick the field goal any way and you have one of the best in the Boz. It is not like they have a crappy kicker back there where I could maybe see the risk in passing the ball in that situation.

  • steelmann58

    I agree should have just ran the ball there and Ben was good enough to get away on that 3rd down. But to our official 4 th B came through

  • Rob S.

    I don’t I think it was a bad thing to throw the ball in that situation. The specific play calls maybe could have been better but do you really want to rely on a 45+-yard field goal if you have the chance to make it 35 or even inside of 30? While Boswell has been fantastic in this recent stretch and most of this year let’s not forget that Heinz Field isn’t exactly an easy place to kick and 45 yarder is no sure thing.

  • SeventhHeavan

    Haley is an idiot.

  • Chris

    Didn’t mind those aggressive passing calls late. Just wish they had a better 2nd down play call.

  • LucasY59

    they did that on the 2 pt conversion and it didnt work…both the guys you mentioned missed their blocks and instead of a FG to win or lose the game it wouldve only been a game to keep it from OT (a little less pressure, but luckily Bos is clutch)

  • J.

    Obvious the coaching staff didnt learn from the falcons super bowl failure. Run run kick

  • Steve

    McDonald is hurt every week. The guy cannot stay healthy. Its a shame, he was having a nice night.

  • Brenton deed

    Don’t confuse me with FACTS!!!! I have my beliefs you know!!!

  • mrallnite111 .

    STOP BLAMING HALEY FOR THE ASININE PLAY OF BEN !!!! its not the first time he left mouths ajar, in fact there are a plethora of plays through out Haley reign as O.C, that can be filed under “I” for Imbecilic.

    ( And For The Record )
    None of it began with the HIRING of TODD HALEY ; It started with the FIRING BRUCE ARIANS

  • Paul Rainey

    I agree 100 percent. Ben not changing play and Tomlin giving approval(even if it was through silence) are the real culprits. Haters going to hate.

  • Randy

    Answer would have been standard is standard

  • Japgolf

    Get Dupree and Sensabaugh out of the game! Spence ,Watt , Williams and Deebo are the lbs period! Dupree could not make a patch on Deebo’s a__.

  • Japgolf

    On the blopper to Grimble Brown is in single up the left sideline watch it ! Good plays are Ben calls bad plays are Haley the last time I checked Ben can audible out of plays anytime. Haley does not pick who to throw to or when to throw it.

  • Princess Pat

    This is extremely frustrating to see week in and week out. Todd Haley gets cute all the time thinking he’s going to trick and out smart the defense. Just do what you’re supposed Todd.

  • George Kroger

    Kick should have been the last play of the game. That 2nd and 10 from the 39 was almost disastrous – Maclin couldn’t keep both feet in or the ravens would have been in field goal range.