View Full Version : Connecting with RBs would benefit Roethlisberger

11-27-2009, 07:47 PM
Connecting with RBs would benefit Roethlisberger
By Jason Cole, Yahoo! Sports Nov 24, 4:17 pm EST

In the span of four possessions, Ben Roethlisberger(notes) combined a lesson of how to make his career survive long term with a painful reminder of why some people worry that he won’t last.

With 8:35 remaining in regulation on Sunday at Kansas City, Roethlisberger hit running back Rashard Mendenhall(notes) with an 8-yard touchdown pass to take a seven-point lead. It was a beautiful, tight throw into the teeth of the Chiefs defense. It was Mendenhall’s first career scoring reception and one of a career-high four passes he caught on the day.
Roethlisberger was laid out for awhile after being sacked in overtime.
(Charlie Riedel/AP Photo)

Those facts are significant because the overall success of Roethlisberger, and the Pittsburgh offense, is greatly impacted by plays like that one.

While Indianapolis Colts quarterback Peyton Manning(notes) has thrown eight touchdown passes to current running backs Joseph Addai(notes) and former Colt Dominic Rhodes(notes) during the past two seasons, Roethlisberger only has four to his three tailbacks (Mendenhall, Mewelde Moore(notes) and Willie Parker) in the same period. Ultimately, Roethlisberger would be wise to make more use of his running backs, who have combined to catch only 81 passes since the beginning of 2008 (the Colts trio has 115).

That’s because what happened about 11 minutes later in the Chiefs-Steelers game is an indictor of how things can go bad for Pittsburgh and Roethlisberger. It’s a big reason why Roethlisberger may never win a Most Valuable Player award he was in line for until two games ago. Most important, it’s a big reason why he might not have a long career.

Less than three minutes into overtime, Roethlisberger was sacked and knocked out of the game with a mild concussion. He didn’t return, the Steelers failed to score and Kansas City went on to win 27-24.

As Roethlisberger is wont to do, his sack came after he scrambled trying to extend the play and find a receiver downfield. This is the prototypical Roethlisberger play, which is a big reason why he is one of the best downfield throwers in the game.

However, the lesson Roethlisberger needs to learn is that throwing short isn’t always a bad idea. Moreover, sometimes there are just as many yards to get throwing underneath to a running back as there are throwing downfield to a wide receiver.

Really, truly.

For instance, when Roethlisberger had a season-worst 51.5 quarterback rating during a Week 10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, he missed at least four throws underneath to running backs. He was clearly forcing throws down the field, ultimately costing the Steelers a chance to move the ball more effectively.

“The Steelers are really unique in what they do because they are so vertical with their attack,” former St. Louis Rams head coach Mike Martz said this week. “[Roethlisberger] works so hard to create time, even if it means taking a hit, to get something going downfield.”

Again, that’s noble in some ways and, in another way, unwise to the point of counterproductive.

Mostly, Roethlisberger’s insistence on throwing deep has made him easy to read. Not easy to stop, mind you, but easier to game plan against.

“You can’t dispute the guy’s toughness,” a top team executive said of Roethlisberger this week. “I never thought he’d be a great passer, but he really is. He’s different, now. He wants to challenge you all the time. He’s looking for a big play. Not every time, but a lot. In the Cincinnati game, he wasn’t smart about it and forced too much action.”

As one NFL coach put it: “Punt the ball, go play defense, get the ball back, score the next time you get it. Not every play has to be a touchdown.”

Or, to put it in another perspective, some touchdowns can be thrown to people other than wide receivers. Roethlisberger can open the field with throws to running backs, forcing the defense to have to play inside out.

That was a favorite tactic of one of Roethlisberger’s heroes growing up, Dan Marino. Marino loved the idea of throwing to tight ends in the middle of the field. He loved throwing to running backs breaking downfield. He understood that those throws kept the defense honest.

And, ultimately, off of him.

11-28-2009, 12:35 AM
It makes sense to throw to your check downs and RB. We all knew Bens thing with wanting to make the big play will cost him someday. After all this time you think they would take a long look at taking what defenses give ya, after all we see all the other teams doing it.

11-28-2009, 12:59 AM
can't dispute any of that. sometimes i think he forgets he even has a rb in the flats. :doh: flacco certainly has no reserves dumping it to rice. i think he's involved in half of thier O plays.

Galax Steeler
11-28-2009, 06:33 AM
Good article, I have to agree with what it is saying why not dump it off to a running back. I think it could be effective and could turn into some big plays.

11-28-2009, 07:43 AM
I don't disagree at all with what the author is saying here. Grinding it down the field via screens and slants can be quite productive and wears a defense down. Ben just suffered his 4th concussion trying to make a big play on his own and if he suffers a 5th, unfortunately it may end a very promising career. :shake02:

11-28-2009, 08:12 AM
Now if we had Chris Johnson to throw to we would go 16-0.

Mendenhall's a good threat in everyway, need to use him much more.

Christian Snyder
11-28-2009, 08:28 AM
Have to agree..... Why don't we throw to the RB more? When Westbrook's healthy Mcnabb throws to him a lot, so what's wrong wrong with throwing to Mendenhall?:noidea:

11-28-2009, 10:09 AM
I also agree. I remember the last possession of the last Cincy game and was wandering why he was forcing the ball deep on pretty much every down, instead of trying to work the ball in the flats or even take a shot in the middle. There was definitely enough time to take some shots in areas of the field where the player might not be able to get out of bounds, but at least pick up big chunks of yardage. Hopefully Ben has learned and the coaches have learned and we can have a more balance passing attack, exploiting whatever the defense is willing to give instead of trying to force the big play when it doesn't exist.

11-28-2009, 01:07 PM
I thought that was a very well written article and agree with it completely. I realize that Ben loves to make the big play, but keeping a drive alive and avoiding concussions is a good thing too. IMO this is 1 area Ben should really focus on now. Listen we all know FWP is not a very reliable RB with good hands. We now have Mendenhall and he is the ultimate weapon in running the ball and is great at catching the ball as well.

Check downs to the RB and TE are a good thing!