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Old 10-02-2006, 11:38 AM   #1
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Default Steelers receivers in drop zone

By Ed Bouchette, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The Steelers have a Juggs machine they use to spit out footballs to their receivers in practice. In games, however, those receivers act as if passes were thrown by Juggles machines.

Through three games, Steelers receivers have dropped at least eight passes and caught 50. Many of the drops came on third downs and could have kept drives moving.

The most glaring examples occurred in the fourth quarter Sept. 24 against Cincinnati. Cedrick Wilson dropped a pass on third-and-5, and then Nate Washington dropped two -- one on third-and-6, the other in the end zone.

The previous week in Jacksonville, Steelers receivers reversed that style, dropping them early and often. Wilson dropped a pass on third-and-5 and Hines Ward dropped one on third-and-8, each killing a first-quarter drive that could have put the Steelers on top early in a game they lost, 9-0. Verron Haynes also dropped a pass in the second quarter.

Washington, who dropped the first pass thrown to him on the first series of the season against Miami, leads the unofficial list with three drops. Wilson and Haynes have two apiece.

"We have had some critical drops on third downs," coach Bill Cowher said.

Every team has dropped receptions and most every receiver will miss a pass now and then. Good teams overcome them. The Seahawks notoriously are the worst in the league dropping passes and they reached the Super Bowl last season.

But drops can lose close games, too. The six drops in the Steelers' past two games are to blame as much as anything for their two losses and seem abnormally high for them.

"Yeah, it is because the standards are high around here," Ward said. "We're just dropping balls in key situations and it's getting scrutinized. I mean, Nate had two opportunities [against Cincinnati] and he dropped them, and everyone thinks Nate can't catch now. That's not the case. It's just a lack of concentration and whatnot."

Dropped passes are more glaring by the Steelers because they don't throw as often as most teams, having run the ball in each of the past two seasons more than anyone.

"Like I tell the receivers, in this offense you don't get that many opportunities, so you do have to capitalize when you do," Ward said. "Yes, I'm getting double covered at times but when I do get the opportunity I have to capitalize. I can't have any balls tip off my hands, I got to make every catch every time I get an opportunity."

The Steelers' passing game is out of sync, and not just because of the drops. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been more inaccurate than ever, and the team has been unable to connect on deep passes. The Steelers have only three completions longer than 25 yards, two of them in the opener for 27 yards from Charlie Batch to Washington and 87 yards from Batch to Heath Miller. Roethlisberger completed a 36-yard pass to Wilson against the Bengals.

"Defenses have done a pretty good job of game-planning us and trying to take away everything over the top and give away things underneath, making us be patient," Wilson said. "They've taken away a lot of deep passes. Most of the time, we're trying to get 15 yards a catch and they're forcing us to check it down."

They've checked so far down that halfback Haynes leads the team with 10 receptions, for only 59 yards. That's one fewer than he caught last season. Just one wide receiver is among their top four in receptions, Ward with nine. Last season, three wide receivers were among their four most productive pass catchers.

"We've been in a couple of two-minute situations also, so the running back gets a lot of action in those," Wilson said. "Going through the course of a game, I don't know that Verron would have as many catches."

Last season, wide receivers accounted for 61 percent of the Steelers' receptions and 69 percent of the yards receiving. Through three games, they have just 48 percent of the receptions and 55 percent of the yards. The average per catch by Steelers wide receivers is down from 15.4 yards last season to 12.8 early in this one (the team as a whole averaged 13.6 last season and 11.2 yards this season).

"We're just being too inconsistent," Ward said. "We're making plays. Cedrick had a huge play to start the game last week and then he had a drop. Right now we're just playing too inconsistent. That's all of us, myself included. We have to go out and continue to make plays and work hard and make sure week in and week out that we try to help this team win ballgames."
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Old 10-02-2006, 11:41 AM   #2
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Default Re: Steelers receivers in drop zone

This article is already posted in another thread, LLT. Just a heads-up!

http://forums.steelersfever.com/showthread.php?t=11151
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Old 10-02-2006, 02:19 PM   #3
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Default Re: Steelers receivers in drop zone

i think it is because these guys havnt handled pressure before, nate has never really played and cedric is trying to take the load off ward while he nurses his health up.
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