It was third down and six from the Steelers own 42 yard line. All the momentum had shifted into their favor. A game primary dominated by the Bears had turned after two key turnovers. There was 3:50 left on the clock and the Steelers could see the light at the end of the tunnel. Get into field goal range and let Chris Boswell get you out of the stadium.
Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass and attempted to force one deep to Antonio Brown. The pass fell incomplete, and the Steelers were forced to punt. Roethlisberger had underneath receivers, but he never looked, never thought about them. He was going for the home run to Brown.
Chicks dig the long uhh..pass? Right? Possibly, but fans dig first downs when the game is on the line. Roethlisberger knows he has been focusing on Brown too much.
“Sometimes I find myself almost zoning in on AB too much because we’ve got such a great relationship and he’s so good,” Roethlisberger said. “I need to take what the defense gives us. Sometime those guys might be open, [and] I kind of quickly go to AB. I need to reel myself back in and just take what the defense gives us, give us the best play possible. Not just the best guy possible.”
The best play possible would’ve been to dump it off for the first down with the game on the line. Not try to force it into the endzone from 60-yards out when a field goal can win you the game.
This wasn’t an isolated issue either. Roethlisberger forced the ball down the field several times. He had incompletions of 16, 17, 18, 22, 22, 42, 43, 45, 45, and 46 yards. He finished the game 22/39 for only 235 yards. Brown had ten of the 22 completions. In comparison Bears QB Mike Glennon only completed 3 passes over 5 yards. Surely that reflects more on the poor rush defense of the Steelers than anything, but it’s telling nonetheless.
“I feel like we lost the game because of me, because I didn’t play well enough,” Roethlisberger said. “It’s not on anyone else. That’s how I felt, that’s what you have to do. You have to own it, and I will own it, because if I play better in that game, then I feel we win that game. And if I play better in the first two weeks, then we’re going to score our points and we’re going to have a more productive offense. We won’t have to answer questions about why our offense isn’t where it is.”
Roethlisberger of course isn’t the only problem. The offensive line hasn’t been their normal tone setting unit. Alejandro Villanueva was sick and not in form against the Vikings. Marcus Gilbert was injured and missed Sunday’s game. Then there is the rest of the skill players who haven’t exactly lived up to the bill yet. Eli Rogers has seen his playing time deminish to only 21 plays last week. No one has seen Jesse James since his two touchdowns against the Browns. Martavis Bryant was targeted 8 times and was only able to pull in two receptions against the Bears after having a huge game against Minnesota. JuJu Smith-Schuster played the second most snaps of all the wide receivers and only had two receptions for 39 yards.
I won’t even get into the fact that they have only converted on two third downs of over 7 yards. (HINT it’s cause they throw it 50 yards down field instead of taking what the defense gives them.)
That isn’t enough from anyone. Whether its the future hall of fame quarterback or the rookie wide receiver. Things need to pick up in a hurry because six touchdowns in three games isn’t nearly enough.