The Pittsburgh Steelers’ future Hall of Fame quarterback Ben Roethlisberger released Episode 13 of his Footbahlin with Ben Roethlisberger podcast on Monday night and shared his thoughts on the team’s Week 11 game. The Steelers fell to the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday 37-30 at Acrisure Stadium under the gaze of the former Steelers quarterback’s family birthday celebration for their oldest son, Benjamin Roethlisberger. The black and gold played their best offensive half of the season and carried a 20-17 lead into the locker room at halftime after Matthew Wright nailed a field goal just before the half to put them ahead.
“I thought they started out really well. Kenny (Pickett) looked good, and Naj (ee Harris) ran hard,” Roethlisberger began. “The first half looked really, really good. You go in at halftime with a lead. We always talk about that double score, I know Charlie (Batch) talked about it. Even if it is three and three you’ll take those points. It’s almost free points. They come out in the second half, three and out.”
The NFL coin toss strategy has evolved over the last two decades. The 20th-century standard was to take the ball if you won the toss at the beginning of the game and anything different was an outlier usually related to wind conditions. Teams prefer to defer now so they can hopefully capitalize with a score before the half and immediately after to change the complexion of individual games. When it is done correctly it builds significant momentum.
“I thought the second half, the third down conversion rate went way down,” Roethlisberger continued. “Maybe it is defense figuring it out. T.J. Watt makes that play (interception) and then you don’t do anything with it. That is demoralizing for a defense.”
Roethlisberger was blessed with some of the best Pittsburgh defenses since the original Steel Curtain from the 1970s. Unlike the second-year quarterback from the New York Jets, Roethlisberger was always quick to take the blame at post-game press conferences and apologize for losing games even when it was not necessarily his play that had lost the game. Kenny Pickett learned an important lesson yesterday about letting teammates down when you have first and ten on the opponent’s twenty-yard line and will learn from it.
“I thought Kenny played a good game, I really do,” Roethlisberger sighed. “He did some really good things, he did miss a guy up the seam for a touchdown, but that is going to happen. I feel like there were some maybe ill-timed plays. We got behind the sticks, whether it was execution or play calls, to not be in there, I hate to comment on something without knowing it. Some of the stuff was like (grunts), I don’t know it lacked something in the second half.”
Steelers Underperforming Second-Year Offensive Coordinator Matt Canada Hints That No QBs Can Audible In His Offense
Roethlisberger had a multitude of curious play calls to choose from, but the ill-timed flea flicker after the Steelers had picked up a first down inside the Bengals 40 trailing 27-23, was the straw that broke the Steelers’ back yesterday. It is worth wondering if that play was called with Roethlisberger on the field and if he called a timeout to get out of the play. After Matt Canada hinted last week that his quarterbacks have checks and not audibles, it would be interesting to see if the veteran savvy of a long-time starter would have recognized the flea flicker was a needless risk, because Mike Tomlin could not.
“The offense was on the sideline so much, they were losing their rhythm,” Roethlisberger said. “When you are going three and out, George Pickens has proven that he can make plays down the field. If you see him one on one or single high safety, let it go. Make it happen.”
Pickett took significantly more shots down the field in the first half against the Bengals and the Steelers’ offense moved like clockwork up and down the field. The Bengals often had Eli Apple lined up on George Pickens and you could see the quarterback chops on Roethlisberger watering at the idea of exploiting that matchup until they were forced to switch the coverage. He was not so subtly hinting that going away from Pickens in the third quarter was a mistake. Roethlisberger did not forget his favorite target in the last two seasons either.
“Maybe I’m biased but I think they need to get Diontae involved more,” Roethlisberger concluded. “He’s a special football player, he can make things happen you gotta get him involved. I’d like to get Pat (Freiermuth) more involved and Diontae more involved in the passing game. I don’t mean that in a jet sweep kind of way. I don’t like getting those guys involved in the jet sweep. Get the ball down the field.”
Diontae Johnson has been an enigma for the Steelers, they awarded him an extension before the season began. He dropped some key passes and started a locker room altercation with Mitch Trubisky that got the veteran signal-caller benched. Johnson has also ceded his position as the primary option for Pickett since he took the field. Pittsburgh has to find a way to get him the ball. Pickens is blossoming but Johnson is still the best playmaker on the team and handing him a ball on a jet sweep in the second quarter in short yardage is not clever play calling.
The most significant change in the Steelers’ offense since Canada arrived was the jet sweep. It has been at best misleading about certain players’ abilities (Chase Claypool) and at worst, like it was on Sunday, an easy way for the Steelers offense to face second and long. The Steelers have run the jet sweep so often that teams expect the play, and it rarely works at this point. Roethlisberger is obviously not a fan of the play and may have checked into RPOs and quick passes to avoid it during his tenure with Canada.
Roethlisberger goes out of his way on his podcast with Spencer T’eo to be positive about the black and gold. He has attended most home games and it looks like he is growing increasingly frustrated with the direction of the team without him on the field to steady the helm in rough seas. It is also apparent that he believes Pickett is a good quarterback with a bright future.
Roethlisberger has been emphatic that no amount of money could get him into the facility to coach, but his long-time backup Charlie Batch is in the building often and a Pittsburgh native. Based on his recent appearance on the podcast, Batch is one of the most respected players of his era and has an eidetic football memory. The Steelers have employed former players to mixed results as coaches in the past but based on the Roethlisberger endorsement, Pickett could benefit from extended study with Batch.
What do you think Steeler Nation? Are you surprised Ben Roethlisberger called out Matt Canada’s bizarre playcalling? Comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq.