The Steelers offense has an everything problem. Nothing seems to be working and nothing seems to be getting better. From the offensive line to the dropped passes, the Steelers’ offense is a mess of epic proportions. The unit that was once scoring nearly thirty points per game is scraping to get even two touchdowns. The one constant has seemingly been the man commanding the offense, Ben Roethlisberger. For most of the season, he has played pretty well. However, over the past few weeks, some of his limitations have started to rear their ugly head. There seems to be a disconnect between Roethlisberger and the offense as a whole right now with its multitude of problems. He is far from the main problem, but there is no doubt Roethlisberger is piece of why this offense is currently struggling.
The question with Roethlisberger right now is what happened to cause the dip in his play? Adjustments in general by defenses have made his life harder, but that is not the root cause of what is happening here. Roethlisberger’s balls have less life, are more inaccurate, and he seems to be making hastier, more dangerous decisions. His fourth quarter interception that helped seal the Bills’ win is a phenomenal example of what is going on with him right now.
The Steelers had Roethlisberger listed on the injury report with a left knee injury prior to the game against Washington. He was even questionable for the game. Now, with reports swirling that the organization is worried about that knee, it is showing up clearly on film. His deep ball has been bad all year, but it was always more of an accuracy thing, not an arm strength thing. He has been overthrowing them, not drastically underthrowing them. It all starts with the weight transfer on this. Roethlisberger is refusing to step into his throws and direct the power from his plant through his drive leg, and as a result, there is no power being transferred up through his body to his arm. In fact, he throws this ball completely flat-footed. There is no power base with that. This throw is all arm, and while Roethlisberger still has the arm needed to push the ball, he does not have the howlitzer he once had. These problematic lower body mechanics are an issue at all three levels of the field, not just the deep ball.
Even still, the mechanics are not the only problem with this play. Roethlisberger is just not seeing the field well, either. The Bills come out in blatant single-high coverage. Sounds like a great time to take the shot down the sideline to Washington. In the past, Roethlisberger takes this shot right from the snap and just goes with it. However, he is late to see Washington break open and as such has to launch the ball over 50 yards down the field. With a limited base given his lower body mechanics, Roethlisberger needs to be firing these balls earlier and try to hit his receivers 25 or 30 yards down the field. The mental game has to overcome the physical deficiencies.
The thing with Roethlisberger is that he almost seems hesitant to take some shots, particularly in the middle of the field. It is a puzzling development for him, and when he does take them, it almost always ends well. Given his post-game press conference, the tone of it revealed a possible lack of confidence. Either way, on this heave and pray to Washington, Roethlisberger misses a wide open JuJu Smith-Schuster up the seam. Given the Bills are playing in Cover 3, Roethlisberger has to read that post-snap and fire it into there to Smith-Schuster. Whether his issue is a lack of confidence or this is just a blown read, Roethlisberger has to be better here.
The mental game and physical limitations are two things that are going together right now. Roethlisberger has a seemingly hard time of looking off of his first read in the quick passing game. There is no extending the play or even letting it develop to look for a second or third option. It is going to get fired out regardless, even if the receiver is not open. His pre-half pick six is a great example. This route is just not open and can not be thrown in any situation. Yes, Roethlisberger yet again does not drive anything through his lower body and instead lobs a pass with his arm, but it is a bad decision outright. Roethlisberger wants to get the ball out quickly, that much is clear. There is not a lot of willingness to push the ball down field.
The good news is that Roethlisberger’s arm is not dead. That has been theorized by some, and while it has diminished from what it once was, Roethlisberger still has some zip in his arm when he can engage the kinetic chain together. This is one of his best mechanically sound plays of the night. Roethlisberger steps into the throw and completes the weight transfer while snapping his core to push the ball and put some sauce behind it. It ends in a big time touchdown to Washington. In the future, these are more of the throws Roethlisberger has to trust and put his arm into.
Roethlisberger’s recent struggles only compound onto the list of issues this offense. Naturally, if he is dealing with an injury, a great way to open up the offense would be a competent running game, but they have none of that. It is forcing Roethlisberger to throw fifty times a game, which he can just not do at a high-level consistently. A large part of the problem is schematic, too. Still, however, Roethlisberger needs to see the field better and take those shots down the middle of the field when presented. If the Steelers are to get this offense back on track, it will be through Roethlisberger’s improved play.