CLEVELAND — The Steelers did not have a kicker to play with in the second half, and so they had to go for touchdowns and two-point conversions only. It all culminated in a fantastic touchdown catch by Pat Freiermuth from Ben Roethlisberger on a fourth and goal. Not only did it give the Steelers the lead, but it rekindled a connection between Roethlisberger and Freiermuth in the red zone that has been strikingly absent throughout the regular season.
The Steelers got man coverage across the board. Chase Claypool ran a pivot route. It seems that he was the first read given Roethlisberger’s pump fake. Freiermuth running the slot fade was likely the second progression on the play given he was on a safety and they wanted to just trust him. Diontae Johnson on the backside of the play is running a short corner route.
Unless Roethlisberger saw something egregious on that play, he was always going to work through the frontside of this concept. His two big receivers were in man-to-man with opportunities to make a play. The Steelers kept Zach Gentry and Najee Harris in the backfield to help with protection as well as the Browns sending the house at Roethlisberger. As Roethlisberger discussed, however, this play was drawn up in the dirt on the sideline before the play.
“Yeah, we talked about that on the sideline literally before that play,” Roethlisberger said. “It was kind of a built play right there. Talking to Coach Canada and Sully [Mike Sullivan] and [Josh] Dobbs, we were actually trying to get Chase [Claypool] the ball just because of a look we thought we were going to get.
“Kind of last minute, Pat was like, ‘What do you want me to do?’ I said to run what he ran. The guy covered Chase pretty well, and the guy had his back to Pat. We always say, ‘If a defender’s back is to the quarterback, then we have to win.’ I just tried to give him a chance, and Pat proves again that he can be reliable.”
It is interesting that the play was essentially drawn up in the dirt by Roethlisberger and the offensive coaching staff. Especially in that critical moment of the game, the Steelers had to have seen something that made them believe Claypool would be open on the pivot route. It would make sense as the Browns cornerbacks were playing lots of outside leverage, and they thought they could get them to bite inside on it. However, the Browns did not fall for that trap. As for Freiermuth, he detailed the catch in glee, as he feels he overcame an obstacle.
“Yeah, he told me before the play what to run,” Freiermuth said. “It was kind of weird with the leverage the defender was playing, but knew I had to get outside, looked back at the pylon, saw the ball in there, and made a play.
“(Getting both feet in bounds) was my issue in camp and one preseason game was not getting my foot in. I’m used to college with the one foot in, and I’ve been working on that after practice, so I’m happy that paid off for me.”
Freiermuth’s catch took not only great hand-eye coordination but impeccable body control as well. When tight ends can catch anything they want, hands and timing are the first elements of it. However, the ability to go up, contort their body, and then make great catches in short areas is also an underrated trait. Freiermuth absolutely excels in that area. On the other side, Myles Garrett also gave his thoughts on the catch.
“It was a hell of a play,” Garrett said. “I did not think that was a catch when I first saw it, but at another, I saw him get the foot down. It is hard to beat that. Hell of a throw and hell of a catch. You just have to be able to get back out there and keep on going to try and win the game.”