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Mike Tomlin to Steelers Wide Receivers: Catch the Ball or Get Replaced

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The Steelers have dropped a lot of passes over the last two games. Depending on how you count, at least a dozen, and nearly all of Pittsburgh’s target receivers have seen at least one pass carom off their hands and into the turf.

It’s been a big problem, as the Steelers’ offense, which had become accustomed to moving the ball down field with a plethora of short, quick passes has been stymied in part by adjustments made by opposing defenses, but also because its receivers have not executed the scheme at a high level.

What can be done about it?

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said he can help by being a little bit more precise with his passes. Wide receiver James Washington said he felt that the receivers needed to focus a little bit more on securing the catch before they worry about what they’re going to do with the ball.

Head coach Mike Tomlin doesn’t seem to care for the reasons why his team’s offense has suddenly turned into a blooper reel. He just wants it to stop, and he sent a strong message to his receivers during his press conference on Tuesday: Catch the ball or someone else will.

“They can catch the ball or they can get replaced by those who will catch it,” Tomlin said. “It’s just as simple as that. As I have often said, I expect guys to make routine plays routinely. When there is a pattern of that not happening, then we have to look at who we are throwing the ball to.”

Tomlin also set aside the idea of extra practice time for fundamentals or lining his receivers up at the Juggs machine to make a point.

“The coaching of catching the football for those who are employed to do it at this level is not something that I have a lot of patience for,” he said. “Those guys’ job is to catch the football, particularly routine ones.”

The Steelers have 33 drops this season to lead the NFL, according to Pro Football Reference, and their 6.8% drop rate is tied with the Detroit Lions for the worst in the league.

Pittsburgh’s worst offender on a percentage basis among players with more than 10 targets this season has been running back James Conner (10%), but Conner was absent for each of the last two games as the drops became a significant issue.

Wide receiver Diontae Johnson is second with a 9.4% drop rate and first on the team with 10 overall drops. Tight end Eric Ebron is right behind Johnson with seven drops on 9% of his targets. Those two players are also first and tied for third on the team in targets, something that Tomlin threatened might change.

“Where there’s a pattern, you should expect to see to see less opportunities,” he said. “That is just fair, that’s just part of this business and what this game is about.”

Steelers

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Steelers Announce Donation to Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation

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The Pittsburgh Steelers and wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster have announced a $10,000 donation to the Ryan Shazier Fund for Spinal Rehabilitation, the latest installment in their Social Justice Grant program.

Smith-Schuster donated $5,000, a contribution which the Steelers organization matched.

Shazier’s trials and tribulations are well-documented, having suffered a career-ending spinal cord injury in a game against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2017.

The former Pro Bowler inspired millions throughout his recovery journey, and has turned his misfortune into an opportunity to help others, starting his foundation in November.

“My foundation is about people dealing with spinal cord issues. I dealt with the issue myself. I understand how much support and care you need for those with spinal cord issues,” Shazier told Steelers.com. “Sometimes people don’t get the right amount of care or support or rehab they need. I started this to give them more support, the caregivers more support and help them get more rehab. You always have to do some kind of rehab when injured. For spinal cord, usually you only get 30 sessions of rehab. That’s like trying to teach your kid to walk again in 30 sessions. That is almost impossible.”

For Shazier, it is extra special to have a former Steeler teammate in Smith-Schuster and the organization supporting his cause.

“I am truly thankful for this,” Shazier told Steelers.com. “It means a lot. It lets you know the relationships you built while playing with guys, guys who are from different backgrounds and different parts of the world, really mean something. You have relationships that go beyond football.”

“This doesn’t just mean a lot to mean personally, though. It means a lot because it’s going to help so many people who are going through the same thing I have gone through. JuJu has firsthand experience seeing what I have gone through when we played together. It’s amazing to have someone like that, someone who was a teammate not just support me, but support others.”

Selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft out of Ohio State, Shazier was selected to two Pro Bowls over his four-year career, tallying 299 combined tackles, 24 tackles-for-loss, seven sacks, seven forced fumbles and seven interceptions.

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Report: Steelers Interview Former Packers OL Coach James Campen

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The Pittsburgh Steelers are reportedly interviewing veteran offensive line coach James Campen for their vacancy at the same position, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Gerry Dulac.

Campen is most known for his tenure with the Green Bay Packers, where he served as the club’s offensive line coach from 2007 to 2018. He additionally served as Green Bay’s run game coordinator in 2018, and won Super Bowl XLV over the Steelers in 2012.

He was also the associate head coach and offensive line coach under Freddie Kitchens with the Cleveland Browns in 2019.

Campen was most recently the offensive line coach for the Los Angeles Chargers last season under former head coach Anthony Lynn, but was not retain when Lynn was fired.

The Steelers are looking to fill the vacancy left by former offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett, who, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed following the 2020 season.

Pittsburgh officially announced the promotion of quarterbacks coach Matt Canada to offensive coordinator on Monday, even though reports indicated head coach Mike Tomlin wanted to first hire the team’s next offensive line coach.

Campen is just the second reported candidate the Steelers have interviewed for the opening. They also reportedly spoke to Detroit offensive line coach Hank Fraley, who has since been retained by new Lions head coach Dan Campbell.

The Steelers’ next offensive line coach will have their hands full from the jump, as they will be tasked with righting an aging unit that produced the league’s worst rushing attack in 2020.

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Report: Former Steelers OL Coach Shaun Sarrett Joining LA Chargers

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett is reportedly joining the Los Angeles Chargers as their assistant offensive line coach, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Sarrett, along with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner and defensive backs coach Tom Bradley, did not have his contract renewed by Pittsburgh following the 2020 season.

Lackluster play along the offensive line was one of the Steelers’ greatest obstacles in 2020, as the team finished with the league’s worst rushing offense averaging an abysmal 3.6 yards per carry.

Pittsburgh did protect quarterback Ben Roethlisberger well, but he rarely faced pressure with the Steelers’ quick-strike passing game, likely by design given the offensive line’s limitations.

Sarrett spent the last nine season in Pittsburgh, taking over for his mentor Mike Munchak as offensive line coach in 2019. Prior, he had served as an offensive assistant (2012-17) and assistant offensive line coach (2018).

The Steelers have reportedly interviewed a pair of candidates to replace Sarrett thus far, most recently speaking with former long-time Green Bay Packers offensive line coach James Campen on Wednesday.

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