PITTSBURGH — Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp is one of the most prolific pass catchers in the entire NFL.
You probably wouldn’t know that if the first time you saw him play was in Sunday’s 17-12 Rams loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Cupp was targeted four times by Rams quarterback Jared Goff and didn’t make a single catch as the Steelers secondary plastered him with two and three defenders all afternoon.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that taking away Cupp was a big part of the Steelers’ game plan coming in.
“We doubled him a lot,” Tomlin said. “He is the number on receiver in the NFL on third down. All our third-down discussions started there. Minimizing his ability to impact the game in the way and then working out from there.”
Goff was able to spread the ball around to some of this other targets, with tight end Gerald Everett the largest recipient. He caught eight catches for 68 yards. Outside receiver Robert Woods was also productive, with seven catches for 95 yards, but on the whole, the Los Angeles passing attack was held in check when they needed completions.
“They did a lot of things,” Goff said. “They doubled him at times. They didn’t double him at times and just played really good coverage. They did a lot of things. I think their pass rush did a great job.” The Steelers sacked Goff four times, hurried him another four and batted two more passes down at the line of scrimmage.
“Whenever we can pin our ears back and trust the back end guys to have tight coverage and make plays, it lets us pin our ears back and make plays up front,” outside linebacker T.J. Watt said. “It doesn’t matter which guy is doing it.”
The Steelers have shown a solid pass rush all season. The ability to completely take away another team’s star receiver at the same time seems like a significant point of growth for Tomlin’s defense.
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/25/20
It was all about wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster’s return and the Watt brothers at the final practice before the Steelers week 3 game against Houston.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Highlights from Steelers Practice 9/24/20
While it’s odd to see referees standing out in a clip of highlights, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin’s plan to incorporate actual refs into practice this week happened on Thursday.
Tomlin explained he is adding refs to practice to ensure his team is more disciplined, which hopefully leads to less penalties in their game this week compared to last week.
Wide receivers James Washington, Diontae Johnson and tight end Eric Ebron run routes and catch passes in this clip.
Footage courtesy Pittsburgh Steelers
Ben Roethlisberger Says Form, Mechanics Can Be Better Despite Hot Start
To hear Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger tell it, he can better than what he’s shown on the field in his first two weeks since returning from elbow surgery.
He’s not happy with his footwork, he thinks he’s dropping his arm a bit and needs a more consistent release point.
The statistics, however tell another story. They say Roethlisberger has been operating at a higher level of precision than ever before. So which is it? Maybe both.
“I do feel I got a little lazy with my feet, which then, in turn, translated to a lazy arm,” Roethlisberger said. “There were some throws that I kind of dropped my elbow, if you will. I don’t want to get too technical, but it became more of a three-quarter release instead of an over the top when I didn’t need to. There are obviously times you have to change your release point. There were too many throws, I felt looking back, that I just have to get my feet working better, and that will then translate, hopefully, to the rest of the body. Then, I won’t be guiding some of the throws.”
Here’s an example from the game Roethlisberger’s form getting a little sloppy. He throws this ball flat-footed and almost all with his right side, getting less power behind it than usual and resulting in a pass that ends up behind JuJu Smith-Shuster instead of allowing him to build a head of steam toward the defenders at the line of scrimmage.
Is this a big deal here? Not really. Smith-Schuster probably couldn’t have done much better than he did at bulling over the defender, anyway. But this is also a route into the flat on the near side of the field. Over longer distances, that can make a big difference.
“I’ve gotten away with it in the past being able to not necessarily be perfect from the ground up and just letting my arm kind of make up for a lot of things, a lot of imperfections if you talk to quarterback people,” Roethlisberger said. “I feel great. I just need to get it in my mind that I can still make the throws when I’m not in the perfect position to make them.”
All of that can be true, and yet, it’s hard to argue with the results. Through two games, Roethlisberger has a 68.5 completion percentage. His career season high was 68% in 2015. In a game and a half last year, it was 56.5%.
His passer rating, even with an interception against the Broncos, is 107.1. His career season-long high came in 2o07, when he finished with a 104.1 mark. Last season before his injury, it was 66.
Some of that can be explained by a passing scheme that has take fewer deep shots down the field than it has in years past. His yards per pass attempt sits at 7.4, lower than all but four of his other 16 seasons.
Mechanical inconsistency can certainly have a greater impact on longer throws, so the Steelers’ somewhat more methodical offensive approach could be helping Roethlisberger get into the swing of things.
“Maybe some of that just comes from not playing a lot of football,” he posited. “I played two games this year. I played a game and a half last year, so really, it’s about three and a half games in two years if you think about it. It’ll come. Like I said, if I’m having these issues and we are still winning football games, that’s a plus.”
If a 2-0 record with career highs in passer rating and completion percentage is what he looks like with mechanical issues, the NFL should be very worried about what might happen if he gets into a groove.