What makes a drop a drop?
Everyone that watched the Pittsburgh Steelers narrowly defeat the Baltimore Ravens on Wednesday afternoon would probably agree that Pittsburgh had too many, and presented a problem that certainly needs to be corrected.
But it’s also a problem that can be hard to define. How many drops did the Steelers have? Well, it’s subjective.
Drops are not an official NFL statistic, and what it is a drop and what isn’t is often in the eye of the beholder.
Pro Football Focus said the Steelers had five drops, the most they’ve given the Pittsburgh receivers in any single game this season. Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster said after the game that he thought the team had “six or eight.”
Everyone can agree that when a quarterback hits a receiver in stride, with no defenders able to get their hands on him, and he doesn’t secure the ball, that’s a drop. But what about when there’s a defender all over his back, as happened to Chase Claypool at least twice on Wednesday. Or what happens if a pass isn’t perfectly thrown, but the receiver is still able to get their hands on it, only to drop it, as happened to Eric Ebron at least once?
“I need to be more accurate with my passes,” quarterback Ben Roethlisberger said after the game. “ I need to give them better chances to make the plays. There weren’t some plays made today when they needed to be.”
The number of drops also needs to be put into context with the number of passes thrown. With starting running back James Conner and starting center Maurkice Pouncey both out on the COVID-19 reserve list, the team could not get the running game going early, leading Roethlisberger to set a season high with 51 passing attempts.
As with any problem, the causes are likely many things. The Steelers inability to run the ball put additional pressure on the passing offense. Roethlisberger left some passes in tough spots for his receivers and they just flat-out dropped some that they usually catch.
How to fix those problems?
“Got to go back, watch the film, go over it, and like I said, just make our plays or execute,” Smith-Schuster said. “Like I said, we really haven’t showed our complete offense yet. I think we played games that we start off super slow, we played games we start off super-fast and we just don’t finish at the end.”
It’s also worth mentioning that despite the drops and the offense’s inconsistency, the Steelers will work on those problems with an 11-0 record.
“At the end of the day, a win is a win and we keep moving forward,” Smith-Schuster said. “On to Washington.”