Time For Ben To Spread The Ball Around
The Steelers find themselves 2-0 after two weeks with a game in Chicago on the horizon. One would think they will leave the Windy City 3-0; barring an absolutely catastrophic day by all units.
Yet through two weeks, the offense, despite winning their last game by 17 points, hasn’t been impressive. Ben Roethlisberger, while sharp, completing 66.2% of his passes for 506 yards and four touchdowns vs. one interception, hasn’t shown a lot of trust in his receivers yet, aside from Antonio Brown of course.
It’s hard to blame Ben after that disastrous display by the receiving unit in the AFC Championship game this past January. Who can forget all of the drops and misplays by the guys that were running around out there, not named Brown. Obviously, Ben can’t.
In 2017 Ben has thrown the ball 70 times, 22 of those attempts have been to Brown, or 31.4% of the balls thrown, nearly a third of all of his attempts go Browns way. On one hand, it’s hard to argue throwing the ball to Brown that often, he is, after all, the best receiver in football and he and Ben have an obvious connection that is hard to find with even the most perfect of pairings. The production is there and through two weeks the record is there as well.
Yet, it’s an easy way to become one dimensional, a way for the defense to know what you’re doing nearly a third of the passing plays and this time, it needs to be different. This isn’t the AFC Championship game, Cobi Hamilton and Sammie Coates aren’t out there anymore. Instead, I believe you have a second number one receiver in Martavis Bryant who is just as fast, if not faster than Brown. He’s bigger than Brown, he’s got almost as good of hands as Brown and the best part is, he forces teams from doubling Brown…if you get him the ball.
That started to happen in the Minnesota game and I think you’ll see it happen even more when the black and gold take on the Bears this coming Sunday. Bryant put up 91 yards against the Vikings, improving his season average to 21 yards per catch. He gives the offense a very legitimate deep threat, coupled with his 6’4 frame, he’s a great option in the red zone and on third downs. I fully expect him to be targeted close to ten times against Chicago this coming week.
But it doesn’t stop with Bryant, Ben can’t forget about Le’Veon Bell. As Bell continues to get his legs back in the running game, he can be utilized in the passing attack, providing a safety for Ben when no other receivers are open or in short yardage situations. Bell has been a very valuable asset in the passing game over the years and he needs to be utilized more in that fashion this season. In Chicago, Bell will catch around eight balls for 50 yards. I see it coming. Ben is regaining trust in the guys he didn’t have with him on the field in New England, that cold January night that ended Pittsburgh’s season and sent Roethlisberger into the retirement talk.
I’m in no way suggesting he forget about Brown. Brown is still good for 8 catches a game and 100 yards but if Ben can target his other guys more often, the defenses won’t be able to focus on Brown nearly as often and the offense will begin to explode. Despite the 17 point victory this past week, this offense is far from what it can be and this is a fast way to jumpstart this unit into becoming an historic offense.
As the team enters their third week, it’s time for Ben to spread the ball around and put his trust in guys not named Antonio Brown, if he does, the team will be better for it.