The Pittsburgh Steelers were knocked out of the playoffs with Sunday’s AFC divisional round loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, and while there are likely a few things coaches, players and fans will second-guess in the days and weeks to come, one of the biggest questions might be why the Steelers went for it on fourth-and-1 twice, and didn’t have quarterback Ben Roethlisberger sneak it in either instance.
But during his weekly appearance on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh on Tuesday, Roethlisberger said he doesn’t have permission to change plays at the line. Roethlisberger laid the blame on the coaches.
“I’d love to,” Roethlisberger said about running the ball. “I actually literally tuned in to you guys for two minutes and heard you guys and the fans bashing us for not quarterback sneaking and not believing me when I say that we don’t run it and I want to do it. Since it’s my show now, I can speak freely and tell you guys, my co-hosts, that I truly have never said ‘I don’t want to run it’ and I don’t have the freedom to check to a quarterback sneak because we don’t have that call if we’re not in the huddle.”
Roethlisberger added, “If you’re at the line of scrimmage, we don’t have a call to get to a quarterback sneak … am I supposed to whisper to everyone ‘quarterback sneak’?”
We’ve all heard quarterbacks yell “alert!” or something similar once they survey the defense to let their teammates know they’re changing the play. But it seems unlikely that a six-time Pro Bowler, three-time AFC champion and two-time Super Bowl winning quarterback isn’t able to change plays at the line of scrimmage.
Roethlisberger said he’s asked coach Mike Tomlin if a quarterback draw can be added to the playbook for two-point conversions; according to the quarterback, Tomlin laughs.
“When we get to like the two-yard line, two point play, to spread the defense out and go empty and run quarterback draw. I’ve asked for that,” Roethlisberger said. “He laughs at me and says ‘Ben, maybe in your younger days, not now.’ I still ask for those things. I would love the quarterback sneak. Hopefully we’ll get into more of it.”
But Roethlisberger has run the sneak on fourth-and-1 before, and NFL Research had the receipts on Sunday:
Ben Roethlisberger on 4th-and-1 rush attempts in his career, including playoffs:
18 first downs
Highest success rate (94.7 percent) of any player with over 10 attempts since 2004 (including playoffs)
Steelers on 4th-and-1 today:
0-for-2 (Bell run, Ben pass)
— NFL Research (@NFLResearch) January 14, 2018
Tomlin defended the decision not to call the sneak on either of those fourth-down plays after the game on Sunday.
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