The Pittsburgh Steelers have dropped more passes than any other team in the NFL. While the exact number of drops varies from observer to observer, the Steelers are far enough ahead of the next-worst team to have a comfortable lead.
Pro Football Focus has identified 34 drops, with the Philadelphia Eagles second with 31 and the Dallas Cowboys third with 29. The NFL on CBS says it’s 33 drops, with the Detroit Lions second-worst at 30 and the Cowboys with 29. Jenna Laine of ESPN, who is presumably utilizing ESPNStats, says it’s 31 drops, 10 more than any other team.
Regardless, it’s painful amount drops, and Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin has now put his pass catchers on notice, telling them to “catch the ball or get replaced.”
Lack of Practice Time with Ben Roethlisberger
Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner says there may be a simple explanation for all the dropped passes: a lack of practice time with starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
“I hate to use the idea that Ben in these shorter weeks hasn’t practiced … but they catch on jugs,” Fichtner said Thursday, via Brooke Pryor of ESPN. “But there’s something [to] getting more balls and the basic practice schedules where Ben can throw to those receivers.”
There may be something to what Fichtner said, as Pittsburgh’s problem with dropped passes has intensified in the past two weeks, and Roethlisberger didn’t take part in either of the team’s practices prior to the Washington game, as he was “getting treatment for an injured knee.”
Moreover, Roethlisberger was a full participant in just one practice prior to the Baltimore game—and was “limited” in another.
Still, no one wants to hear that kind of excuse, especially Tomlin—especially three months into the season.
JuJu Smith-Schuster’s Explanation for the Dropped Passes
Steelers receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster believes that the dropped passes are happening because guys are “trying to make a play before it happens,” as he put it, echoing a similar sentiment recently expressed by fellow wide receiver James Washington.
“A lot of times you will see the guy try to run before catching the ball, trying to get up field,” added Smith-Schuster, via Teresa Varley of Steelers.com. “It’s very simple. These are passes we can make if we just focus and concentrate.”
As for Tomlin’s recent threat, Smith-Schuster indicated that expectations haven’t changed, despite what his head coach indicated.
“Coach T has always been transparent. If you can’t do your job, we’ll get someone to do it. That is something he has always said.”
Meanwhile, Roethlisberger has indicated that he needs to do a better job of delivering “more catchable balls,” to “put them into a position to catch balls where they’re not going to get hit,” he offered, also via Steelers.com. “I am not going to worry too much about pulling them aside and having a heart to heart that you need to catch a ball. I need to give them balls that are more catchable. I need to be my best so they can be their best. When they are at their best, we are pretty good.”
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