Ben Roethlisberger Not A Fan Of WR Rushes: ‘I Don’t Like Getting Those Guys The Ball On The Jet Sweep’
No matter how in sync two people might be, there probably doesn’t exist such a concept as a perfect co-worker. At least not one with whom you work with side by side routinely. That applies as well to professional sports as it does any other field; I’m sure there’s not a quarterback in NFL history who hasn’t occasionally taken issue with his offensive coordinator.
Take former Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, for example. He may be good friends with Bruce Arians, but they would butt heads, certainly. He was also very close with Randy Fichtner, his most deferential, but not always his greatest advocate for success.
Matt Canada was his final offensive coordinator. While he may not have done a lot of Wildcat like Todd Haley did at times, he did do some things Roethlisberger didn’t care for—like jet sweeps. He let his feelings be known as an aside during the latest episode of his Footbahlin podcast yesterday in talking about what he wants to see more from the offense.
“I’d like to get Diontae [Johnson] more involved,” he said, “which obviously is the passing game, but whatever that is—I don’t mean that in like a jet sweep kind of way. I don’t like getting those guys the ball on the jet sweep. Get the ball down the field.”
The Steelers started prominently incorporating jet sweeps in 2020 when Canada was hired as quarterbacks coach, but it became more explicit the following year when he took over as head coach, and it continues now with Kenny Pickett under center.
It has had variable success. Sometimes it pops and it works great. They got good gains from wide receivers George Pickens and Steven Sims recently, for example. Not on Sunday. Johnson ran one for one yard, and Sims had another for minus three.
In his final season in 2021, Roethlisberger saw the offense run 26 jet sweeps or at least rushes recorded by wide receivers. Chase Claypool was the primary runner on those plays, accounting for 14 of them. He picked up a total of 96 yards, five of which he popped for 10-plus yards. He lost yardage twice and gained nothing two other times. Still, 10 out of 14 successful runs is commendable.
This year has already seen 25 carries by wide receivers, nearly as many as last year with seven games left to go. Claypool still leads with eight even though he’s been gone for a couple of games, gaining 55 yards. Johnson and Sims have each done it six times, for a combined 38 yards—not very good. Pickens had a 22-yarder last week, but his other two have been unsuccessful. Gunner Olszewski had an 18-yard run as well.
It’s been a bit of a feast or famine play for the Steelers, although the feasts have been more like a bucket of KFC than filet mignon. And one can understand a quarterback preferring to get his receivers the ball through the air than through gadget plays. But it’s not as though Roethlisberger wasn’t running ‘run-game extension’ wide receiver screens for a decade.