While Ben Roethlisberger said Kenny Pickett played well Sunday against the New Orleans Saints, he says Pickett’s first error came on the first play of the game. In another episode of Roethlisberger footblin The podcast, this time joined by KDKA’s Bob Bombini, Roethlisberger breaks down the play that Pickett missed a 75-yard TD run.
“First play of the game, he had Deontay Johnson for a 75-yard touchdown,” Roethlisberger said. “Deontay Johnson on the right side, he had a ball. And he tried to hit Pate on the crossbar. If he hits that and he completes that, suddenly we’re not talking about running the ball. We’re talking about them hitting shots in the field.”
As usual, let’s get down to the tape to see exactly what Roethlisberger is discussing. Pittsburgh came out strong with vertical runs and deep passes on the first play of the game. One minor mistake in Roethlisberger’s critique is that Pickett was trying to punch George Pickens – not TE Pat Freymuth – onto the forward. But from the aerial view, at the top of the screen, you can see Johnson 1v1 in the corner with Johnson stacking up the court.
Rather than aiming for Johnson, he searches for Pickens and leaves him much and incomplete. It’s hard to fault Pickens who had Pickens wide open and took advantage of the corner across the field. If this pass is incomplete, it will be at least 30 yards. You can even see quarterback Mason Cole’s reaction below, as he raises his head knowing how costly this defeat was.
While it’s easy to sit down and talk about what the quarterback should do, Roethlisberger’s resume clearly gives him plenty of leverage to speak at the moment, though he admitted he wasn’t quite sure what the call or progression would be.
“He had a Diontae 1v1, no security. Sometimes that’s what we call a check. It might not be the first read but it’s a check and then 1, 2, 3.”
As Roethlisberger notes, sometimes quarterbacks will check for a 1v1 matchup immediately before and after the snap as a “progress” before the actual readout. If they like a match, they can hit it off. If not, they can work on progress. This often happens in 3×1 situations where the receiver is isolated from the butt, and it’s the moments that made Roethlisberger’s connection with Antonio Brown so great.
Even if the pass is incomplete, Roethlisberger said, a shot deep out of the gate helps plant the seed in the Saints’ mind to respect the header and can change the way they play the rest of the game.
However, it is difficult to blame Pickett for his decision on the play, even though the pitching itself was one of the worst he had that day. Roethlisberger went on to note that this was not the only time Pickett missed Johnson in the afternoon.
“Deontay missed a deep cross, too.”
This indicated Beckett’s incompleteness later in the match. Here, he throws to a heavily covered Freiermuth on a low cross, and the bottom linebacker doesn’t see the attacking “ROBOT” and matches up the field. To top it off, Johnson again has leverage and you can see him put his hand up the middle and then react by not throwing the ball his way.
While Roethlisberger’s criticism seems harsh, Pickett was praised for his mobility and ability to scramble and gain yards with his legs. Roethlisberger has certainly championed and applauded Beckett at the right times this season. But here, we can match Ben’s words to the tape and look at the Hall of Famer’s mindset and how he saw the game.
Check out the full interview below.