Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is trying to run an offense with just two wide receivers 6 feet or taller.
So far he hasn’t been able to make it work.
“They’re aren’t the biggest guys in the world, so it’s easy for defensive backs to hold them, push them and arm-bar them, and they aren’t getting the calls,” Roethlisberger said earlier this week to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “So it’s tough. They just need to keep fighting through those things. I know they will do that. They take pride in their work and they work hard at it.”
Former wideout Mike Wallace, who caught 32 touchdown passes in four seasons with Pittsburgh, wasn’t a big target at 6 feet, but he is taller than Emmanuel Sanders (5-11) and Antonio Brown (5-10).
Only two of the Steelers five receivers – Jerricho Cotchery and Derek Moye – are 6 feet or taller.
Cotchery and Moye are also the only receivers to have each scored a touchdown so far this season.
Brown has 11 receptions for 128 yards, but his longest is for 22 yards. Sanders has 12 receptions for 135 yards, but his yards per catch average is just 11.3, lower than Brown’s (11.6).
“Our receivers are a certain build,” Steelers offensive coodinator Todd Haley said. “Antonio Brown and Emmanuel Sanders are a certain build and have a certain skill set. Being dominating in size isn’t one of them. That’s why it’s nice to have a Derek Moye on the roster and [sixth-round draft pick] Justin Brown on the practice squad. Those guys are working all the time. Derek continued to make some plays that made us say, ‘Hey, when we get down in there tight, we have a big guy that has a definite size advantage against a bunch of cornerbacks in this league.’ Ben and him did a great job of executing and made it go. It’s definitely a strong suit of his.”
The 6-5 Moye, whose first career touchdown came against the Browns when Roethlisberger lobbed a pass to him in the corner of the end zone from a yard out, is ready to take on a bigger role in the offense. But for now the Steelers will use him mostly in goal-line situations.
“I just think a bigger receiver can help out the quarterback sometimes,” he said. “If the corner or defensive back has good coverage on the receiver, he can just throw it up and you go up and get it. That’s what I like to think I bring to the offense, and I can do that if need be.”
Roethlisberger will attempt to make his small receiver corps work on Sunday against the Chicago Bears at Heinz Field.