Updated: Dec 31, 2020
(Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images)
Michael Silver of the NFL Network reported yesterday that JuJu Smith-Schuster said pre-snap the Colts' defense was calling out their plays in the first half. This news raised many eyebrows, as Ben Roethlisberger was 11 of 20 (55.0%) for 98 yards and the offense scored just seven points in the first half.
Both Smith-Schuster and Eric Ebron also stated that Roethlisberger was calling the plays in the second half when they went to a no-huddle attack. Roethlisberger was 23 of 29 (79.3%) for 244 yards and threw three touchdowns in the second half to lead the Steelers to a 28-24 win over the Colts after facing a 17-point deficit in the third quarter.
Along with the three touchdowns passes, all of which occurred in the second half, Roethlisberger finished the game completing 34 of 49 passes (64.9%) for a season-high 342 yards and had a quarterback rating of 109.4.
Colts' defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus said today that he had heard second hand that Roethlisberger was calling his own plays in the second half, according to George Bremer, who covers the Colts for The Herald Bulletin in Anderson, Ind. Eberflus said neither he or the players on the field noticed any looks they weren't prepared for.
According to Silver, Smith-Schuster said Roethlisberger was calling plays in the second half that they've never run before.
"Ben's mind is super creative he was calling out plays in the second half that we did not practice, just pulling things from the past," Smith-Schuster said.
However, Eric Ebron had a different story of how things played out in the second half with Roethlisberger in control.
“All of those plays Ben would call were all the plays we practice,” Ebron said. “As much as it may seem like Ben’s making stuff up, nah, we practice this stuff. ... We understand when we get in situations where we need offense how to recreate and try to create problems for opposing defenses. That’s really all it is.”
Zac Keefer, who covers the Colts for The Athletic, reported today that Eberflus said the Steelers weren't running anything the Colts hadn't seen before.
Tomlin was asked today at his weekly press conference about Colts' defensive players calling out their plays, but the subject of Roethlisberger calling plays that were not practiced before wasn't brought up.
"We were calling out their plays, too," Tomlin said. "Philip Rivers was calling out our adjustments. I think it's one of the things that kind of goes on in 2020 during a global pandemic when you're playing in crickets, eerily quiet stadiums."
Tomlin said the nature of other teams calling out plays isn't uncommon this year with many stadiums not having any fans in the stands due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I know other teams have talked about that some," Tomlin said. "I think it's just one of the adjustable things that we all globally have to deal with in the 2020 environment because of the level of communication and the amount of communication that's heard between units prior to a snap in 2020's environment."
It will be interesting to see what Roethlisberger and Fichtner say later this week when they speak with the media regarding the second half and how the plays were called and if they were practiced before.