The offense started to excel against the Colts when Roethlisberger called the plays and not Fichtner
Updated: Dec 31, 2020
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Today during a segment on the NFL Network, Michael Silver said that JuJu Smith-Schuster told him pre-snap the Colts' defense was calling out their plays in the first half. Ben Roethlisberger was 11 of 20 for 98 yards and the offense scored just seven points in the first half, and that was because T.J. Watt had a strip-sack and Mike Hilton recovered the fumble and returned it 14 yards to the Colts' 3-yard line to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by James Conner.
In the second half, the Steelers scored 21 points and came back from a 17-point deficit to beat the Colts, 28-24. The offense switched things up in the second half to a no-huddle attack and Roethlisberger started to call the plays instead of offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner.
"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 told Silver.
Roethlisberger had a 68.3 passer rating in the first half and a 136.2 passer rating in the second half. Roethlisberger was 23 of 29 for 244 yards and all three of his touchdowns came in the second half. Overall, 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.
The Steelers went three-and-out to start the game and the plays called were incredibly predictable. On the possession, Randy Fichtner called three straight slants and they all fell incomplete. The Steelers have gone three-and-out on their first possession in five straight games and haven't scored a single offensive point in the first quarter since Week 10 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The Steelers have had just one touchdown drive on their opening possession this season and that was against the Tennessee Titans in Week 7. Before that, they didn't have an opening drive touchdown since Week 15 of 2018 against the New England Patriots.
You can listen to the clip below, courtesy of Warren Sharp on Twitter, of Silver explaining what Smith-Schuster told him about Roethlisberger essentially calling plays in the dirt in the second half to lead the Steelers to a comeback win. This isn't a good look for Fichtner with Colts' defensive players seemingly calling out the plays in the first half and the offense only excelling with Roethlisberger calling the plays and throwing the ball down the field.
Eric Ebron, however, said the Steelers have practiced the plays called in the second half but did say Roethlisberger was calling them.
“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.”
It will be interesting to see if Mike Tomlin gives a clear answer tomorrow regarding whether Roethlisberger or Fichtner were calling the plays in the second half, and if they had practiced the plays called before.
Judging by how Fichtner has scripted plays this year and the lack of success offensively against the Colts in the first half, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if Roethlisberger took over the reins in the second half and Fichtner took a back seat.