Ever since Todd Haley was introduced as the Steelers offensive coordinator prior to the 2012 season all eyes have been on him and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger as the football world waits for them to come to blows on the sidelines. Or, at the very least, for them to yell at each other.
To this point it hasn’t really happened, but that doesn’t mean other players aren’t having some issues with the offense.
According to Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Haley and Antonio Brown had a heated exchange of ideas during the Steelers 20-10 loss in Cincinnati on Monday night. The topic, as it always is with a wide receiver, was the number of passes being thrown in Brown’s direction.
From the P-G:
There, wide receiver Antonio Brown confronted offensive coordinator Todd Haley. Brown angrily complained to the coach that not enough pass plays were called for him, several sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
Specifics of the argument were hard to come by but sources say that Haley was upset by Brown’s actions and that the two were still seething about it Tuesday. Brown’s complaint to Haley was harsh enough and the reaction to it along the sideline volatile to the point that many people there noticed, although it was not shown nor apparently caught on camera by anyone, including ESPN, which broadcast the game.
So that apparently happened, and according to Bouchette, it’s not the first time over the past two years that Brown has complained about the number of passes that he’s been involved in. It’s also not the first time somebody has taken exception with the play calling of an offensive coordinator.
These are the types of things that happen when your team is 0-2 and looking absolutely terrible in the process. It’s also the type of thing that happens when a wide receiver doesn’t feel like he’s getting the football enough (“enough” for most wide receivers would be every single play).
Through two games Brown has been targeted on just 16 passes (he was the target on just three passes at the time of Monday’s reported confrontation) which is tied for second on the team with Jerricho Cotchery. Emmanuel Sanders has been targeted on a team-high 22 passes through the first two weeks.
The fact Cotchery has been such a focal point of the offense through two games IS a little weird, especially since Cotchery seems to have little left in the tank and hasn’t been all that effective. On Monday, for example, the Steelers seemed to be going out of their way to get the football in Cotchery’s hands in the first half, throwing five passes in his direction (he caught none of them) and giving the ball to him on an end-around after taking Brown and Sanders off of the field.
Cotchery has seven catches for 93 yards and a touchdown (a garbage time touchdown at the end of the Week 1 loss to Tennessee) but has dropped a couple of passes. Cotchery and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger have at times looked like they’re on different pages of the playbook.
Brown has caught 11 of the 16 passes thrown in his direction for 128 yards.
With Mike Wallace now in Miami, Brown is the best receiver on the roster and thanks to the contract extension he signed prior to last season the highest paid receiver on the team, so it is a little strange to see the Steelers not getting the ball to him more often. Which brings up an entirely different set of questions. Are the Steelers not looking in his direction or trying hard enough to get him the ball? Or is he not getting the ball because he isn’t getting open, especially since there isn’t one of the NFL’s best deep threats lining up on the opposite side of the field? I’ve mentioned this many times before, but Brown is simply not a big-play wide receiver and like the rest of their current group doesn’t consistently get open. Since entering the NFL in 2010 Brown is 65th among receivers in touchdown catches (7), 35th in catches of 20-yards or more (32), and 73rd in catches of 30-yards or more (7).
Still, it’s a little concerning that through two games Jerricho Cotchery has had his number called as many times as Brown.
To remedy this situation, I’m guessing the Steelers have already added a bunch of new bubble screens and third-and-long draw plays to the playbook for Sunday night’s game against Chicago.