Matt Waldman’s RSP NFL Lens QB Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers): Overcoming a Well-Defended Crossing Route

Matt Waldman’s Rookie Scouting Portfolio showcases Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger overcoming a well-defended crossing route with pass placement and patience.

The crossing route is an effective play because it often matches receivers against less athletic defenders or it’s a great antidote against superior defensive athletes covering slower receivers man-to-man. The New England Patriots know how to defend the crossing route as well as any team They get multiple defenders to occupy the shallow middle of the field and jam up the route lanes.

When the route lates are jammed, receivers must display patience and vision to navigate around these opponents efficiently. The best way to do it is to take a path under the defense. Even so, it creates difficult throwing angles for the quarterback.

If the quarterback is impatient, he’s prone to one of two types of mistakes:

  1. Waiting until the receiver is near or outside the numbers and firing low-trajectory, high-velocity pass that’s difficult to place and handle at this angle.
  2. Targeting the receiver before he reaches the numbers, which increases the odds that the receiver has tight coverage trailing or over the top and the quarterback must fit the ball over the line of scrimmage with the receiver too close to that line for the quarterback’s touch and timing to work consistently.

Ben Roethlisberger displays the appropriate solution with this route against the Patriots last December.

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Roethlisberger has developed patience and touch with his game. He and JuJu Smith-Schuster do an excellent job finding the solution to a difficult problem for a first down. Smith-Schuster understands when to fade downfield and Roethlisberger is patient enough to wait and then lead Smith-Schuster perfectly. It’s an elegant play of underrated difficulty.

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