After the Steelers were twice stopped on fourth-and-1 in their playoff loss to the Jaguars a year and a half ago, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger revealed that he wasn’t allowed to audible to a quarterback sneak, even when he could see he had the room to plunge up the middle for a yard.
Now the Steelers have a different quarterback and a different offensive coordinator, but the same policy: Don’t audible to a quarterback sneak.
Steelers offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner said today that he doesn’t like calling the quarterback sneak for Mason Rudolph.
“People that know me know that it’s not been one of my favorite things in the world to do,” Fichtner said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I wouldn’t mind in certain situations, but when it’s obvious situations — fourth-and-1, third-and-1 — it really isn’t something I’m interested in doing. I value our quarterback. There’s a lot of stuff going on in those piles. Just the truth be known, if we can’t hand it to one of our backs and we can’t block them, then we don’t deserve to win that down.”
Obviously, every team values its quarterback. But that doesn’t mean the quarterback sneak isn’t a play worth calling. Tom Brady has been effective at quarterback sneaks for two decades without getting hurt running one.
And as for Fichtner’s belief that the Steelers can just hand it off on fourth-and-1, well, they tried that on Thursday night and it didn’t work: In the first quarter on Monday night, the Steelers had a third-and-1 and handed off for no gain, then tried a handoff again on fourth-and-1 and again got stuffed for no gain. Fichtner was asked whether Rudolph, seeing how the defense was primed to stop a handoff, could have just kept the ball himself.
“No, he did not have that option at the time,” Fichtner said. “We actually just made some critical errors we shouldn’t have made. But he didn’t have that option, no.”
For his part, Rudolph said he told Fichtner he likes quarterback sneaks.
“I would love to do that. I tell him that every week. ‘If you want to call it, go ahead. I’ll get it for you and we’ll keep the chains moving.’ It’s just a matter of who he gives it to, what he calls, and we’re going to execute whatever decision he makes,” Rudolph said.
So Rudolph is up for a quarterback sneak. If Fichtner lets him.