Steelers WR Hines Ward has been quoted this week that he was disappointed he didn't get any opportunities on the final three passes of Super Bowl XLV.
He's got every right to be ticked off.
When the great Chicago Bulls teams needed a basket, did Michael Jordan ever not touch the ball? Wasn't John McClane in the scene at the climax of every Die Hard movie? Do exotic dancers start naked and then slowly put their clothes on?
Things are supposed to get good at the end, not get worse. Your stars are supposed to shine.
Instead, Ben Roethlisberger targeted Mike Wallace on 3rd and 4th down of the Steelers' last gasp, while also throwing the ball away in Wallace's direction on 2nd down with a pass rush bearing down on him.
Wallace had a great sophomore season, but he's far from what Santonio Holmes was on intermediate routes. In fact, the very part of his game that still needs polishing, that of intermediate route running, is the very part on which Ben put the hopes of the franchise when it all mattered most.
Not to mention testing the Packers' best remaining cornerback in Tramon Williams, who was guarding Motor Mike.
There's simply no excuse for ignoring Hines Ward and / or Heath Miller on those crucial throws. You've got to go down with your best; the team's most reliable targets had to get a chance in those spots. Even when "covered," Ward and Miller make tough catches. Throw them the ball in places where only they can grab it to move the chains. How many catches did Jerry Rice make when "covered?"
Here are the possible explanations to why Ben went to Wallace on those late throws:
1. Ben is still lacking as a pocket passer who can read the field and make the correct progressions. How often do you see Roethlisberger make the 3rd, or even 2nd read? Mostly, he looks to one side of the field and then scrambles. The Packers took away the scrambles at key times, and dared Ben to beat them from the pocket.
2. Ben has a better personal relationship with Wallace than Ward and it affects his on-field decision making. We know Hines and Ben aren't the best of friends. For the most part, it appears those two co-exist on the field without this mattering. But did Ben just look for "his boy" Wallace late because he likes him better, even if it was a subconscious decision?
3. Bruce Arians demanded that Wallace was the target of choice. I'm sure the plays called gave Ben other options, but who knows what's said over that headset. This seems hard to believe, however.
And why wasn't Ben calling his own plays on this sequence anyway? Maybe if the plays weren't so slow coming in from the sideline, and the team so late getting out of the huddle, then Ben has more time to mentally prepare himself for the snaps to come. It was year #7 for #7, you would think by now in the no-huddle drills Arians would have faith in Ben to dial up the plays himself. Roethlisberger has expressed a desire to do this in the past, but Arians has been reluctant to give up the reigns. I'd have rather seen Ben picking a play and going with it there to get the calls out clean.
Whoever is to blame, excluding Ward and Miller in the final moments in North Texas was among the game's biggest blunders, if not the biggest. Forget everything that had taken place, 1:59 remaining with 1 timeout and 87-yards to go? That was a makeable drive and a winnable game that ended more Hans Gruber than Lieutenant McClane, with Green Bay confetti falling from Nakatomi Tower.