In 2012, Ben Roethlisberger might be getting on his knees every Sunday and thanking the Dear Lord for the Steelers’ acquisition of his newest tight end – Leonard Pope. This will be especially prevalent when the Steelers get in the Red Zone on game day. A very tall and agile Pope will help Ben…. ummm…. widen…. his accuracy.
“It gives you a wide area to miss and to throw a bad ball. And Heath can go up and catch balls with two fingers and it’s not like you have to put it right on their chest. They can have a wide catching radius. (Pope’s) is even bigger than Heath’s.” - Ben Roethlisberger
Woah, settle down there, Ben. Let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. You better not be thinking of skipping out on those accuracy drills. Your new coordinator might not like that too much. But, Big Ben does have a point.
With the addition of Pope, Ben’s options in the Red Zone (aka short yardage and end zone crossing routes) grow about as big as the 6′-8″ Leonard Pope. Pope, when on the field, will be the tallest Steeler receiver out there, and will have what will seem like feet over your average corner or safety daring enough to man up on Pope. With Miller out there already, those safeties are going to be busy keeping track of those two men. Add in Antonio Brown and Manny Sanders on the wings and even Redman (or perhaps Baron Batch) out in the flat, and you will have your hands full as a defense inside your own 20 yard line. Were Bruce Arians the OC, most teams would give a second thought to this type of formation. But, with Todd Haley at the helm (a man who is known to make proper use of his TE’s and RB’s as receivers) this type of formation spells danger for defenses and giddy joy for Steeler Nation.
I’ve always like Pope at the TE position and am excited to see how he fits into this new offense. I’m also very partial to Heath Miller… ok… I love Heath. Such a great guy and a hugely underrated player in the NFL. What I hope we don’t witness is Haley playing favorites to Pope. The final decision, of course, is Ben’s and the two TE’s after the ball is snapped. Ben will fire the ball to whomever is open, or who is in good position to go after the ball after he lobs an end zone corner toss. It will be up to those three players to find the right chemistry inside the 20.
Seriously folks – this offense will seem crazy good with all the potential points that will be on the table. Let’s just hope they capitalize this season on each of those opportunities.