Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Steelers Must Improve on Third Downs and in Red Zone


 

There is a lot to dislike about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense this year.

Whether it is the “offensive line carousel,” the massive amounts of injuries which that particular unit has sustained, Antonio Brown’s butter-fingers, his celebrations after the most pedestrian of accomplishments, the fact that Ben Roethlsiberger is on pace to be sacked 59 times, the constant bubble screens called by offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Le’Veon Bell’s lack of speed, it is no wonder why Pittsburgh’s offense ranks near the bottom of almost every statistical category.

Of course, those particular issues have not helped the Steelers when it has come to them succeeding on third downs and in the red zone either during their first seven regular season games.

Overall, the Steelers rank 18th (37.23%) when it has come to converting third downs (percentage) this year, and their inability to extend drives has been quite noticeable during their 2-5 start. Pittsburgh’s offense converted only four of their 14 third down attempts against the Oakland Raiders last Sunday, and their execution on some of those attempts were nothing short of dreadful.

Whether it was the ill-advised screen (which lost three yards) to Emmanuel Sanders in the first quarter, “Big Ben’s” forward lateral near the end of the first half, or the moronic slant to Felix Jones in the middle of the field instead of the end zone on the following drive, it was simply the “same story, different chapter” for Pittsburgh last weekend on third downs.

As piss-poorly as the Steelers have performed on third downs this year, their execution in the red zone has been nothing short of dreadful.

After finishing 12th last year in red zone scoring percentage (touchdowns per red zone scoring attempts), Pittsburgh’s offense has struggled to turn red zone opportunities into “sixes” this fall. Only Philadelphia and Jacksonville have lower red zone scoring percentages than Pittsburgh has posted through their first seven games, and the Steelers have only converted 40% of their red zone trips into touchdowns!

Against the Raiders, the team’s inability to extend drives and post touchdowns in the red zone cost them dearly when Shaun Suisham missed two field goal attempts inside of 35 yards.

No offense to Suisham, but I felt like Haley and the rest of the offense deserved to have him miss those kicks as punishment for their struggles to put the ball into the end zone on their red zone trips on a consistent basis.

Pittsburgh’s kicker booted four field goals in each of the previous two weeks due to their incompetence, and he was an enormous reason why the team was 2-3 in the first place. If the Steelers’ offense turns any one of those drives into touchdowns, then they would have left Oakland with a 3-4 record and a glimmer of hope when it came to their postseason dreams.

 

Final Thoughts

Without the consistent conversion of third downs into first downs and execution in the red zone, it is extremely difficult for teams to win games. Pittsburgh’s offense has not done either with much success this fall, and their 2-5 record directly reflects those struggles.

The next nine games could be one final audition for Haley to prove that he is capable of keeping his job as the team’s offensive coordinator. If he has any hope of coaching in Pittsburgh in 2014, he could start by helping his offense improve in those two crucial areas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stats & Contract Info. Provided By: ESPN.comSteelers.comSpotrac, and Pro Football Reference

 

Follow me as well as “NPC” on Twitter: @DominicDiTolla and @NicePickCowherC

Like “NPC” on Facebook: Nice Pick, Cowher

Tags: Ben Roethlisberger Featured Le'Veon Bell Offensive Line Pittsburgh Steelers Popular Todd Haley