Are you ready for some field goals?!
Kidding aside, the upcoming game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Buffalo Bills could turn into a “field goal kick-athon” if red zone struggles continue to plague the offenses of both teams this Sunday at Heinz Field.
I don’t think that I have to remind you readers that the Steelers have struggled to score “sixes” instead of “threes” when they have entered their opponents’ red zones this fall. In fact, their issues have been well-documented here on “NPC” in recent weeks.
From struggling to establish a consistent running game to the idea that their offensive line could be replaced by traffic cones with jerseys and nobody would notice the difference when they set up for pass protection, the Steelers have had too many drives stall near the goal line.
To their credit however, Pittsburgh’s offense looked surprisingly competent last weekend against the Patriots when they entered New England’s twenty yard-line. Three of the Steelers’ four red zone trips ended with touchdowns, two of which helped the team tie the score at 24-24 in the third quarter.
Recent success aside, Pittsburgh ranks 28th in red zone touchdown percentage (45.83%) and must still improve in that particular area of the game. Thankfully for the scoring-deficient Steelers, they will be taking on a team this weekend with the same type of scoring issues.
Jay Skurski of The Buffalo News highlighted the Bills’ red zone struggles in an article earlier this week. Buffalo ranks only in front of the lowly Jacksonville Jaguars in terms of red zone touchdown percentage (42.31%) during their 3-6 start, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson called their recent woes “ugly” in Skurski’s recent article.
In fact, Buffalo’s “red zone offense” has been surprisingly less efficient than Pittsburgh’s this fall. To be fair to the Bills though, they have had to cycle through three quarterbacks already this season, two of which are rookies. Unfortunately for Buffalo, EJ Manuel, Jeff Tuel, and Thad Lewis have been largely ineffective when it has come to converting red zone trips into touchdowns.
I hope that Dick LeBeau’s defense can rebound from their recent bed-crapping against the Patriots to stifle Buffalo’s offense if they end up mounting any extended drives into Pittsburgh’s territory. The defense must limit the damage done by Buffalo’s formidable running back duo of Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller, and the pass rush must force whomever is taking the snaps into making poor decisions like the interception Tuel threw last weekend against the Chiefs at the goal line.
Most of all though, I hope that the Steelers’ coaching staff will be able to only trot Shaun Suisham out on the field for extra points on Sunday afternoon. Yet with the way that the offense has struggled during their first nine games, it could be wishful thinking and Suisham could be called upon to save the day with his right leg like he did back in 2010 at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
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