It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense has had trouble coming away with touchdowns this season when they have entered their opponents’ red zones. They currently rank 31st in the league in red zone touchdown scoring percentage (42.42%), and their problems reared their ugly heads when it came to execution inside Detroit’s twenty-yard line last weekend.
Debacle Against Detroit
On their first trip inside Detroit’s twenty, Pittsburgh’s offense missed a golden opportunity to take a commanding 21-3 lead. On 2 & 6 at Detroit’s seven-yard line, Le’Veon Bell dropped a pass right near the goal line while he was going across the middle. While the pass itself wasn’t spectacular, it was definitely catch-able, and it hit Bell right in his hands. Pittsburgh was forced to settle for Shaun Suisham’s first of three field goals, and Detroit only trailed 17-3.
On the following drive, the Steelers once again had to settle for three instead of scoring a touchdown to move ahead 24-10. Unfortunately, Pittsburgh’s offense only mustered a field goal after they set themselves up with a 1st & 10 situation on Detroit’s 12 yard-line. On 2nd & 10, the normally sure-handed Heath Miller let a touchdown catch slip through his grasp as he hit the ground in the back of the end zone. Then on the next play, Roethlisberger was dropped for a nine-yard loss by Nick Fairley.
Pittsburgh’s next foray into the red zone was one of the saddest displays of offensive football I have seen in a long time. Despite the fact that the Steelers’ offense had a 1st & Goal at the one-yard line, they could not tie the game at 27-27 in the middle of the third quarter. Bell failed to push the pile on two running plays when it was 1st & Goal and 3rd & Goal, while Roethlisberger missed a cake-easy touchdown toss to David Paulson in the back of the end zone in between.
At this point, I am still wondering why Todd Haley didn’t turn to his more capable short-yardage back in the form of Jonathan Dwyer instead of the tippy-toer Bell in that situation made little sense in that situation. Then again, nothing surprises me with Haley in terms of the personnel packages he employs.
Will the Steelers Find Success This Weekend?
To emerge victorious over the Cleveland Browns tomorrow, the Steelers must take advantage of every scoring opportunity they have. Luckily for Pittsburgh’s offense, the Browns’ defense has been susceptible to giving up “sevens” instead of “threes” when their opposition has entered their red zone this fall.
In fact, despite their defensive prowess, the Browns have the highest red zone touchdown scoring percentage allowed (67.86%) of any defense in the league this year. So while Cleveland’s defense has been a formidable unit this fall, opposing teams are scoring a touchdown on two out of every three trips into their red zone.
With that number in mind, it will be up to the Steelers’ offense to take full advantage of their forays into the Browns’ red zone. Pittsburgh cannot continue to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns, and their inability to capitalize on red zone trips in the first half last week’s contest allowed the Lions to stay in the game and take a seven-point lead into half time.
If the Steelers wish to make a postseason run, then they must begin to capitalize on their red zone trips on a more consistent basis. Otherwise, they’ll be sitting at home with the worst of the AFC in January and February.
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