In the Pittsburgh Steelers 17-9 win Sunday over the Jacksonville Jaguars the offense passed on all 11 plays that were run inside the red zone if you exclude the three final kneel-downs to close out the game.
With those three red zone trips only producing one touchdown and one field goal, head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday during his press conference to specifically explain the team’s red zone woes Sunday and if the play calling played a role in it.
“Play selection is always the first place you look in terms of identifying issues,” said Tomlin. “Looking back it, I wish we would’ve maybe run the ball some given that the passes were unsuccessful. But largely, I’d be remised if I didn’t acknowledge some of the good things that Jacksonville did defensively against us in the red area. But we got to execute better, we got to look at our play selection and we’ll do both.”
Tomlin was then asked if it’s considered bad football to run against a loaded front trying to stop the run as opposed to just imposing your will against defenses and running anyway.
“It depends on the situation,” said Tomlin. “At times we’ve committed to doing both and I think both points of view have an argument depending on game circumstance.”
Heading into Sunday’s game, the Jaguars had already surrendered nine red zone touchdowns in their first four games. Three of those touchdowns were runs by the Washington Redskins, while the other six were passes.
It is pretty amazing that Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley didn’t try to run at least a few times inside the red zone against the Jaguars as the offensive line was run blocking well during the game. In addition, outside of the three kneel-downs at the end of the game, only once did a Steelers running back get stopped for a loss during the game on 25 rushing attempts.
Moving forward, I suspect that Haley will be instructed to try to run inside the red zone even when the offense faces defenses that try to stack the box in attempt to stop it. This team can’t afford to continue to squander red zone opportunities like they did Sunday against the Jaguars and especially when you consider how well they’ve run the football so far this season.