The Pittsburgh Steelers are riding a remarkable run in which they have scored at least 30 points in each of the last five games, during which the defense and special teams units have combined for only two scores, meaning that it has been the offense driving this surge.
But they will be facing a major hurdle in attempting to continue that streak in their final home game of the season against arguably the best defense in the league, the Denver Broncos, who have given up less points, less yards, and less scoring opportunities than anybody else in the league.
Technically speaking, the Broncos defense only ranks 12th in the league in terms of their efficiency in stopping opposing offenses from getting the ball into the end zone once they’ve crossed the 20-yard line.
On the season, Denver has allowed a touchdown to be scored on 53.33 percent of red zone opportunities, with in fact ranks below the Steelers, who allow a touchdown on half of their red zone defensive stands, the seventh-most efficient mark in the league.
But where the Broncos separate themselves is not in the number of red zone opportunities allowed to be converted into touchdowns, but rather red zone opportunities allowed, period.
Along with the Bengals and Jets, Denver this season is averaging allowing just 2.3 red zone trips per game to opposing offenses, which is the best mark in the league. An efficient red zone offense is useless without opportunities to utilize that short-space skill set.
Those statistics translate to the Broncos allowing about 1.2 red zone touchdowns per game, which translates to six such touchdowns every five games. In contrast, the Steelers defense has given up 1.8 red zone touchdowns per game, which is 50 percent more.
On the season, the Broncos have allowed just 30 trips inside the red zone, and have given up 16 total touchdowns in those opportunities. While the efficiency in preventing touchdowns in those opportunities can be better, the infrequency of such opportunities is what is driving their success.
In contrast, the Steelers have been a very middling offense when it comes to converting red zone opportunities into touchdowns, ranking 14th in the league at 57.78 percent. The Steelers have generated 45 red zone opportunities on the year, converting 26 of them into scores, an average of two per game.
The offense has been on a bit of an upswing over the course of recent weeks, scoring a touchdown on about 64 percent of their red zone opportunities over the course of the past three games, and they also have been more successful in converting their opportunities at home than on the road.
Still, it will be no easy task matching up not only with Denver’s cornerback tandem, but their pass rushers, and even one of the league’s most high-powered offense’s, which the Steelers do have, could very well struggle to accumulate red zone opportunities against a team that barely allows two per game.