The Pittsburgh Steelers offense, in spite of its lofty ambitions entering the year, have churned out some fairly middling statistics in certain categories this season, such as third-down conversion and red zone scoring. As I pointed out earlier, however, those numbers skew heavily depending on who is at quarterback.
As I pointed out late in the week, when Ben Roethlisberger is on the field, the Steelers actually convert third downs into first downs at a higher rate than any other team, but that numbers sinks to the middle of the league when you factor in the reps taken by Mike Vick and Landry Jones.
Another number that we see improve when you consider only the offense with Roethlisberger at the helm is in red zone scoring, as in the frequency with which the offense translates trips inside the opponents’ 20-yard line into touchdowns.
Overall, the Steelers rank just 14th in the league at the moment, scoring 26 touchdowns on 45 trips into the red zone for an efficiency rate of about 57.8 percent. That was once a high figure—in fact, last year the offense scored on just 51.7 percent of its trips inside the red zone—but not in today’s league.
That number goes up, however, when you take away the drives helmed by Vick and Jones. On his own, Roethlisberger has led 21 touchdown drives on 34 trips inside the red zone, scoring 61.8 percent of the time. That would rank tied for the ninth-best red zone efficiency.
And one of those drives resulted in a kneel down at the end of a 30-9 game with first and goal at the one-yard line, which for the purposes of efficiency should not count, since there was no intent to score.
Considering that, then Roethlisberger scored on 21 of 33 red zone trips in which the intent was to score a touchdown, which is efficiency rate of about 63.6 percent. That would tie them with the Saints for the seventh-most efficient scoring offense in the league this year.
In contrast, on drives helmed by Vick or Jones, the Steelers have only scored five touchdowns on 11 trips inside the red zone, or on just 45.5 percent of their red zone opportunities.
To their credit, however, they, too, have a mitigating factor, in that one trip inside the red zone resulted in a game-winning field goal kick with time expiring with first and goal at the one-yard line, so they were not attempting to score a touchdown.
That would then give the combination five touchdowns on 10 red zone trips for a 50 percent success rate, which would rank 25th in the league this year. The 45.5 would only rank 27th, so not substantially lower.
Either way you slice it, this season, the Steelers rank 18 slots higher in terms of red zone scoring efficiency with Roethlisberger on the field than they have with either of their backups. And with their starter in the fold, the offense is where it belongs, among the best in the league.