As much as the Pittsburgh Steelers offense went smoothly for much of the day, there were still a lot of rough patches. While most of that came in the second half, during which the offense actually only managed to score three points, the issues came early and often.
And specifically, the issues came in the red zone. Pittsburgh saw four trips inside the red zone against the Browns today, but they only managed to get the ball into the end zone on one occasion—and that came at the end of the first half, with no time on the clock, after two consecutive defensive penalties that led to untimed plays.
It was, admittedly, somewhat disheartening to see them fail to execute in the red zone after getting the ball all the way down the field so many times. The Steelers have actually been one of the most successful offenses in the red zone this season, but a one-for-four day is not going to help their numbers.
The Steelers started their first drive of the game on their own four-yard line. With a heavy dose of Le’Veon Bell, who touched the ball 11 times on the 16-play drive, they got all the way down to Cleveland’s nine-yard line before the drive sputtered out.
They were facing a second-and-one from the nine after Bell picked up nine yards off left end on first down. But he was flagged for a false start prior to the next play, making it second and six, and the offense could not recover. Bell was stopped for no gain on second down, and the third-down pass fell incomplete, as they were forced to settle for a field goal.
The Steelers began inside their own 17 on their second drive as well, and this time they got to the Browns’ 15-yard line, almost 70 yards, before stalling once again inside the red zone. After a three-yard run on first and 10 from the 18, the offense could muster just two straight incomplete passes before settling for another field goal. They picked up over 150 yards over about 19 minutes on two drives, but had just six points to show for it.
Pittsburgh did finally cash in at the end of the first half, getting the ball on the back side of the two-minute warning. Starting from their own 41, Bell touched the ball six times on the drive, including a one-yard touchdown after two passes in a row were wiped out due to defensive holding penalties—and, as mentioned, the final two plays were untimed plays with zero seconds on the clock due to the infractions.
The Steelers went three-and-out to open the second half, but they managed another red-zone failure on their second drive of the third quarter. Starting from their own 25, this time they got all the way to the Browns’ four-yard line before settling for a field goal. They had first and goal from the seven, but just one reception for three yards was sandwiched between two incomplete passes.