The Pittsburgh Steelers offense began the season as well as anybody had in terms of converting their trips into the red zone into touchdowns. They still rank 10th in the league, cashing in on 61.29 percent of their red zone trips, although several of the other teams in the top 10 demonstrate that red-zone efficiency does not always equal victories, as six of them are at or below .500.
Of course, if you only have a few trips inside the red zone, you’re probably not going to be scoring a lot of points, so at a certain level, it doesn’t matter much how efficient you are if you only have so few chances. That is, of course, unless you are the Steelers, the team that is better than everybody else in the league in terms of scoring points from outside of the red zone.
According to the ever-informative Dom Rinelli, the Steelers lead the league not only in touchdowns scored outside the red zone—15—but also total points scored outside the red zone, with 130 of their 290 points scored during the 2016 season coming from beyond the 20-yard line. Without even factoring out a defensive touchdown, that represents 45 percent of their points scored this year.
This means, obviously, that the Steelers have scored 15 touchdowns on explosive plays this year, and the ever-handy Pro Football Reference provides us with the list. Considering the Steelers only have two explosive rushes on the season, it is not surprising to learn that only one explosive score was a carry, that being the 60-yard end-around from Darrius Heyward-Bey.
All 14 of the other scores came on touchdown passes from Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger, by the way, has thrown 25 touchdowns to date on the season, which means that 56 percent of them have come on explosive plays.
The longest of the season went to Sammie Coates, who scored on a 72-yard strike, which is the Steelers’ longest play of the season, and which occurred in the last game in which Coates was an effective offensive contributor, since he broke at least one finger in that game.
Eight of those touchdowns also went, unsurprisingly, to Antonio Brown, who has 11 total touchdowns on the season. His most recent touchdown on Sunday came from 22 yards out, and he also had touchdowns of 33 and 22 yards among his three scores against the Colts the game prior.
Among the others contributing explosive plays for scores from Roethlisberger touchdown passes are Heyward-Bey, Markus Wheaton, Cobi Hamilton, Xavier Grimble, and, most recently, Ladarius Green, who has five explosive plays on 11 catches. His first touchdown with the Steelers came from 20 yards out.
I find it just a bit interesting that 13 of Roethlisberger’s 14 touchdown passes of at least 20 yards have also been bookmarked in the long range to within 40 yards. Other than Coates’ long bomb, Brown’s 38-yard grab against the Chiefs was the longest passing score of the year through 12 games.