If there is one thing that I would change from last week’s game to implement into today’s game, it would be to see the Pittsburgh Steelers run a more balanced offense inside the red zone, both in terms of plays executed and in personnel formations utilized. Against the Chiefs, the play-calling was nearly all passes, and nearly all with three receivers on the field.
That pairing was met with an 0-for-4 showing inside the red zone, and something like 0-for-7 inside the 30-yard line to boot. Those results certainly cannot be duplicated today, and one of the more logical approaches in preventing that from happening again would be to show more diversity in close-quarter offensive situations.
To inject some numbers into this conversation, the Steelers ran 11 plays within the Chiefs’ 20-yard line on Sunday, and only three of them were running plays. The eight passing plays resulted in a sack, an interception, and one completed pass on seven attempts for one yard on third and two. Basically, it was absolutely terrible and could hardly have gotten worse.
Extending those parameters to the 30-yard line, the Steelers ran 25 plays against the Chiefs—which is a significant number of plays, by the way—nine of which were runs. Those nine runs picked up 36 yards, or exactly four yards per carry. The 16 passing plays produced nine yards of offense.
So, my suggestion is plain and simple. Provided that it is proving to work effectively within the rhythm of the game, keep the ball on the ground inside the red zone except in obvious passing situations. Just two weeks ago, they scored from eight yards out on the ground on third and five, so it doesn’t even always have to be an obvious passing situation.
To put it simply, it really seems hard to justify the fact that, in a game in which Le’Veon Bell carried the ball as many times as Ben Roethlisberger dropped back to pass, that Roethlisberger threw eight passes inside the 20-yard line, while Bell got only three carries.
They passed the ball on second and two from the five-yard line. When that was incomplete, they passed on third and two. They passed on first and goal from the five and threw an interception. When the running game is working and the defense is not showing any signs of being able to stop it, then there is no compelling reason to throw the ball for the sake of variety.
Here’s something to consider. The Steelers ran the ball five times on third down during the game. They converted four times, and the only failure was the result of a missed block by Marcus Gilbert on a pull to the left, which is an aberrant result.
Run the ball. Don’t now move away from what had been working. Incorporating heavy sets with extra linemen and a fullback has been a key part of their offensive identity for nine games now, before last week. Stay with it.