The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their bye week with a 6-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. While that’s a great spot to be in all things considered, it goes without saying that the team’s offense can certainly stand to improve some in several key areas during the second half of the season.
Below are five key areas we hope to see the Steelers offense improve in during their final 8 regular season games of 2017.
Red Zone Conversions – You can’t talk about needed areas of improvement for the Steelers offense in the second half of the 2017 season without first listing red zone area conversions. In their first eight games of the regular season the Steelers offense has only scored 12 touchdowns on 29 total red zone trips and that 41.38% rate is currently the third worst in the NFL entering Week 9. The Steelers 29 red zone trips this season are only bested by the New England Patriots (34) and Los Angeles Rams (31). Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is currently 14 of 33 passing for 77 yards with 6 touchdowns on plays run inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line and those scoring tosses went to Antonio Brown (2), JuJu Smith-Schuster (2) and Jesse James (2). The Steelers offense has obviously been able to move the football in their first eight games and during the second eight, offensive coordinator Todd Haley, along with the help of Roethlisberger, needs to find a way to score more touchdowns once inside the opponents red zone.
Third Down Conversions – Entering their bye week, the Steelers offense has converted just 37.86% of their third down plays and that percentage is too low. Hidden inside those stats is the fact that the Steelers offense has only converted 25.5% of their third down plays that needed 7 or more yards. To make matters worse, 5 of Roethlisberger’s 9 interceptions so far this season have come on third down plays. Roethlisberger, by the way, has converted just 36.5% of third downs on 85 total dropbacks.
Deep Passing – You knew I would be getting to this area in this post. Entering Week 9, Roethlisberger leads the NFL in deep pass attempts with 73. However, he’s completed just 25 of his deep pass attempts on season and that 34.2% rate is way below his career average of 42.7% (end zone yardage not counted on deep stats). Perhaps the most disturbing aspect about Roethlisberger’s failure to connect at a higher percentage on his deep pass attempts so far this season is the fact that most of incompleted throws weren’t catchable by the intended target. In short, Roethlisberger hasn’t been on the same page with his wide receivers so far this season when it comes to deep pass attempts for one reason or another. That needs to be fixed.
Increase Run Success Rate Slightly – Sure, the Steelers running game has come to life as of late as running back Le’Veon Bell now seems to be more in sync with the offensive line. Even so, Bell’s 3.9 yards per carry average needs to improve during the second half of the season. While running the football in their first 8 games, the Steelers offense had a success rate of 40.2%. However, last season they had a run success rate of 43.8%. With the offensive line expected to get tackle Marcus Gilbert back from injury starting in Week 10, the Steelers running game needs to improve some and especially when the temperature starts to drop thanks to winter. A 3% successful run rate increase in the second half will make life a bit easier for Roethlisberger.
Less Penalties – The Steelers offense is averaging right at 4 accepted penalties a game in the first half of the season and right at half of those killed drives. Decreasing this number by just one a game will go a long way in helping the offense.