The issue with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense isn’t that it can’t put up yards. It can and it does in bunches. The number one issue has been a lack of efficiency in situational football. Third down and red zone are at the forefront of that. Things got better in last week’s win over Green Bay but for the Steelers’ strong offensive output to continue, so does that success.
Even though the Steelers went 3-3 against the Packers, they still rank 28th in the NFL in red zone success. That puts them at 46.5% for the season, a historically bad number. The fine folks over at Team Rankings has tracked red zone offense data since 2003 and this year’s numbers don’t look good for the Steelers.
Since 2003, the Steelers’ red zone offense has never been this low in neither percentage or league rank. The closest it’s been is slightly below 50%, including all the way back in ’03. Last year, they ranked middle of the pack with a 54% clip, a number and ranking this offense would kill for right now. 2015 was even better at 57%, good enough for 13th place.
Again, things have gotten better. They at least had volume working in their favor against the Tennessee Titans, making seven trips and finding the end zone on three of them. And they were stellar against the Packers. But if the team wants to slay the Patriots and head to the Super Bowl, they have to do better in situational football. You know the Patriots always excel in that area (they’re top ten in red zone offense for the 8th year in a row).
Things won’t get any easier against the Cincinnati Bengals Monday night. Believe it or not, the Bengals have the best red zone defense in the NFL and by far the best numbers at home (26.7%). Pittsburgh, for lack of a better word, sucked in their first matchup. They went 1-6 in the red zone, squeaking out a win with a flurry of field goals. In both games last year, the Steelers combined to go 3-7 against Cincy.
If the offense gets on/stays on track the rest of the season, there should be a high degree of confidence in this offense. If they can’t, it’s going to be hard to consider them the favorites.