Hey, you know what’s important? Efficiency in the red zone. Getting into the red zone a lot is also important, of course, but making the most of your best opportunities is often what separates teams. Coming away with seven points rather than three can be the difference in any game.
The Pittsburgh Steelers have been regarded as one of the top offensive teams over the course of the past several years, yet they have never ranked particularly high in any given season in terms of the percentage of drives in the red zone that they were able to convert into touchdowns.
The team has paid lip-service to the issue at all levels, right up to President Art Rooney II, but ultimately the onus will be on new offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner to conduct the offense in such as way as to be a top-10 performer in that area of the game.
Fichtner was promoted to that role this offseason—actually, back in January—after the Steelers elected to move on from Todd Haley as their offensive coordinator. He has already been in the system in different roles for over a decade, so nobody is anticipating any major changes, rather minor adjustments.
And when it comes to executing in the red zone, he had a clear idea, he told reporters, about how to go about doing that. “In general, it’s the details, the assignment details and fundamentals that come into play, and now you’re talking about coaching”, he said during minicamp.
“If you’re going to talk about being on the screws, you better be on the screws down there, because everything gets magnified. Decisions, throws, everything down there is so tight, and you have a defense that’s not going to back up because it has nowhere to go”.
He is right, of course. Sometimes it doesn’t matter what play you call if it’s simply not executed. The Steelers, as a team, have not always been able to execute at a high level consistently, and that goes for everybody involved, including quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
Execution comes down to coaching. That includes drilling the fundamentals for the players as well as making sure that they are prepared for every situation. Of course, you yourself also have to be prepared. Haley and the team pretty infamously blundered in that aspect against the New England Patriots last year.
The Steelers did improve in the red zone as the season wore on last year. From the second half of the season and into the playoffs, they scored 23 times in 37 trips inside the red zone, which was a success rate of 62.1 percent. Over a full season, that would have ranked fourth in the league in 2017.
But they really struggled through the first half of the year. By the halfway mark, the Steelers ranked 30th in the league with a red zone touchdown percentage of just 41.38. They rose to 18th by the end of the year with a touchdown percentage of 53.03.