A year ago, the Pittsburgh Steelers were among the very best offenses in the league in terms of situational football. They had the top red zone team in touchdown efficiency in the past decade, and they were also among the top teams in converting on possession downs.
That has been far from the case so far this year, a problem that already pre-existed Ben Roethlisberger’s injury, or at least the concluding stanza of his brief injury saga that ultimately resulted in him having season-ending surgery on his throwing elbow.
The offense finally had some success on third down in their last game, a seven-point win over the Los Angeles Chargers in an ‘away’ game, even if it felt like home, but overall, they are still among the worst teams in converting on possession downs.
A lot of that has been the inability to convert short-yardage situations, particularly on the ground, and while that was more of an issue earlier in the year—they converted four times on third and short on running plays—it still rubs the offensive line and the running backs the wrong way when they fail.
“They take it personal. They do”, offensive line coach Shaun Sarrett said”. When they come in here in the meeting rooms and you’re watching it and we’re not getting the third and ones and even the fourth and ones, those guys take pride in [getting that], and they’re upset about it”.
“And that goes on all of us. It’s coaches and players”, he added. Some might be quick to point out that this is the first season without Mike Munchak at the controls, not just there, but also as the run game coordinator, but it’s not that simple. The plays have been there to be made. Some of it’s on the line. Some of it’s on Eddie Faulkner’s backs.
“They totally take it personal”, Faulkner said of his own group. “It’s the offensive unit. Because we know that those possession downs turn into more rush attempts, us moving the ball to try to score points, so we all take it personal. It’s something we’ll continue to work on. I mean, that’s the game, staying on the field in those situations dictates wins and losses”.
The good news is that these issues have been trending in the right direction, so hopefully it will prove to have been just an early-season skid. Especially given the blows that this offense has taken, both during the year and in the offseason, it’s as important as it ever was that they can sustain drives, since they’re not completing big plays.