We have finished up our review of every Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 opening drive. You already knew the results, two field goals, the only team not to find the end zone, and the individual breakdowns weren’t much prettier. Here are my final thoughts:
More Passes Than You Might Think
Was Randy Fichtner “run/run/pass” to open up the game? Not quite, even if that would’ve been the safe thing to do with poor QB play.
On the first offensive play of the game, Fichtner called nine runs and seven passes. A fair balance and the split was 7/7 until the final two weeks of the season, including a rainy Week 17 finale versus Baltimore.
I don’t think either method was more successful than the other, nothing this offense did was successful, but it wasn’t run-heavy.
Throughout the Haley and Fichtner era, we’ve spent time talking about how much they love the Hank/Harry concept early in games. We can prove that from this study. The Steelers ran Hank (curl/flat combo with TE running five yard over-the-ball route) or Harry (just curl/flat with no OTB route) a total of seven times on first possessions, a high number considering the limited plays. Hank was run four, Harry three.
To put that in further context, 18.9% of the Steelers total passes were Hank/Harry. They would’ve been more productive had Mason Rudolph and Devlin Hodges not struggled to make some pretty basic reads.
Bees To Honey In Run Game
Several times in our tape breakdown, we noted their lack of success out of heavy personnel when they brought in multiple tight ends or Zach Banner as a 6th offensive linemen. The numbers from our charting tell that story.
Out of 11 personnel, here were the Steelers’ rushing stats on opening drives: 16 carries, 59 yards (3.7 YPC), 31.3% run success rate.
Out of heavy personnel (12, 13, 21 groupings), here were the Steelers’ rushing stats on opening drives: 15 carries, 18 yards, 1.2 YPC, 26.7% run success rate.
Big, big difference. Pittsburgh struggled mightily running out of heavy personnel, inviting loaded boxes and run blitzes that routinely won. That’s on Randy Fichtner for poor self-scouting.
It’s Not All The OC Though
Of course, Fichtner isn’t the only person to blame. When an offense stinks like Pittsburgh’s, there’s plenty of fault to go around. The QBs were poor with their reads, receiver dropped passes, fumbled balls, and the running backs were a little more consistent but not great either. The line isn’t absolved either and by season’s end, blitz schemes by the Bills/Jets/Ravens overwhelmed this offense.
Some of the latter falls on coaching and their failure to make adjustments but there were only so many steps you could take when so severely limited by the lack of talent and injuries the offense had to deal with.
Check our each installment of our review below.
Opening Drives Weeks 1-2
Opening Drives Weeks 3-4
Opening Drives Weeks 5-6
Opening Drives Weeks 8-9
Opening Drives Weeks 10-11
Opening Drives Weeks 12-13
Opening Drives Weeks 14-15
Opening Drives Weeks 16-17