It’s actually quite interesting to contrast the scoring production of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense so far this season against their efficiency. They are somewhat unremarkable overall in many regards, and yet are scoring 31.2 points per game, fourth-most in the NFL, with only one non-offensive touchdown helping it out.
Part of the reason is the fact that they have finished off a good number of their drives with touchdowns rather than field goals. Despite ranking only 15th in the percentage of drives that result in points, they average the ninth-most points per drive. They have 18 offensive touchdowns, but just seven field goals.
They rank only 10th in third-down conversion rate at 45.9 percent, and have the third-highest three-and-out rate in the entire NFL, one of only five teams to go three and out 25 percent of the time or worse.
But, aside from being more efficient in getting into the end zone, what they do have is a defense and special teams unit that spots them with good field position. In fact, they have the second-best average starting field position in the NFL, after having half of their 12 drives begin at their own 45-yard line or better last week.
In spite of these underlying factors that have somewhat artificially boosted their offensive output, head coach Mike Tomlin knows that the problems that do exist are real and need to be addressed—particularly the frequency with which they fail to advance the ball.
“There was some lack of fluidity, particularly in the early portions of the game, at least offensively, in terms of not being able to move it”, he said on The Mike Tomlin Show last night to host Bob Pompeani. “We were three and out a couple of times, I think the second series and the third series of the game”.
“We just can’t afford to have those type of lulls in our action if we want to be competitive in all circumstances”, he added, “so that’s something that we’re focused on, just more fluidity throughout our start in an effort to move the ball and better control the game”.
While the Steelers rank ninth in average drive time, they also rank 23rd in plays and yards per drive. But they also have the second-lowest turnover rating in the league, with just four giveaways in five games. If they are not going to improve upon their average drive efficiency, then keeping up things like maintaining of possession of the ball will be critical.
That is doubly so for games like today against high-scoring offenses and those who can control possession. Although it also includes their final two drives, the Steelers did do three and out five times last week against the Browns. The final one can be thrown out because they were in victory formation, but they were trying to advance the ball on the previous drive before a holding penalty saw them moving backward.