I don’t think it would be outlandish to suggest that the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense this season, overall, has been pretty average. While they do rank fourth in point per game (actually higher than the Baltimore Ravens), they have plenty of efficiency issues that have gotten them in tough spots at some point of the season or another.
One area that has been a concern in recent weeks has been the ability to close out games. The Steelers were able to finish off several games early in the season with either extended drives or by getting the necessary first down, but that hasn’t been happening lately. The defense had to shut the door on the Dallas Cowboys twice on Sunday.
The running game in general has taken a step or two back, and they have been held to under 100 total yards on the ground in each of the past three weeks. In contrast, they got four 100-yard rushing games in their first five weeks, one from Benny Snell and three from James Conner.
The latter spoke to the media earlier today and was asked what areas of emphasis the offense was working on this week to improve. “Just getting better”, he said. “We’re still trying to be a team on the rise, still trying to grow. A lot of areas. Being able to control the ball, not going three and out, time of possession. A little bit of everything. We get an opportunity on Sunday, so that’s all we can ask for”.
The three-and-out drives is an underrated issue for this offense. According to Football Outsiders, the Steelers are going three and out on 23.8 percent of their drives this season, which ranks in the bottom five in the NFL. They also have the fifth-highest punt frequency.
The offset is that they also rank ninth in the league in the percentage of their offensive drives that end in touchdowns. Part of that has been their improvement in the red zone, as they rank ninth in the league here, scoring touchdowns on 20 of their 30 red-zone trips, or 66.7 percent.
It really is quite curious, even enigmatic, how they are successful in some areas yet poor in others. Their 48.2 percent third-down conversion rate is the sixth-best in the NFL, and they have also converted two thirds of the time on fourth down. Yet they go three and out nearly one in four times.
That leaves consistency as the concern. This is an offense equally as capable of leading lengthy scoring drives of double-digit plays spanning 75-plus yards and taking up six-plus minutes of game clock as it is running three plays and gaining seven yards over a minute and a half.