The Pittsburgh Steelers are not a perfect team by any means, even if they are 9-0, but they are unquestionably one of the best and most complete teams in the NFL this season. One area in which they have fairly consistently struggled, however, has been in moving the ball early on offense and getting into the end zone.
Take last week’s game, for example. They scored two field goals on their first four possessions, but both of those field goals came on drives that began in opponent territory. They gained just 28 yards on their first three possessions over 12 plays run.
A week before that, against the Dallas Cowboys, they punted three times and turned the ball over on downs on their first four possessions extending deep into the second quarter, netting just 67 yards. The week before that, they punted four times and fumbled once at their own 30-yard line on their first five possessions.
The rare exception was the Tennessee Titans game when they scored on their first four possessions. It was the second week in a row in which they had relatively early success, scoring three times on their first five possessions, including touchdowns on the last two, but it didn’t develop into a trend—in fact, it got dramatically worse.
It’s a problem that the entire offense is aware of, and something that wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster emphasized yesterday during his interview with reporters as they prepared to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Florida on Sunday.
“For us, we just have to start out fast on offense”, he said. “We can’t play behind. There’s been multiple times, multiple games where we’ve played, we’ve come from behind. We know we can do that. We know that’s possible. But let’s have a game where we’re not giving Steeler Nation a heart attack”.
Prior to this past Sunday’s blowout victory, the Steelers previous three games were all decided on the same play, with the defense being tasked to make one final stop (or in some cases, two stops). The game against the Titans narrowly avoided going into overtime on a missed 45-yard field goal as time expired.
Whatever it takes, whatever the issues are, the Steelers have simply got to get off to better starts over the second half of the season. At least a couple of scores on their first four or five possessions. Even that has been too much to ask of late.
Their slow starts have led to them spending the second halves of late digging themselves out of holes they never should have been in to begin with, but even when they have built a lead, they have often allowed their opponents to catch up.
What will the Jaguars game be like? They rank 26th in points scored this season and 31st in points allowed, so that’s not great for them. Then again, it took a fourth-quarter comeback for the Green Bay Packers to finish them off on Sunday, and that was in Wisconsin.