The Pittsburgh Steelers rank fourth in the NFL, and second in the AFC behind only the Kansas City Chiefs, in points scored per game. They are on pace to score nearly 480 points this season if they maintain their current trajectory, which would be a franchise record, currently averaging 29.8 points per game.
Yet even though they own the largest points differential average in the league, we keep hearing from offensive players that they are not scoring enough. They have scored the fifth-most offensive touchdowns in the NFL this season. But they also rank just 13th in the league in terms of the percentage of their drives that end in points, at 43.1 percent (the Chiefs and the Las Vegas Raiders are both clearing 53 percent). How does the offensive coordinator, Randy, Fichtner, feel about this attitude in his players?
“We only talk about scoring every time we get the ball”, he told reporters yesterday, via transcript. “It doesn’t matter at what point, whether we are coming out, whether we get a turnover on the plus side. I think what gets disappointing for the guys is as you go back and study and watch the tape, you realize just that one mistake in the group offense by one person sets the whole group back”.
“We got a penalty the other day that kept us”, he continued. “We had plenty of yards to get a first, but we didn’t after we had a penalty. Playing penalty-free, doing the things that really require no talent, lining up properly, running the right route, executing the right technique and fundamentals of a run scheme, those type of things. I can see where the benchmark you always talk about is maybe 30 and above. I don’t know the number, but I know the higher that number goes the better chance we have to win. That’s all I really care to know”.
So many drives are ruined by just a small error in execution here, whether it’s a pass slightly off-target, a receiver failing to hold on to the ball, a miscommunication, a missed block leading to pressure or a tackle for loss, etc.
The Steelers are still having too many of these issues, which is why they are also among the league leaders in three-and-out percentage. The drives where they do get the ball moving have seen them show solid efficiency in getting into the end zone, which is critical, of course, but they want more drive-to-drive consistency.
Frankly, Pittsburgh owns the second-best average starting field position in the NFL this season, so they should be producing more frequently. They still rank 10th in points per drive at 2.47, because they have been so successful in the red zone while others have to settle for more field goals, but they only rank tied for 12th in red-zone opportunities, and they only have nine offensive touchdowns that have come from outside of the red zone—plus they have two defensive touchdowns.