The Pittsburgh Steelers continue to be spectacularly bad as a team on their opening drive this season, in fact getting worse and worse as the year goes on. Sunday’s game against the Indianapolis Colts reached a new low, three straight incompletions and a punt, but in reality, it was their fifth consecutive game going three and out on their opening drive.
It’s something that the Steelers have done now seven times in total over the course of the season, and if they do it again next week, it will be an entire half of a season in which they failed to gain a single first down on their opening drive. They also ran another three-play drive consisting of just three plays, but they gained a first down before fumbling.
Pittsburgh has punted or turned the ball over 11 times on their opening drives now this season, scoring just three times. They scored one touchdown, in week seven against the Tennessee Titans, a 16-play, 75-yard drive that actually traveled 100 yards due to needed penalty yardage to make up for, ending in an 11-yard touchdown from Ben Roethlisberger to Diontae Johnson.
The week before that, the Steelers scored a field goal on their opening drive after a 10-play, 58-yard drive on which they registered three first downs, reaching the Cleveland Browns’ 17-yard line. The only other time that they scored on their opening drive was back in week three, a field goal against the Houston Texans after an 11-play, 63-yard drive consisting of three first downs.
There was only one other time all season in which the Steelers even had an opportunity to score. They attempted a field goal on their opening drive against the Jacksonville Jaguars in week 11 following a six-play, 19-yard drive with one first down, and only because they began the game from the Jaguars’ 46-yard line because Jacksonville attempted an onside kick that failed.
On only five occasions all season, the Steelers gained at least 20 yards on their opening drive. They only gained more than 25 yards three times, and those three drives account for the only times that they have come away from their opening offensive possession with points. On each occasion, they gained more than 50 yards.
By my tally, the Steelers have gained a total of 312 yards on 15 opening-drive possessions this year, averaging just 20.8 yards per drive. To give some perspective as to how bad that is, they are averaging 27.7 yards per drive overall on the season—and that ranks 30th in the NFL.
Pittsburgh has picked up a total of 19 first downs on opening drives. 14 of them between games three and six of the season. They have just five opening-drive first downs since then, and, as mentioned, zero in the past five weeks, with just 21 total yards over that span.
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