It certainly seems that there is an inordinate number of ‘bad things’ about the Pittsburgh Steelers’ 2020 season when you consider the fact that they did actually go 12-4 during the year, winning the AFC North in the process, and tying for the second-best record that they have had since 2004, before head coach Mike Tomlin was even a coordinator anywhere in the NFL.
Although the defensive side of the ball had some problems—and any problem that they had at any point of the regular season seemed to miraculously surface during their embarrassing postseason performance in the loss to the Cleveland Browns—it would be fair to say that the bulk of the ‘bad things’ fell on the offensive side of the ball.
Even that itself is somewhat striking when you observe that they actually opened the season having scored at least 24 points in each of their first 10 games of the year, all of which were, of course, victories. Then they scored just 19 against the Baltimore Ravens’ b team in their 11th victory and it was all downhill from there.
One common theme throughout the year, however, was sheer incompetence on opening drives, and in the early portions of games in general. There was a game this season, if memory serves, in which they managed to go three and out on each of their first five possessions, which almost seems like an accomplishment.
According to Pro Football Reference, the Steelers ranked tied for 24th in the NFL in terms of first-quarter scoring, but that requires a caveat, as that includes multiple defensive scores. They only had four offensive scores in the first quarter all season, compared to three defensive scores.
Tomlin did not have an answer for this in the aftermath of the loss. All that he had to offer was that it was a concern, and that “it will be investigated”. As we have already learned since, of course, that investigation will not involve Randy Fichtner, whose contract as offensive coordinator it has been announced they are allowing to lapse.
The fourth quarter was their most productive, scoring 17 offensive touchdowns in the final 15 minutes of games over the course of the year, including the postseason. They also had 15 touchdowns in the second quarter, and just eight in the third, indicating that they start halves poorly in general and play better with the momentum of the game.
This is just one of the many concerns the Steelers will be looking to address this offseason, of course. For a team with a .750 record, they sure have a lot of problems. Getting out of the gate quicker is just a small part of the equation.