The Pittsburgh Steelers secured a Week 1 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals to open the season 1-0, but it looks like the offense has had an up front conversation from the staff regarding their performance in the game.
When Najee Harris was asked about what the offense can specifically do to improve this week heading into their home opener against the New England Patriots, he reiterated the exact same point QB Mitch Trubisky made earlier before practice: converting on third down.
“Third down,” Harris responded to the media regarding what can be cleaned up this week on video provided by Chris Adamski’s Twitter page. “Third down, for sure. Just executing plays. It’s more of just mental things for us. We have to execute plays exactly where they are going.”
Just hours later, Trubisky made the exact same comments regarding the improvements the offense needs to make from Week 1 to Week 2, calling for improvement “specifically third down and just overall execution.” For Najee Harris to come out and answer the question with nearly the same answer, one would have to imagine that the offensive coaching staff has made converting on third down as a key point of emphasis from Pittsburgh’s performance on Sunday in Cincinnati.
Pittsburgh converted 4-of-15 third down attempts Sunday against the Bengals, coming out to just over a 26% conversion rate. That conversion rate is brutal given the number of opportunities the defense gave the offense in terms of five turnovers that gifted the offense with the ball and good field position. While the offense did what it needed to do in overtime to get Chris Boswell in position to kick the game-winning field goal, it relied on Boswell’s leg a little too much in this one, settling for field goals or punting the football away to let the Bengals back into the game after holding a 14-point lead at halftime.
Losing Najee Harris to injury in the second half didn’t help matters for the offense, but they must do a better job at moving the chains, especially in third down situations. This allows them to stay on the field longer, wearing out the opposing defense and giving theirs a much-needed rest while moving the ball into scoring position and hopefully converting for touchdowns rather than settling for field goals.
Either way, it appears as if the message has been sent to the entire offense after the defense and special teams bailed them out of a game they likely should have lost in the final moments. They will have the opportunity to show improvement this week against a Belichick defense that has been historically stingy at allowing third down conversions, holding the Dolphins to converting 6-of-14 third down attempts this past Sunday.