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‘The Final Frontier:’ Canada Says Steelers Can’t Turn Ball Over Past Midfield

The Final Frontier. To boldly go where no man has ever gone before.

For the Pittsburgh Steelers, that destination is the end zone. A place they have visited this year but not often enough. Over the next two games, that’s the offense’s mission.

Speaking with reporters Thursday, OC Matt Canada made it clear the Steelers can’t keep having drives stall out before they hit paydirt.

“We’ve crossed the 50-yard line where I think we’ve had four turnovers when we’ve crossed the 50-yard line,” Canada said via a team transcript. “In the last three games, we’ve not done as good a job in some situations there, and then we’ve missed some plays on third-down that you can either kick field goals or whatever happens. So that is the kind of the final frontier.”

On the season, the Steelers have had 87 drives cross into opposing territory. Here’s how they break down in terms of outcomes: touchdowns, field goals, punts, turnovers/downs, and end of half/game.

FG Attempt: 41.8%
Touchdown: 26.4%
Turnover: 13.2%
Punt: 9.9%
End Of Half/Game: 5.5%
Downs: 3.3%

Overall, 58.2% of those drives ended in points for the Steelers (not all field goal attempts were good). Because everything statistics is relative, the Steelers’ 58.2% scoring rate across such drives ranks just 29th in the NFL only ahead of the Denver Broncos, Green Bay Packers, and Indianapolis Colts. Pittsburgh’s 13.2% turnover rate is fifth-highest in the league too, a dubious combination that means the offense is failing to finish drives.

Canada specifically refers to the last three games and those stats aren’t any kinder to Pittsburgh. Since Week 14, the Steelers have scored on 47.4% of drives that breach enemy territory (27th overall) while they’ve turned it over 21.1% of their possessions (tied 4th-most).

The Baltimore Ravens game was the most egregious example with backup QB Mitch Trubisky throwing a pair of picks deep into Ravens’ territory, intercepted at their 23 and 17 in a game the Steelers lost by two points. Had Pittsburgh taken care of the football, it’s very likely they would’ve won. Even in Sunday’s victory over Las Vegas, Kenny Pickett threw a pick at the Raiders’ 36 while the team was forced to settle for long field goals in gusty conditions that led to a pair of Chris Boswell misses.

As a young and growing offense, some of that may be excused away. But Canada isn’t buying it.

“Being young is not an excuse. None of that. We’ve got to produce those, things have to happen, but I think we’re getting closer. We’re making more of them, but we just have got to get them all.”

That’s the right approach. While this offense is young, it’s also Week 17 and with a healthy team for most of the year, everyone has plenty of experience under their belts. As the Steelers desperately try to stay in the playoff conversation, there is no grading on the curve. There’s either success or failure and when Pittsburgh gets past midfield, they need to see much more of the former.

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