Earlier in the week, we wrote about the ugly “23” number the Pittsburgh Steelers have been stuck on the last two seasons. All due respect to Damontae Kazee, the 23 we’re talking about is the Steelers’ red zone offense that has finished exactly 23rd each of the last two seasons.
Speaking to reporters Thursday afternoon, Team President Art Rooney II recognizes the offense must do a better job finishing drives.
Here’s what he told reporters via Steelers.com’s Dale Lolley.
“We need to be better in the red zone,” Rooney said specifically via 93.7 The Fan. “So definitely some places we need to improve on to, you know, score more points is the bottom line.
Since Matt Canada took over as OC in 2021, Pittsburgh’s red zone offense has been held under 55% in both seasons. In 2021, they sat at just 54%. This past year, they dipped down to 51.9%.
That number isn’t all on Canada’s shoulders. He’s dealt with a new and growing offense that made a quarterback change mid-way through this season, something that hasn’t happened in Pittsburgh for non-injury reasons in decades. It would’ve been unfair to expect the Steelers to transform into a top ten group. And the Steelers have had underwhelming red zone results even with far better and more proven talent, struggling during the Todd Haley years.
But the very obvious correlation between scoring more points is finishing red zone drives. Pittsburgh had no issue going on long drives this season, leading the NFL with 45 possessions of 10+ plays. But they had a bottom-third touchdown rate on such drives and overall, settled for field goals far too often, a key reason why they finished the year just 26th in points per game, barely scoring more than they did in 2019 without Ben Roethlisberger. Even as they got hot down the stretch, their red zone offense was only converting 54% of the time.
To hear Rooney tell it, it sounds like he understands the reasons for Pittsburgh’s struggles. Much of that was expected coming into the year and the team’s bye week reset, taking the air out of the ball and focusing on the run game, is indicative of where this team is at. They’re back in 2004, the early-Roethlisberger days. But like that offense did back then, they’ll need to evolve. And they definitely have to come away with more trips to the end zone.