2022 wasn’t a year the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense wants to remember. It was bumbling, disjointed, and certainly not as productive as it needs to be. In most categories, including points, they finished towards the bottom. But not all of them. They ranked first in at least one category – average plays for drive.
Despite the struggles of a young offense finding their footing, the Steelers led the league with 6.51 plays per drive, numbers courtesy of Pro Football Reference. It’s a big step up from a year ago when they ranked 25th and from 2020 when they ranked 30th. Here’s how the numbers stack up the last five years.
Average Plays Per Drive, 2018-2022
2022: 6.51 (1st)
2021: 5.79 (25th)
2020: 5.68 (30th)
2019: 5.18 (32nd)
2018: 5.93 (13th)
From last place in 2019 to first place in 2022. If there is one area of improvement Matt Canada can turn to, it’s this. Pittsburgh’s success here comes through its war-of-attrition attitude during the second half of the season. One that focused on the ground game, limiting the number of possessions by both sides, and controlling the ball and the clock. As our defensive charting pointed out, the Steelers’ defense averaged less than 54 snaps per game since the bye compared to 66 per game before it.
Pittsburgh also led the league with the most 10+ play drives. Their 45 was easily the most in football, five more than the next closest team, and only two other clubs had more than 40 such possessions. Their best example of that came in Week 15 against Carolina, a 21-play, 91-yard downfield march into the end zone.
But those end zone trips didn’t happen nearly enough. And the fact they had the most plays per drive yet finished with the 26th-ranked scoring offense is a problem. The #2 team in the league in plays per drive was the Detroit Lions, the league’s fifth-best scoring offense this year.
The story of the Steelers’ season was an inability to finish. Settling for field goals or drives that stalled out around midfield. Of those 10+ play drives, the Steelers found the end zone on just 1/3 of them, one of the worst marks in football. On the year, they finished with the 23rd-ranked red zone offense while Chris Boswell connected on only 71.4% of his field goals, the second-lowest mark of his career. That’s why the Steelers couldn’t put points on the board.
Pittsburgh’s offense has taken the first steps. They’re no longer hurting themselves with turnovers, penalties, things that back offenses up and kill drives. They’re moving forward, not backward. And as good as it is to know they averaged more plays per possession than any other offense, their weak overall output signifies how much further they have to go. Because the only number that matters is points and the Steelers’ offense still has a mountain to climb.