One of the biggest complaints about the 2011 Steelers, besides the injuries and poor offensive line play was the redzone scoring deficiencies. You can’t always hit the endzone from 50 yds. away so when you get inside the 20 you better make it count. The way today’s NFL offenses are, everybody is passing and eating up yards like crazy and teams aren’t afraid to throw the ball close to the goal line. You take what they give you and be creative, it’s just common sense. If they stack the line then just throw it, 6 points is 6 points. This business of we’re going to pound it in and make a statement is out of date. If you have weapons like Heath Miller then use them. Call a Tackle eligible play and actually throw it to Starks or Gilbert. Let’s face it NOBODY would be expecting that from the Steelers. The more you keep teams off balance the better chances you have of scoring.
Defenses will normally crowd the line of scrimmage when you’re in close to the goal line to try and stop the run and often times play action here is money for an offense. That’s assuming of course that you have a respectable running game, which was inconsistent at best for the Steelers this year. So yes that is something else the new O.C. will have to work on. Fixing the offensive line is a well known problem and has been for years. The technique isn’t the issue, Sean Kugler the team’s Offensive Line coach is well respected around the league. The fact that he’s been able to keep this MASH unit of players together and able to step in at any position at anytime is as much a tribute to him as it is the players hard work itself. Whether the new coordinator has a run first offense or a pass first first or hopefully better yet a balanced offense, getting additional quality starters and depth is paramount.
Back to the redzone offense, if you look at the Steelers efficiency in this area it’s hard to believe they actually one 12 games in the regular season and came to within overtime of winning the wildcard round.
Pittsburgh finished a mediocre 17th overall in the league, at 50.91% efficiency in the redzone in scoring Touchdowns. That’s not going to be very many good offenses and you end up in a lot more close games than you’d like to be in. The TD percentage playing at Heinz vs. on the road is pretty staggering. Home: 58.06% Away: 41.67%. You expect to have higher percentages at home if for no other reason than you don’t have the crowd noise close to the goal line. Still though, just over 41% on the road is downright terrible. There were only 3 other teams in the league that finished with a lower TD percentage in away games.
The number of Touchdowns actually scored while in the redzone is equally disturbing. Pittsburgh average 1.6 TD’s per game in the redzone, basically less than 2. That stat is somewhat misleading in that they were able to score from outside the 20′s with big plays to guys like Mike Wallace but you’re brought back down to earth with how poorly they executed when close to the goal line. Just to give you a contrast in that stat if you look at 3 of the top teams in the league and how their TD’s per game differs from the Steelers:New England: 3.0 Green Bay: 2.6 New Orleans: 2.7
The fact that Big Ben threw for over 4,000 yds. this past season tells you they were able to move the ball between the 20′s with pretty solid efficiency but bogging down in the redzone is a big reason I believe that Bruce Arians was let go. It’s not for a lack of talent at the skill positions but rather a lack of the proper play calling and a good group of blockers. The first will hopefully be fixed with a new face running the offense and the latter, well we’ve been hoping for that to be corrected for years.