The Steelers head into the bye week at 7-3 and while there have been plenty of bright spots during these first 10 games, there have also been a good share of dark spots. One of those that stick out stat wise and on the field is the play of the Steelers offense in the 4th quarter in close games. I define close in this post as a range of down by 7 to up by 7 points. We have seen the Steelers offense have trouble putting teams away in the fourth quarter this year, with the most recent example being Sunday against the Bengals.
I was curious to what the stats were and pulled both the rushing and passing stats that match the 4th quarter close game criteria I mentioned above. I knew it was bad, but not this bad. As you see in the table below in the last column, the Steelers are averaging a league worst 2.7 yards per play in the 4th quarter of close games. The rushing stats show a 1.9 yards per carry, and while not the worst in the league, it certainly is right near the bottom.
Passing wise is not much better in these situations as quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has a low 46.3% completion rate in these situations and a mere 5.6 yards per attempt to go along with it. 9 of the 31 sacks allowed by the Steelers this season have also come in these situations. That leads the league as well with 6 allowed being the closest.
Everyone always wants to point to play calling in these situations, but execution plays an even bigger role and I really see it when I re-watch these games as many times as I do. The Steelers have had a hard time running in any situation this year on a consistent basis and they have been even worse when other teams expect them to run. The sacks allowed also set up unfavorable down and distances to go along with everything else and although I do not have the number of drops in these situations, 3 or 4 come to mind right away over the last few weeks late in games.
Regardless of where you want to place the blame at here, it needs to improve following the bye. The Steelers have to do a better job at putting teams away in the 4th quarter or running out the clock when they get the ball back with 5 minutes or less to go in the game. I will be tracking this closely going forward, but you will not need stats to prove the point if you watch the games.
2011 4th Quarter Offense Stats Through Week 10 +/- 7 Points