Earlier this week, I wrote about how the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has struggled inside the red zone this season and on Wednesday, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was asked to give his thoughts on the subject.
“We scored twice down there but we kicked field goals,” started Roethlisberger. “That’s why I think I was so disappointed after the game. We won, and I am happy about that. But we should have been better.
“The first time we got back down there, I think it was after Ryan Clark’s interception. We really tried to pound, bring the extra tight end in, Mike Adams, and really tried to run the ball, because it worked the last time down there, when we grinded, picked up the extra yards and got the touchdown. That time it didn’t work. Their defensive line stopped us.
“I just think when we get down there we need to keep staying aggressive and not get too conservative and bring in the extra lineman and play that conservative role. We have great weapons. We can still spread them out and run the ball. So we will take a look at what we can continue to do to get better down there. ”
Roethlisberger was then asked if he was wanting to take more shots as opposed to pounding the football.
“Not necessarily, just having the people on the field, the right personnel groups at times,” he said. “Like I said, the first time we got down there after Ryan’s interception, it worked. We had all the big guys. We used it. They stopped us.
“We just have to make sure that we go in there with the right mentality every time. Just because it worked last time doesn’t mean it’s going to work the next time.”
So being as Roethlisberger has a problem with the red zone personnel groupings being used, I thought I would look at what was used on offense in the last two games.
According to our game charting, in the game against the New England Patriots, the offense ran 13 red zone plays. On those 13 plays (4 drives), 11 personnel was used on all 13 of them. The offense scored three touchdowns on those four drives and all three scores went to wide receiver Jerricho Cotchery.
In the win over the Buffalo Bills last week, the Steelers offense ran 16 plays (5 drives). The breakdown of the personnel groupings used on those drives consisted of 11 (5 plays), 12 (6 plays), 13 (3 plays) and 22 (2 plays). I should note that Mike Adams was used as an extra tight end on 8 of those 16 plays and the two touchdowns came via 13 and 22 personnel groupings.
The biggest beef that I have with the Bills game is that the Steelers ran on seven of the eight plays that Adams was in the game for. In addition, of the 28 plays Adams was in the game for against the Bills, the offense ran the ball 22 times. I can certainly understand Roethlisberger’s beef here, because when Adams is in the game at tight end, he has one less legitimate pass catching weapon on the field. If offensive coordinator Todd Haley wants to use some 12 or 22 personnel groupings inside the red zone in order to run/pass out of, he really should consider putting tight end Michael Palmer or fullback Will Johnson on the field along with Heath Miller as both are legitimate pass catching options and both should be able to handle run blocking duties when it is called for it.
On Thursday, Haley will have his usual session with the media and you can bet he will be asked about the comments made by Roethlisberger on Wednesday. His response to those questions will certainly have my attention.
I have nothing against using Adams as an extra tight end in short yardage situations, but inside the red zone, he needs to give Roethlisberger more options when it comes to eligibles.