By Matthew Marczi
As much as the offense seemed to get it together this past Sunday against the Detroit Lions—at least in the passing game—when the Pittsburgh Steelers got into the red zone, their season-long struggles reared their ugly head once again
On this day, however, the struggles were clearly down to execution, as can be seen on these four plays that should have been touchdowns.
The Steelers were set up here with second and six near the goal line. Ben Roethlisberger fired to an open Le’Veon Bell in the middle of the field. Maybe the pass was slightly too hard or slightly more behind him than he would have liked, but Bell wasn’t able to catch it. This is a ball that needs to be caught, in my opinion, and the fault lies with Bell, who could have walked into the end zone on this play.
The struggles continued on the very next drive with the Steelers on the 12. Heath Miller got past the coverage on second down and Roethlisberger tossed up a pass that he caught. After he took a hit, however, he could not hang on. As on the previous drive, the Steelers failed to get into the end zone on third down.
Fast forward to the third quarter and it is Roethlisberger’s turn to take the blame, sailing a pass over David Paulson’s head, who was left wide open in the back of the end zone for what should have been an alarmingly easy touchdown. Again, the Steelers settled for a field goal. That’s 12 points off the board purely because of execution.
Antonio Brown doesn’t always drop passes, but when he does, he prefers to be in the end zone. This is the second ball this season that Brown has let go through his hands that should have been a score.
Unlike the three prior occasions, on the other hand, the Steelers did end up getting into the end zone on a similar pass to fullback Will Johnson. But even that might not have happened had the Lions not been flagged for pass interference on second down.
Jerricho Cotchery added a 19.8 yard touchdown pass late to seal the game, which technically means that the Steelers’ last two plays run in the red zone ended up in touchdowns, but that certainly doesn’t represent how much they struggled to execute in that area throughout the game.