The Pittsburgh Steelers have scored five offensive touchdowns through three preseason games. Two of them have come from within the red zone. None of them have come on the ground.
In fact, the Steelers have gotten very little red zone work, which is partially explained by touchdown receptions going for 27, 33, and 76 yards.
Markus Wheaton’s touchdown reception a week ago came on third and 11 from the 16-yard line. Only Martavis Bryant’s three-yard reception came in a goal-to-go situation for the Steelers, and that was with Bruce Gradkowski and the reserves in the game on Thursday.
In the first preseason game, the Steelers failed to score an offensive touchdown at all. While they reached the Giants’ 20-yard line four times, they twice advanced no further. The opening drive stalled on an incomplete pass on third and three from the seven.
The Steelers advanced to the Giants’ 18 thanks to a 47-yard pass interference penalty against Bryant to begin the fourth quarter, but they only reached the 14-yard line.
As mentioned, game two started off with a 76-yard touchdown pass to Antonio Brown. The second drive saw the Steelers with first and 10 from the Bills’ 15 before Wheaton caught his touchdown from the 16-yard line.
The next time they cracked the red zone, Landry Jones was sacked and fumbled on the following play on first and 10 from the 19. Through the first two games, the Steelers never created a goal-to-go opportunity.
The Steelers’ first three drives against the Eagles never crossed Philadelphia’s 40-yard line. The fourth drive began at the Eagles’ 31 after a Troy Polamalu interception, but it only reached the 28-yard line after the turnover.
Beginning from their own 21 on the second drive of the third quarter, the Steelers finally drove down to the Eagles’ 27-yard line, after which Ben Roethlisberger found Miller on second down and six for the score.
Two drives later, Gradkowski connected with Darrius Heyward-Bey for a score from a distance of 33 yards.
The only time this entire preseason that the Steelers managed to achieve a goal-to-go situation was one drive later, following a punt and return that gave Gradkowski the ball at Philadelphia’s 42-yard line.
On the third play of the drive, he connected with Heyward-Bey for nine yards to breach the red zone at the 16-yard line. After finding Stephen Houston for 13 yards, the Steelers had first and goal from the three—the first time the scoreboard read first and goal all preseason for Pittsburgh. After two incomplete passes to Bryant and Derek Moye, Gradkowski finally found Bryant from three yards out for the score.
So what exactly have the Steelers accomplished so far this preseason in terms of working on their red zone offense? The only time they had a goal-to-go situation, it was late in the game where running the ball was already off the table.
In the first game, on the first drive, LeGarrette Blount carried for five yards and then two yards from the 14-yard line before Roethlisberger threw into the end zone on third and three to the 5’9” Lance Moore.
On Jones’ two forays into the red zone, he threw three passes, completing one for four yards, and was sacked and fumbled on the fourth play.
Le’Veon Bell carried twice in a row for five yards for a first down when the Steelers reached the 20 against the Bills. What followed was an incompletion, a blown wide receiver screen for a loss of one, and a 16-yard touchdown pass.
In other words, we haven’t really learned much at all, because we haven’t seen much, and what he have seen hasn’t been very effective.
The Steelers have typically taken to the air in these situations, but that shouldn’t be surprising considering they’ve run the ball only 57 times this preseason in comparison to 99 passes—and five of those carries were quarterback scrambles.
One of Pittsburgh’s weaknesses last year was executing in the red zone, and in goal-to-go situations. As of now, there is no compelling evidence to suggest that will change.