Steelers Lacking In Red Zone Opportunities, Performance

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.

About the Author

Matthew Marczi

Passionate Steelers fan with a bit of writing ability. Connoisseur of loud music. Follow me on Twitter @mmarczi.

  • dgh57

    All this is compounded by the problems Suisham is having with his FG attempts so far this preseason!

  • walter mason

    We may never hear the name Redzone Bryant. His hands are not good enough to be relied upon. Which in unfortunate.

  • Bill

    This article says what I’ve been meaning to say but I had to wait for an article on the offense to comment upon. In truth the offense has shown little this season. Everybody speaks about how great the offense was in the Buffalo game and there were several great plays. But that’s all there was because the first team exited almost immediately. Steelers need to fix the red zone problem and I don’t believe that Brown, Miller, Moore, Wheaton, et al are the final solution. I addition, and I know I’m transgressing on hallowed ground here, but the offense is and always has been erratic with Roethlisberger at quarterback. He is what he is but we’re not likely to get somebody better and that means we are not going to have a passing offense that alone gets you into the playoffs like GB, NO and NE. The Steelers recent trips to the promise land were 70% defense and 30% offense. Well the defense is, to put it kindly, rebuilding. All this being said, it is up to Haley, the receivers coaches and Roethlisberger to build the offense into one that is consistently effective. If great offensive improvement does not take place, the Steelers will be lucky to be 8/8.

  • Nolrog

    It’s weird too. Suisham was really good the last couple years.

  • Nolrog

    I thought the offense looked very sharp in the Buffalo game. They moved the ball well AB took a short pass to the house, and Ben had a very nice TD throw in the corner of the endzone to Wheaton (I think). Even in the first game, they showed a little spark, especially with Archer taking that short pass for a long gain. The Philly game, though, they looked completely out of sync and just awful.

  • AndyR34

    Unless you are relying solely on “big pass plays” for your offense, the offense has not been very effective. Total yards and TD’s, without AB’s TD and Wheaton’s TD and Archer’s two 30+ yd. receptions, are minuscule. That was one of the points of the article.

  • walter mason

    The entire had to be deflated. Im deflated as a fan after the arrests. all that is needed is a sincere apology to their teammates.

  • WilliamSekinger

    There is no compelling evidence either way, so what is the point of the article again? Unless you believe teams remain exactly the same from year to year, the comparison to last year is pretty irrelevant.

  • steeltown

    Need to get Bryant involved one way or the other, as well as Miller and Spaeth… I love AB but he’s never been known for being a redzone threat. We have some guys with good hands (AB, Moore etc) but we’re not going to win a lot of jump ball battles. Getting the big guys involved could help.

  • richard

    It does appear that Pittsburgh has stayed the same from last year, the defense (if you can call it that) refuses to stop anyone. On offense they still can’t score in the red zone, and once again they give the offense (that needs to carry this team) a wide receiver with shaky hands. It is very hard to find any optimism for this up coming season, hopefully the team can find some heart, cause they will need a lot of it.

  • Matt Manzo

    That’s my worst nightmare! Not improving on our weaknesses from last year.
    Say it ain’t so!!!

  • cencalsteeler

    Walter, I hate to break it to you but, I would bet 70-80% of the NFL smokes weed. They were exposed because they got caught. I guarantee behind closed doors teammates are harassing them, laughing about it, teasing them and telling them what idiots they were for getting busted. That is probably why Tomlin was softer on them than many expected. A sincere apology as they stand in front of their teammates would probably only draw laughter and heckling from most of the room. The NFL isn’t as Andy Griffith as one may think.

  • cencalsteeler

    Improving red zone, goal line, third and shorts, special teams and field position, offensive line, pass rush, and secondary were all things that needed improvement from 13 to now. The only thing I see improvement so far is on the offensive line.

  • walter mason

    Im sorry to hear that cencasteeler. I grew up in the 60s/70s so I doubt there is anything you can teach me about pot . Its funny how young people think they know whats best. We thought smoking dope was cool too. I sure hope you are wrong. If teamates are laughing, and think this is a joke, we are in for a long, poor season and I will no longer be a fan of the Steelers if this behavior is tolerated.

  • walter mason

    Yes but Bryant appears to have such poor hands and Moye cant fight for the ball.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    From relatively close range. Last year he cost us a game or two.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    You overrated their first two performances. Except for the Archer play, what did they really do against the Giants…Nothing!
    Bell had a few good runs. But you remember escaping unblocked defender and gaining about 6 yards? Although that exemplifies many of Bell’s runs last year he still can’t do it every game. Fact is Ben is being hurried and the line still sucks.

  • Dewayne Braxton

    What kind of glasses do you wear?

  • steelster

    It’s way way too early to make the red zone determination. Why do we have to pass, run the ball. Put will johnson in as the lead blocker for blount. Blount is.a huge back with quick feet and hard to bring down.

  • ApexSteel

    Naw he’s actually been protected pretty well. 24/36, 331 yards, 3 tds, one pick, and last game was the first time he was sacked. Those are pretty good stats for a guy who played a little less than four quarters. The running game has also been better, but it just hasn’t been good enough.

  • ApexSteel

    I just don’t get it. I just watched Austin Davis move the ball against a pretty good Browns defense and the only thing I could wonder is “why can’t we do that”? The protection has been solid and our receivers are A LOT better than the Rams receivers, but we just can’t produce a consistent offensive attack. I said it before, I’ll say it again Antonio Brown is the only consistent offensive players.