Are you looking for a reason to be optimistic about the Pittsburgh Steelers improving their performance in the red zone during the 2017 season? Then perhaps this article is for you, because one could argue that the team, when healthy, has actually already been rather successful in that area of the game over the past two years.
This is something that I tried to emphasize two years ago, but when you look back at the numbers from the 2015 season, you really have to consider just how astronomically terrible Landry Jones and Mike Vick combined were when they were commanding the Steelers’ offense.
When Ben Roethlisberger was under center, the Steelers had no such issues getting the ball across the goal line once they hit the 20-yard mark. And yes, I have the numbers to back it up. And yes, they are from articles on the topic that I have written over the past two years.
I originally wrote about it back in December of 2015 toward the end of that year, but I compiled the final numbers in an Optimist’s Take segment in April of last year. When Roethlisberger was on the field in 2015 during the regular season, the offense scored a touchdown on 29 of 45 trips into the red zone.
And that number includes a trip in which the Steelers took a knee to end the game and win after getting into the end zone, so we’re talking about converting on 29 of 44 meaningful trips. That works out to a touchdown on about 66 percent of trips, and would have ranked in the top five on the season.
We seem to forget, as well, that the offense did get off to a hot start within the 20-yard line last year, even though their final season numbers were nothing special. Over the course of the first five games of the season, during with they went 4-1, they punched it in on 11 of 14 trips into the red zone, with his nearly 79 percent of the time.
So from 2015 through the first five games of last year, when Roethlisberger was on the field, the Steelers offense scored 40 touchdowns on 58 meaningful trips inside the red zone—that is, when they were trying to score a touchdown.
That is a red zone efficiency of very nearly 69 percent, which is actually excellent. Of course, things start to go haywire when your quarterback is injured, and it is no coincidence that Roethlisberger got injured in the sixth game of the 2016 season, which coincided with a dip in red zone production.
Basically, a healthy Roethlisberger over the past two years has more often than not meant an effective red zone offense. The caveat will have to be the home-road performance, and perhaps I’ll tackle that by looking at the numbers from the last two years in that context over the next day or two.