I talked about the fact that the Pittsburgh Steelers are in a league of parity this season with no team dominant, and all flawed, in an article earlier today. That remains no less true now than when I wrote it; however, there is still plenty that they can do, especially on offense, to give themselves a leg up.
And that starts with playing a much better game when it comes to situational football. The Steelers put up 29 points yesterday, for example, but it was a game in which they could have easily put up 40 or more. It’s the second week in a row in which they failed to put a team away when they had an opportunity.
I’m talking of course about two key areas: extending drives on third (and fourth) down and turning trips inside the red zone into touchdowns, rather than field goals. The Steelers looked as though they were going to start off on fire in both areas, but they fizzled fast in the second half.
They scored a touchdown on their opening drive, a drive in which they had to convert on third and five on just the third play of the game, picking up gains of 11 and seven yards from the 20-yard line and in, the latter being a touchdown pass to Antonio Brown.
They went three-and-out on their second drive when Ben Roethlisberger could not quite hit the narrow window between two defenders for Eli Rogers on third and six, when they were backed up on their own 14-yard line at the time, which helped allow the Bengals to answer with a touchdown drive of 53 yards.
But the offense responded quickly, never even facing a third-down situation, nor getting into the red zone, because Roethlisberger was able to find his rookie wide receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster from 31 yards out.
That was pretty much all of the offensive success that they would have for the day in situational football.
After the first drive in which they converted once on third down and connected inside the red zone, the offense subsequently failed to convert on nine of their 10 final third-down opportunities, a number of them coming in short-yardage.
They did get a couple via defensive penalty thanks to the Bengals’ lack of discipline, and they converted on fourth down on a fake punt, but they also failed to convert on an offensive play on fourth down as well.
And they got into the red zone five more times after that first drive, unable to score another touchdown from that range, ultimately only doing so once in six trips for a touchdown percentage of just 16 percent, which is crucially bad.
At some point, of course, the Steelers are going to lose a game simply because they cannot convert in situational football, unless they begin to improve. Execution has been lacking, and missed assignments have played their part. But this is a trend that needs to be tamped down before it costs them.