5 Key Areas The Steelers Offense Needs To Improve In After Bye Week

The Pittsburgh Steelers entered their bye week with a 6-2 record and the No. 1 seed in the AFC. While that’s a great spot to be in all things considered, it goes without saying that the team’s offense can certainly stand to improve some in several key areas during the second half of the season.

Below are five key areas we hope to see the Steelers offense improve in during their final 8 regular season games of 2017.

Red Zone Conversions – You can’t talk about needed areas of improvement for the Steelers offense in the second half of the 2017 season without first listing red zone area conversions. In their first eight games of the regular season the Steelers offense has only scored 12 touchdowns on 29 total red zone trips and that 41.38% rate is currently the third worst in the NFL entering Week 9. The Steelers 29 red zone trips this season are only bested by the New England Patriots (34) and Los Angeles Rams (31). Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is currently 14 of 33 passing for 77 yards with 6 touchdowns on plays run inside the opponent’s 20-yard-line and those scoring tosses went to Antonio Brown (2), JuJu Smith-Schuster (2) and Jesse James (2). The Steelers offense has obviously been able to move the football in their first eight games and during the second eight, offensive coordinator Todd Haley, along with the help of Roethlisberger, needs to find a way to score more touchdowns once inside the opponents red zone.

Third Down Conversions – Entering their bye week, the Steelers offense has converted just 37.86% of their third down plays and that percentage is too low. Hidden inside those stats is the fact that the Steelers offense has only converted 25.5% of their third down plays that needed 7 or more yards. To make matters worse, 5 of Roethlisberger’s 9 interceptions so far this season have come on third down plays. Roethlisberger, by the way, has converted just 36.5% of third downs on 85 total dropbacks.

Deep Passing – You knew I would be getting to this area in this post. Entering Week 9, Roethlisberger leads the NFL in deep pass attempts with 73. However, he’s completed just 25 of his deep pass attempts on season and that 34.2% rate is way below his career average of 42.7% (end zone yardage not counted on deep stats). Perhaps the most disturbing aspect about Roethlisberger’s failure to connect at a higher percentage on his deep pass attempts so far this season is the fact that most of incompleted throws weren’t catchable by the intended target. In short, Roethlisberger hasn’t been on the same page with his wide receivers so far this season when it comes to deep pass attempts for one reason or another. That needs to be fixed.

Increase Run Success Rate Slightly – Sure, the Steelers running game has come to life as of late as running back Le’Veon Bell now seems to be more in sync with the offensive line. Even so, Bell’s 3.9 yards per carry average needs to improve during the second half of the season. While running the football in their first 8 games, the Steelers offense had a success rate of 40.2%. However, last season they had a run success rate of 43.8%. With the offensive line expected to get tackle Marcus Gilbert back from injury starting in Week 10, the Steelers running game needs to improve some and especially when the temperature starts to drop thanks to winter. A 3% successful run rate increase in the second half will make life a bit easier for Roethlisberger.

Less Penalties – The Steelers offense is averaging right at 4 accepted penalties a game in the first half of the season and right at half of those killed drives. Decreasing this number by just one a game will go a long way in helping the offense.

  • Steel Your Face

    Kick Return & Punt Return game? Anyone? I literally do not remember the last time they started past the 25 yard line…

  • Zarbor

    I can sum up 90% of this article in one sentence. Ben needs to play much better. That takes care of 1-4.

  • Steeldog22

    Yup.

  • JohnB

    that’s todays NFL

  • Mark

    I hope Ben, AB, JuJu, MB, ER, Vance, LB, and James are doing some 7 on 7 work along with Haley. Passing is going to become critical as the weather gets worse. We are going to need ER to get his game back together, he’s looking like bad Coates right now.

  • Mark

    Yeah man!

  • jsteeler

    I couldn’t have said it better.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    After seeing the Lions pass all over the Steelers, I’d add this to the list. This D hadn’t faced anyone too scary before that, save for Alex Smith’s strong season, and that showing won’t do against that one team we’ll likely play.

  • JT

    I think they’ve made great strides in the penalty department. Especially the line and JuJu.

  • JT

    But Ben also needs somebody to catch the football. We need more than two reliable receivers for him. Somebody else has to step up, and not drop TD passes.

  • ATL96STEELER

    JohnB said it best…I think the main thing here now is to secure the transition.

  • NCSteel

    This was SO dead on that I had to look back to see who wrote it.
    Of course it was Dave !
    Nice work brother. They improve in these areas and New England or no New England, we will be toasting another Super Bowl win.

  • nikgreene

    Good point. I think this article is only meant to address the offense. Maybe a ‘5 things’ article is coming for the defense.

  • nikgreene

    Not sure this is a ‘improvement needed’ but I would love to see Watson / Conner mix in for 10-15 plays a game to give Bell a rest. I know Conner’s pass blocking has been an issue, but Bell’s snap share of 90% or whatever is pretty unsustainable. At the very least, the next time the team is up two TDs in the 4th quarter please give Conner an entire series to see what he can do.

  • PaeperCup

    20 areas they need to improve. 1 yard line, 2 yard line, 3 yard line, 4 yard line, 5 yard line………..20 yard line.

  • PaeperCup

    too true. Ben isn’t playing an A game, but a lot of missed opportunities from the likes of Eli, Vance, maybe Jesse.

  • Charles Haines

    As usual, very interesting breakdown Mr. Bryan. When you view the All 22 film in the red zone, do you see WR’s not getting open or is Ben just not throwing it because they aren’t “college open”?

  • ilamarca

    Rushing 3 against one of the worst OLines in the league was the issue in Detroit. Secondary is only as good as the pass rush and Butler didn’t blitz much for some reason.

  • Anthony Palmerston

    Mark my words. Red zone conversions. This will be the reason we don’t reach the Super Bowl this year. I just have a feeling we’ll get better over the course of the second half of the season but either in the divisional game or the conference game of the playoffs we’ll struggle with it again and it’ll be the reason we don’t reach the SB.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Step Up? Maybe if they caught more accurately thrown balls for a change that might help. Nothing wrong with hitting a wide receiver in stride every once in awhile, especially on a deep route or two.

  • Ehrren Lee Phyzeque

    Will it actually be necessary for someone to compare the number of badly thrown overthrown balls from the quarterback versus the total number of dropped balls so far from the receivers? It begins and ends with the quarterback. Simple as that. And even simpler: special mention goes to Todd Haley: PUT BRYANT in when in the red zone and throw it to him!!!!

  • capehouse

    Agree. Bryant has flopped so far this year, Hunter is not the guy and Rogers has disappointed almost as much as Bryant. The TEs have underwhelmed too. Still, Ben needs to be better, but his weapons have not lived up to the hype, outside of AB of course. We really need Bryant to form some semblance of his old self. Can’t believe how crucial the JuJu draft pick has become.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    Give Grimble some passed and stop putting him down. We have seen what the others offer. Oh yeah since we have to pay Bryant feed him to. Let by gones be just that. Whatever or whomever let’s get the ball rolling. We probably should have kept Coates, Hunter seems to have just been good enough for early camp. Just saying, please don’t waste this season by over complicating things.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    We are 6-2 and this is the NFL. And we are the Steelers. We need to do a lot of things better going forward. Primarily having faith in the team and stop writing off certain players.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    So have others, we will need that brat if we are to be SB 52 Champions.

  • Patricia McClary Harris

    Agreed!