Pittsburgh Steelers: Red Zone Issues Continue to Baffle
The Pittsburgh Steelers are coming off a victory over the Buffalo Bills Sunday that has Steelers’ fans everywhere feeling a little more positive about their favorite football team. A win is a win, and especially in a season where those victories seem rare fans are encouraged to enjoy every win to its fullest.
However, looking back on the Steelers’ victory there is one common thread that has led to issues on the offense. No, it isn’t turnovers, offensive line play, running back issues or even a quarterback controversy. The main issue is simply that the Steelers are one of the worst red zone offensive football teams in the NFL.
This season the Steelers rank 28th in NFL team red zone touchdown scoring percentage. Their atrocious 44.83 percent in the red zone is something that points to major issues in the one category that truly counts in the NFL — scoring points. Shaun Suisham is a fantasy football “Must Start” every week because of the Steelers’ issues in the red zone. Plain and simple, Suisham is kicking too many field goals and not enough PATs.
What could be the main factor behind such issues in the red zone? Some point to a lack of a running game, some point to the play-calling and others point to an inaccurate quarterback as reasons for the Steelers’ ultimate demise in and around the red zone. The statistics point to a mixture of the everything.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley‘s play-calling would be on the docket first. The Steelers are actually moving the ball well this season, except in the red zone. Haley’s obsession with wide receiver screens in the red zone is something that is known even amongst fans, and wanting to get the ball into your play-makers’ hands is never a bad thing. Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown might be some of the best wide receivers in terms of accumulating yards after the catch, but a bubble screen in the red zone isn’t always the best option.
To Haley’s defense, his best red zone threat is not being able to be utilized effectively. Heath Miller was the Steelers’ best red zone option for Ben Roethlisberger, but due to a shoddy offensive line Miller has been forced to stay and block instead of releasing over the middle of the field where he does his damage. This could be one main factor for the red zone issues.
Pittsburgh’s running game and offensive line sure could be other factors for the struggles in the red zone. Le’Veon Bell has finally returned to health and is really starting to get acclimated to the NFL game, but the offensive line often times brings down the Steelers in the red zone. Injuries have decimated the offensive line, and even when they were healthy opening up holes in the running game and protecting Ben Roethlisberger were an issue.
Regardless of the exact reason for the Steelers’ struggles in the red zone, when the Steelers rank 24th in red zone touchdowns per game (1.4 per game) and 25th in points per game (19.9 points per game) there are major issues that need to be addressed for this team to continue moving forward as an offensive unit.
Jeff Hartman covers the Pittsburgh Steelers for RantSports.com and also contributes for the Penguins and Pirates. Follow him on Twitter @BnGBlitz