The 3-7 Pittsburgh Steelers have underachieved even in the eyes of their biggest skeptics this season. The Steelers have only put together one complete performance this season, and would need a miracle to make the playoffs. So, with such a bad team what is the biggest underachieving aspect of it?
ESPN’s Brooke Pryor voiced her opinion on it today in ESPN’s weekly power ranking article which always has an added part detailing something specific for each team. This week it was about underachieving. For her, she believes the Steelers red zone offense holds the underachieving crown.
“The Steelers have underachieved in more than one area this season, but the most glaring is the red zone offense” Pryor wrote. “They are scoring touchdowns on about 48% of red zone trips.”
Pittsburgh’s red zone offense has been brutal this season, costing them some games with their inability to get points. This past Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals the team did better inside the 20-yard line, scoring three touchdowns inside the red zone in five trips. Not ideal, but it is an improvement.
Last season, Pittsburgh wasn’t all that great in the red zone either, finishing 21st in the league and scoring a touchdown on 54.72% of their red zone trips. The Steelers struggles in the red zone this year are due to two things, a rookie quarterback and not great play calling.
First off, quarterback Kenny Pickett is still adjusting to the speed of the NFL, and in the red zone everything gets even faster. Pickett has shown potential, but his processing just is not there yet. It is going to take time and more reps for Pickett to process quicker and become more efficient in the red zone.
Secondly, the play calling is not great. While it has improved these past few weeks, offensive coordinator Matt Canada’s offense sometimes has spacing issues and with limited space in the red zone, it makes it even worse. While Canada will sometimes scheme up great plays with players open and Pickett just misses or doesn’t see them, other times, no one is open due to bad route combinations. The two reasons go hand in hand for why the red zone offense has been bad.
Personally, I do not think the red zone offense has been the biggest disappointment for the Steelers this year. I expected it to be bad because rookie quarterbacks usually struggle inside the 20, and I expected Pickett to see game time this year. However, I did not expect the run game to be bad.
While it has improved mightily these past few games, most of the season it has been ineffective. I expected Najee Harris to take a big leap this year and the offensive line to improve in the run blocking department with the additions of right guard James Daniels and center Mason Cole. I thought the rushing attack would be able to ease Pickett into the job but instead it has made it more difficult due to it not being a threat.
Hopefully, the run game continues to improve and with it the red zone offense does as well so the Steelers can end the season on a high note.