Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Red-Zone Woes Haunt Offense Much Too Often

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Red-Zone Woes Haunt Offense Much Too Often

Article excerpt

Are the Steelers not scoring more from inside the red zone because they don't crack their opponents' 20 more often? Or do they not score once there because they just aren't good at it?

Turns out, both are true.

The Steelers have moved the ball inside the 20 only 16 times, third fewest among teams in the AFC and fifth fewest in the NFL. Once there, they put the ball in the end zone six times or just 37.5 percent. That's worse than every team in the league except the winless Jacksonville Jaguars (27.8).

It began when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger did not get a clean handoff to Isaac Redman on the first series of the season, from the Tennessee 6. The Titans recovered in the end zone, and the Steelers have found it tough to get the ball there any other way.

They have nine touchdowns from all over the field after six games, just two rushing, both by Le'Veon Bell, both in a 37-24 loss against the Minnesota Vikings in London.

"That's frustrating as a quarterback and as an offense," Roethlisberger said. "Because, when we get down there, we know what we want to do and what our goal is. We have to find a way to get it in the end zone."

A touchdown instead of that fumble would have put them ahead of the Titans, 9-0. They led their second game in Cincinnati, 3-0, when, still in the first quarter, David Paulson caught a 34-yard pass to the Bengals 16 and promptly fumbled.

Coach Mike Tomlin pointed to a pre-snap penalty, Antonio Brown's false start, for turning a third-and-4 at Baltimore's 5 into an ultimate field goal. Also in that game, Roethlisberger was sacked all three times in the game inside the 20, twice consecutively, and it helped keep them out of the end zone on two series.

"The defense usually blitzes down there because the ball has got to come out quicker and there's no deep-play threats," Roethlisberger said. "We just haven't been good enough down there in all phases of the game -- from the coaches to the players to the line, quarterback, receivers, running backs."

NOT WILD ABOUT WILDCAT

The emergence of the wildcat formation in the NFL is credited by many to the Minnesota Vikings in 1998, when quarterback Randall Cunningham split wide and David Palmer took the snap from center.

The Steelers, however, deployed it in 1995, when they split quarterback Neil O'Donnell wide and moved Kordell Stewart to quarterback. Stewart once threw a pass to O'Donnell, who did not catch it.

The Steelers hadn't used it since then until Sunday, when they split Roethlisberger wide and had Bell take four snaps against Baltimore in that formation. Like O'Donnell, Roethlisberger is not a fan of the formation.

"I don't like to go over and just be split out wide and take a chance that a [defensive back] is going to come up," Roethlisberger told 93.7 The Fan Tuesday.

He backed off from that a bit Wednesday, saying, "It's not that I don't like it. …

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