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Steelers' offense has second-worst starting field position in the NFL after kickoffs

Through the first five games of the season, the Steelers' offense has started 24.5% of its drives from within its own 20 yard line. This cannot continue if the Steelers hope to win games and realize their full potential.

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

If you've watched the Steelers through the first five weeks of the NFL season, there's one thing you've noticed; it feels like the Steelers never, ever start an offensive drive in good field position.

Well, that's because they don't.

As this tweet from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette's Gerry Dulac illustrates, the Steelers have few positives in terms of field position following kickoffs so far this season.

Combine a rash of special-teams penalties with mediocre kick-returning so far, and it's no surprise the Steelers rank second-to-last in average starting position after kick-offs. Perhaps the most-telling stat is that the Steelers have started seven of their 53 drives inside their own 11. Forget for a second the added difficulty of marching 90+ yards, as opposed to 80 or less, but starting from inside your own 15 yard line is vastly more difficult for reasons other than the distance required to travel.

Any mistake at this position on the field is amplified considerably because of the proximity to your own end-zone. As a result, play-calling tends to get more conservative, if not occasionally predictable since teams are reluctant to take chances. In addition, if a mistake leading to a turnover does occur, it almost always leads to points for your opponent where, otherwise, say beyond your 30 yard line, it may not.

Consider Ben Roethlisberger's fumble against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an example. The Steelers turn over the ball on their own 14 yard line and, two plays later, Tampa has a touchdown.

The Steelers clearly need to improve both their field position and return game, which has been non-existent through five weeks. Beginning a drive deep in your own territory is a recipe for failure, and Le'veon Bell can't run 80 yards every time to relieve the pressure as he did against Carolina.

What also is truly remarkable is the Steelers have started only one drive inside their opponents' territory. That's an impressively bad stat in a weird way and, of course, speaks to a general lack of turnovers on the part of the defensive unit.

As always, however, along with the bad comes the good.

The Steelers' offense can move the ball with the best of them, there's no doubt about that. That the Steelers have been able to march down the field to score routinely and regardless of field position is a testament to the players and their offensive coordinator.

What these tweets don't say is that "scoring drives" aren't necessarily touchdowns, but problems in the red-zone are for another day and 3 points are always valuable.

The Steelers' offense has thus far coped reasonably well, despite repeatedly poor field position, but this cannot continue. Ben Roethlisberger can't be expected to lead his unit 80+ yards on 25% of their drives, not if the Steelers are hoping to find consistent success and consistent points.

Special teams must improve their play (returning) and their discipline (penalties), while the defense must force more turnovers inside opponents' territory if they're to give the Steelers' offense the best possible chance of putting seven points on the board and winning games.

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