Every year the Pittsburgh Steelers, along with every other football team across the United States, puts an emphasis on a specific aspect of their game. It was this approach which resulted in the Steelers’ starting every practice with ‘Seven Shots’. Seven plays in the red-zone to improve red-zone production.
In 2018, the Steelers had one of the best red-zone offenses in the NFL, so you can say it was a job well done by the coaching staff. On the defensive side of the ball the theme was tackling. After a horrendous 2017 season, in regards to tackling, the Steelers improved in this skill set in 2018.
So, what is the focus this year? If Mandatory Minicamp is any indication it is on the two-minute drill. If you think this is just for the offense, think again, this is also for the defense.
Each of the final seven games last season came down to either the Steelers or their opponent possessing the ball in the last two minutes with a chance to tie or win the game. It worked out for the Steelers in wins against Jacksonville, New England and Cincinnati – not so much in losses against Denver, Oakland, New Orleans and the Los Angeles Chargers during a 2-4 closing stretch.
In the first half, the Steelers were involved in such games against Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Cincinnati.
When speaking with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, Fichtner spoke of why this was a point of emphasis this offseason.
“Not many games are won or lost and you know it going into the fourth quarter where there’s a 20-point difference,” Fichtner said Wednesday. “You’re going to be playing four quarters and someone is going to have the ball at the end to win the damn game.”
Defensive coordinator Keith Butler added more to the reason for the two-minute scenario being a focal point.
“I think we can be better than we were last year, and we have to be during those 2-minute periods because we are going to be in a lot of close games,” Butler said. “Those games that we had last year that we lost, we won the year before when we were 13-3. In those games, we’ve got to get the winning edge.”
The main man in charge had a different spin on it, one which doesn’t equate to just offense or defense. He wants to see players in specific situations, and he also wants to get them on film throughout the drill.
“It’s good to see guys operate under situations,” Tomlin said. “It aids on the drill when we have NFL officials here like we did this week.”
“You always want to have some of that situational stuff installed so you can get it on video as a teach tool when you reinstall it when you go to training camp,” he said. “When the real installation comes, we’re not talking in abstract fashion, they’re not looking at other people executing it. They’re looking and themselves and some way to execute it.”
The Steelers’ have played their cards wisely in the past, and have seen the benefits of it during the season. Will this pay off as well? Only time will tell, but a better two minute offense and defense can certainly help a team looking to make it back to the postseason in 2019.