The Pittsburgh Steelers have started their season with a pair of wins for the first time since 2017. Although there’s been times where they looked unstoppable on offense and immovable on defense, they have been other times where their production has not been as thorough. Of course, it’s early and teams did not have the luxury of any preseason games to work through the kinks. But the Steelers should not be complacent with just earning their victories and look at specific areas where they need to improve if they are going to continue to stack wins.
In looking to improve, here are three key areas for growth for the Steelers as they continue on in their 2020 season.
Securing the football
I don’t need to go into great detail about the Steelers 25 game streak where they have had at least one turnover. It’s been talked about a lot. But the Steelers do need to work on securing the football better even though it is in the early stages of the season.
Although the Steelers only turnover in Week 1 was on special teams, they had two other fumbles which they were able to recover. In Week 2, the Steelers lost a fumble, had another fumble they recovered, and threw an interception while having another which should have been. Yes it’s early in the season, and hopefully these things will remedy themselves as the Steelers get a larger body of work. But the Steelers turnover situation in 2020, although it is not good, could even have been worse.
Starting quickly on offense
The Steelers scoring off of there opening drives is something which has plauged them for more than a season. In 2019 they only scored six total points in their opening drive of the game. So far in 2020, The Steelers have gained a total of 8 yards on six plays with no first downs on their opening drives. Additionally, the Steelers have officially fumbled the ball on two of those six plays (one was a backwards pass which had to be scooped up) on opening drives in 2020. Luckily the Steelers have recovered the ball both times, but both plays resulted in negative yardage. This does not even include the muffed punt in Week 1 where the Steelers offense didn’t even get a chance to take the field in what should have been there first possession.
Even if the Steelers do not produce points on the opening drive, they at least need to gain some yardage, get some first downs, improve their field position situation, and give the defense a little bit of a break. Whether it’s an issue with the scripted plays going into the game or merely just a lack of execution, there may be times if the offense takes too long to get rolling they’re going to find themselves in a bigger hole then they can crawl out of.
Getting off the field on third down
In the first two weeks of the 2020 season, the Steelers have given up a third down conversion 15 times by either penalty or yardage gained. Facing third down 34 times this far this season, The Steelers are having drives extended 44% of the time. Of course, not every situation is the same as third and short can often be difficult to stop. But of the 15 conversions the Steelers have surrendered, only six of them were with 3 yards or less to go (one of which was gained on a penalty) and have stopped third and short three times.
When it comes to third and long when the Steelers have forced teams to convert 10 yards or more, they have converted 4 out of 14 chances with two of the four conversions coming on penalties. While this number doesn’t seem huge, an elite defense does not give up third-down conversions of 10 or more yards at a near 30% rate.
For comparison sake, the Steelers allowed third-down conversions at a 39% rate in 2019. The Steelers also only allowed nine first downs by penalty in all of 2019, so having three so far in 2020 is a pace they definitely need to clean up. Additionally, the Steelers only allowed 17 conversions of 10 yards or more on third down in 2019. At their current pace, the Steelers would have almost double this amount in 2020.
So there you have it. These are the three biggest areas for growth that I believe the Steelers should work on as they move forward in 2020. Do these areas sound reasonable? Is there something else you feel is more important for the Steelers to improve on? Please let us know in the comments below.