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A closer look at the Steelers’ lack of red-zone production in 2022

The Pittsburgh Steelers offense improved throughout 2022, except in one key area.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images

The way the Pittsburgh Steelers finished the 2022 season has fans thinking positively about the offseason and the prospective 2023 regular season. When you finish the season on a 4-game winning streak, winning 7 of your last 9 games, and turn around a season which started 2-6 to finish just outside the playoff picture, fans get excited.

In the second half of the season, following their Week 9 bye, the offense started to produce in many ways. They weren’t turning the football over, they were dominating time of possession, keeping the defense fresh with sustained drives, and were able to develop a running game.

However, not all aspects of the offense improved, and there was one glaring weakness on the offense throughout 2022. That would be red-zone production.

As stated earlier, the Steelers were able to put together time-consuming drives. In fact, the Steelers led the NFL in plays per offensive possession during the 2022 season at 6.5. On top of that, the offense was able to convert 44.9 percent of their third downs for the season, which was seventh-best in the NFL. After their bye, that statistic jumped to over 54 percent. Buffalo led the NFL at 50.7 percent for the season.

Pretty impressive numbers, right? Well all of that hard work and improvement didn’t equate to more points. When the season ended, even after the improvement on the offense, the Steelers finished tied for 26th in the NFL in scoring at 18.1 points per game.

There are a lot of areas which can fans can point and suggest that is where the offense was derailed. Areas where the team needs to improve if they want to be competitive. One of those areas is one which is called “explosive plays”. An explosive play is labeled as a run of 10 or more yards, and a pass of 20 or more yards.

In this statistical category the Steelers finished 22nd in the league.

When you look at the improvement in the offense, it isn’t just explosion plays which was troubling Matt Canada’s offense. Red-zone production was a big factor too. The Steelers were 22nd in red-zone touchdown percentage (51.92%). This equated in their 44 field goal attempts being the most in the NFL this past season.

Finishing 22nd in red-zone production doesn’t likely surprise anyone who is reading this article, but there are some other statistics which are worth noting in regards to red-zone production, or lack thereof.

The Steelers finished red-hot in 2022, but their last three games were far from perfect in the red-zone category. In the Steelers’ last 3 games they finished with a mere 50% touchdown conversion rate in those three wins over the Las Vegas Raiders, Baltimore Ravens and Cleveland Browns.

Of those three games, you might recall two of those three were at the friendly confines of Acrisure Stadium. But was Acrisure Stadium friendly in regards to red-zone production? The statistics show it actually was. The Steelers conversion percentage at home was 57.69%, good enough for 13th in the league based on home field red-zone conversion percentage.

As for how they did away from home, that’s a different story. Away from Pittsburgh equated in a 46.15%. That percentage ranked 20th in the league in 2022.

Many might want a point of reference as to have far the red-zone offense has fallen. In 2021, the Steelers red-zone percentage was 54.72%, which too was in the bottom half of the league.

Is this a quarterback problem? Considering the aging Ben Roethlisberger in 2021 and rookie Kenny Pickett in 2022? Or is it a coordinator problem with Matt Canada? There is logic in both arguments, but the answer likely resides somewhere in the middle.

If you want to hear more about this topic, and others, check out the latest Steelers Stat Geek podcast in the player below, and be sure to stay tuned to BTSC for the latest news and notes surrounding the Steelers as they prepare for the rest of the NFL offseason.