In many ways the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers season was a huge success. Offensively the team broke franchise, and individual, records as well as enjoyed being ranked in the top 5 in almost every category behind the likes of Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell. The defense left a lot to be desired at times, but also had it's share of moments to hang their hat on throughout the season.
When Steelers' President Art Rooney II met with a select group of Steelers Nation Unite fans to take questions, one fan asked where he feels the Steelers need to improve on both offense and defense heading into 2015, and his answer was on point.
"We can always improve. I think on defense we didn't finish kind of the way we would have liked to, at least statistically. I do think we got better as the season went along on defense. There are still some good, young players that we can build around. I think in today's NFL you have to be able to put pressure on the quarterback. That is something we have to get better at. I think that will be something, under Coach Butler, our new defensive coordinator, and Coach Tomlin, the whole staff, they will be working hard on trying to make sure we get better at that. On offense, I would say we want to be better in the red zone. We really had a few too many times where we got the ball into the red zone and we wound up kicking a field goal instead of getting a touchdown. Again, it was something that I think we improved on as the season went on. Hopefully that is something we can pick up on when we start 2015."
There is no denying the two areas Rooney discussed as the primary focus of the organization heading into free agency and the NFL Draft. Putting pressure on opposing quarterbacks and being able to put touchdowns, not field goals, on the board when the offense enters the red zone.
Pittsburgh's 33 sacks had them ranked 26th in the statistic among the entire NFL. Where fans should be concerned is when looking at the personnel returning in 2015. 1st round pick Jarvis Jones is the only guarantee to be back, while Jason Worilds and Arthur Moats are set to test free agency. James Harrison's future isn't certain, but at his age you have to wonder if he will be able to withstand a full 16-game season.
The Steelers ability to pressure the QB will ultimately help cover up any deficiencies they have on the back end of the secondary. There is very real correlation to the lack of pressure, and the overall ranking of the pass defense.
As for the Steelers' red zone offense, it ranked 19th in the NFL scoring touchdowns on 51.72 percent of red zone trips. Not a very good statistic in terms of team scoring and where they should be putting up the most points as a unit.
Art Rooney II has never been one to bite his lip in terms of diagnosing the needs, or his wants, for the team and the organization. In this case, his analysis of the team is spot on. Look for the Steelers to try and address the pass rushing needs in free agency and the draft, while the red zone offense could be adjusted via the scheme to help improve their ranking among the other 32 NFL teams.
Needless to say, it seems it is going to be a busy offseason in the steel city.