Heading into the Week 11 bye week, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense has recently been buoyed by the return of Ben Roethlisberger, and the unit is coming off back-to-back wins, as well as scoring 30 or more points in each of those victories. However, despite being 6-4, and dealing with a rash of injuries, there is plenty of room for improvement for this offense after the bye week.
When it comes to offensive yardage, the Steelers are the second best team in the league, trailing only the New Orleans Saints, but the offense isn't as close to the top in scoring. The Steelers have scored 236 points (6th in the league) after 10 games, and are averaging 23.6 points/game, which is 13th in the league.
It is difficult to criticize a unit which is without their All Pro center, only had their All Pro running back for 5 weeks before being lost for the season, lost their starting left tackle in Week 7 and has been without their Super Bowl winning quarterback for 4 games throughout the first 10 games. However, this team is starting to trend in the same direction as the 2014 team. Could move the ball on anyone, but when it came to red-zone efficiency, they sputtered.
To be exact, the Steelers are sporting a 55-percent red-zone efficiency number in 2015, which ranks them 16th in the league, but the 55-percent number is just a four-percent increase from their 51-percent 2014 red-zone percentage.
This is by far the most important, and most glaring, change which needs to be made for Pittsburgh in their final 6 regular season games, and possibly beyond. The difficulty in this quandary is not as simple as suggesting to run the football more. Rather, the challenge for Todd Haley and the offense is to stay balanced when the field shortens. The Steelers have struggled in short-yardage running situations, and such a small facet of the offense can become a weakness targeted by opposing defenses.
A possible solution for the Steelers would be to utilize their bunch formation more in the red-zone. See the GIFs below for two perfect examples of how this formation can help with both the run and the pass, overall improving the team's efficiency when it matters most:
Versatility in design is almost as important as the play call itself. This formation allows for Ben Roethlisberger to be either under center, or in the shotgun formation, as well as plenty of run and pass plays out of the formation. The Steelers need to get creative if they want to improve their overall red-zone offense down the stretch. With teams having a full 10 games of tape on the black and gold, giving teams something new will be important, but this classic Steelers' formation should be the back bone in red-zone situations.
The Steelers offense certainly has weapons, but moving the football for big yards needs to start equating into points scored. The numbers are skewed without Reothlisberger in the lineup for 4 games, but if this team has championship aspirations, the red-zone offense needs to improve.