How important is "home-field advantage"? When it comes to scoring touchdowns in the red zone, the Pittsburgh Steelers would say it was critical.
According to TeamRankings.com, the Steelers ranked 19th overall in scoring red-zone touchdowns in 2014, but were fifth-best in the NFL at converting at home. Of their visits inside their opponents' 20-yard-line at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh scored touchdowns 61.3 percent of the time. While that significantly trails Denver's nearly 78 percent and Oakland (76.5 percent) -- of all teams -- it put them at more than double the rate of Buffalo, whose 28-percent rate was worst in the league. The Bills were twice as good at scoring on the road as they were at home.
Speaking of which, that's where Pittsburgh struggled. Mightily.
In their eight road games, the Steelers converted just 40.7 percent of their red-zone visits into touchdowns, good for 31st in the NFL in 2014. The strange part is this wasn't always the situation. You need only back up a single year to see the numbers completely reverse themselves. Managing Editor Jeff Hartman wrote about it almost exactly a year ago today.
In 2013, the Steelers were dreadful scoring touchdowns at Heinz Field, but excelled on the road. At just 42.3 percent at the Confluence, they ranked, ironically, 31st in the league. In their opponents' stadiums, they managed to convert 62.3 percent, good for sixth.
As for trends? There really aren't any that are easily discernible. See for yourself.
The one thing that that can be said is that the overall numbers have flattened out a bit under Todd Haley -- and the team's two best seasons on the road in the last 12 years were his first two at the helm. That is, at the very least, something worth clinging to. Not much, but it's something, nonetheless.
But it all still points to one thing: with away games against teams like the Patriots, Chargers, Chiefs, Seahawks and Ravens, the Steelers will need to do better at taking advantage of red-zone opportunities on the road in 2015.