The Pittsburgh Steelers offense has struggled in big spots so far this year, as the team has limped out to a 1-3 start to the season. On the year, the team is 22-of-54 on third down, and has not successfully converted a fourth down yet on five attempts.
On Sunday, Pittsburgh fell 27-17 to the Green Bay Packers, in a game that wasn’t even as close as the 10-point margin would dictate. The Steelers were 0-for-2 on fourth down late in the game, running some questionable plays behind the line of scrimmage.
On 4th-and-4 late in the third quarter trailing 27-10, Ben Roethlisberger hit Najee Harris behind the line of scrimmage. He was dropped for a one-yard loss. Two drives later, with the same score, Big Ben threw to JuJu Smith-Schuster for a two-yard gain on 4th-and-5 for another turnover on downs.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked about those calls on Tuesday. He said that they threw behind the line of scrimmage because there were other Steelers down field, but admitted the execution was lacking.
Tomlin on #Steelers throwing short of the sticks on 4th downs by design: “There were other eligibles beyond the line to gain.” Felt good about the calls made but “definitely not the execution.”
— Christopher Carter (@CarterCritiques) October 5, 2021
With Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, and some big tight ends in Pat Freiermuth and Eric Ebron, the Steelers should have plenty of weapons to move the ball down field. It isn’t the greatest sign that the call was for Roethlisberger to dump it off twice on crucial plays late in the game.
On the day, the team picked up just 282 yards on 58 plays, getting outgained by 85 yards despite the fact that the teams had the same number of drives. The Packers defense did a great job bottling up the running game, allowing just 62 yards on 16 carries, and forcing the Steelers into uncomfortable down-and-distance situations throughout the game.
Pittsburgh is now the only team in its division without a 3-1 record. The Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Ravens each look strong, and the Cincinnati Bengals are definitely improved in year two under Zac Taylor. It could be an uphill climb for them to get into playoff contention as we enter the second month of the season.
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