The Ideal Redzone Attack

Karl Roser/Pittsburgh Steelers

By: Michael Stiffler, @Stiffeezy_ on Twitter


It is no secret the Pittsburgh Steelers offense was putrid last season. They became even worse when they got into the redzone, ranking 32nd in redzone touchdowns and efficiency, as well as 31st in redzone attempts. A lot of this can be attributed to the absence of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger but I believe the Steelers have the ideal personnel this season to return near the top again. I believe if the Steelers utilize the following five skill players when they are in the redzone, they can bounce back in a big way. 


1. Eric Ebron 

Yes he had a rough 2019, some of this can be related to injury, some to the absence of Andrew Luck, but let me remind you just how good he was in 2018. When in the redzone, Ebron was targeted 18 times, registering 10 catches and 10 touchdowns. You read that right, 10 for 10! The Steelers haven’t had that type of reliability since the days of Heath Miller. Miller registered 13 redzone targets in his final season so it is fair to expect Ebron should see similar numbers. Ebron also gives the Steelers some versatility where he can line up in the slot and be dynamic, or be on the line and block. I expect the Steelers and Roethlisberger to exploit mismatches with Ebron this year and line him up just about everywhere. 


2. Juju Smith-Schuster

This is an easy one to guess as Smith-Schuster is the one receiver Roethlisberger has the most chemistry with. I expect Roethlisberger to give Smith-Schuster plenty of opportunities to make a play because if you look back at the 2018 season, Smith-Schuster was tied for 2nd in the NFL with 26 redzone targets. Roethlisberger is known for taking the risk and giving his guys a chance to make a play, and Juju is his number one guy. Not only will his receiving ability be huge but Smith-Schuster is not afraid to get dirty in the run game. 


3. James Conner 

Another easy choice as he is the bell cow for the Steelers. If you think with Roethlisberger coming back Conner would get lost in the mix with all the skill they have at the receiver and tight end positions, think again. In 2018, Conner averaged 3.1 redzone touches per game, which ranked 9th in the NFL. While Conner had a big dip in production in 2019, the thing not to lose sight on is his ability to break tackles. In 2018 he forced 60 missed tackles, only behind Saquon Barkley, in which he played 13 games. Last season he still ended up 7th in missed tackles per touch.  It is crucial for the Steelers he stays healthy this season as he will be a big force inside the 20 for them. 


4. Chase Claypool

As wide receiver coach Ike Hilliard said, “You can’t teach 6’4” 238lbs, 4.41 speed.” Claypool is an athletic freak who should worry opposing defenders. While the redzone isn’t built for speed, height and the ability to “go get it” is, and that is what he possesses. Roethlisberger has always had big eyes for big receivers and he gets just that. People also forget Claypool was rumored to switch to tight end because of his size and willingness to block until he ran the 40-yard dash at the scouting combine. This will make him very dynamic as he has the ability to motion in the line as well as lineup outside to exploit the height difference he will have on most defenders. 


5. Vance McDonald

McDonald might not seem like the logical choice with Diontae Johnson and James Washington out there but the Steelers will need their number one blocking tight end. There is no way the Steelers reach the redzone and don’t have their best blocking tight end on the field.  Ebron is more known as a receiver than a blocker and Claypool isn’t a tight end. On top of that, McDonald brings additional size to help overpower defenders in the run game. Let’s not forget, McDonald is dynamic as a receiver as well. 


Who do you guys think should be in the huddle for the redzone? Drop a comment below. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *