To say that the Pittsburgh Steelers struggles this year can be blamed on the offense is more true than not, but there are flaws all over for Mike Tomlin‘s squad. What once was a 1-0 team with high expectations, suddenly has fans all over the world hoping for a tank and a top 10 draft pick in 2022. There seems to be many issues when the Steelers take the field, whether it is the lack of explosion on offense and splash plays on defense, or even inconsistent punting from rookie Pressley Harvin III. Numbers do not tell the whole story, but here are some really alarming stats for the Steelers through four weeks of the regular season (in alphabetical order):
Defense Third Down Efficiency
With as strong of a defense as Defensive Coordinator Keith Butler has, they have not performed well on third down. Opposing teams are converting 45.5% of the time whereas last year it was only at a 37.4% clip. It is no secret that the offense is not good and the more first downs for the opposition leads to more points which makes it extremely difficult to win football games right now.
Kick Return Yards Allowed
Another statistical category, another unit ranked last in the league. The Steelers kicking team has allowed a league-high 265 kick return yards. This has been a concern for years now and the 2021 season is no different. The field position of opposing teams has been way too good and the defense can only do so much (allowing 10 field goal attempts already this season). With an average of 26.5 return yards, opponents are often beginning drives with only 70 yards or less to go for a touchdown. This unit needs to sharpen up and make an adjustment.
Harvin III is only averaging 41.8 yards per punt. That is 4th worst in the NFL. To make it sting a little more, the Minnesota Vikings have one of the best punters in the league in ex-Steeler, Jordan Berry who is averaging 48.5. The two punters put on a show all training camp with Harvin III eventually winning the job. With a shaky offense, field position means everything to the Steelers and short punts will only hurt the cause even more. Harvin III needs to be better and prove Kevin Colbert right for taking a punter in the 2021 NFL Draft.
Red Zone Touchdowns
The Steelers come in tied for 31st in the NFL with just four touchdowns when inside their opponents’ 20-yard line. An offense with Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Najee Harris and a Hall of Fame quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger has only managed to average one touchdown a week in the red zone. That is very bad and truthfully worries me even more than the rushing attack. This is paired with only eight trips to the red zone in the first few games. Crazier things have happened than a 1-3 team making the playoffs, but if the black and gold want any chance at all, this needs to be remedied, and quickly.
Rushing Attempts and Yards
Najee Harris does not have much to work with in a young, inexperienced offensive line, but the offense only has 66 rushing attempts this season. That is by far last in the National Football League. Not to mention the embarrassing 221 total rushing yards. The hope of opening up a running attack and using the play action more often seems like a fantasy at this point. Do we owe Randy Fichtner an apology? This offense is no different than it was last year. It feels like the same tape is rolling from 2020 and there is no commitment to running the football and using Harris, a first round draft pick, nearly as much as he should be in the ground game.
The defense have had injury troubles, but managing to force only three turnovers is pretty bad in a four week span. Again, the other side of the ball on offense is not doing any favors to help the team win. Turnovers are a necessity if the Steelers want any chance in turning the season around. While there are many other teams with less, this is a statistical category the Steelers have dominated when having successful seasons in the past. Someone other than T.J. Watt and Cameron Heyward need to step up in this category too. Minkah Fitzpatrick is the first person that comes to mind.
What is the team statistic you are most worried about through the first four weeks of the 2021 season? Let us know in the comments below!