Third Down Struggles Are Already Killing the Steelers


Sep 16, 2013; Cincinnati, OH, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) walks off the field after being defeated by the Cincinnati Bengals 20-10 Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Weber-USA TODAY Sports

There are plenty of things wrong with the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offense at the moment.

Whether it is the inability to score, the questionable play-calling, the confusing use of personnel, or the overall lack of adjustments, it is extremely easy for one to criticize what has occurred on Todd Haley’s offense during the first two weeks of the 2013 regular season.

While those issues are definitely problematic, the Steelers have been nothing short of awful on third downs during their first two games.

Tonight against the Bengals, Ben Roethlisberger was only 3 for 8 for 70 yards on third downs when he dropped back to pass.  I should mention that 43 of which came on Sanders’ catch and run and the other 27 came on their garbage time drive on the other two completions.  As bad as those numbers were, Roethlisberger was also sacked once on third down and threw his costly pick on third and two with the team in scoring position in the fourth quarter.

The worst call however came when the team tried to run Isaac “slow as molasses” Redman from the shotgun formation on third and two in the third quarter.  Of course, since that play almost never worked last year, it failed to again after Redman was stopped in his tracks at the line of scrimmage.  How Todd Haley can continue to give him the ball is nothing short of asinine, and I hope that he uses Felix Jones in those situations more often.

Of course, these struggles were nothing new and the Steelers were completely hapless on third downs against the Titans in Week 1.  While Roethlisberger went 5 for 8, he only threw for 38 yards and converted four third downs.  Worst of all, Pittsburgh’s quarterback was sacked three times on crucial third down plays by Tennessee’s defense as well.

The worst play however came on third and one when Redman played the “goat” once again, and the running back fumbled the ball into the end zone on what looked like a touchdown drive in the first quarter.

Final Thoughts

The inability to convert third downs at a high level (7-25, only 28%) has destroyed the Steelers as a whole.  It obviously has prevented them from extending drives and putting points on the board, but it has also forced their defense and special teams into tight spots as well from field position perspectives.

Roethlisberger looked “out of sync” with his receivers tonight, and the running game on third downs has been ineffective to say the least.  If nothing changes for the better in terms of third down efficiency, then this offense will be destroying the team’s chances to win on a weekly basis this fall.

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