Tha Sports Junkies 101

Failed Red Zone Opportunities Lead To Steelers Loss To Patriots – Week 7 Recap

steelers red brady FlyingJ31 via flickr


The Pittsburgh Steelers show glaring red zone issues in home conference loss to the AFC first place New England Patriots 27-16.

When writing this headline, I found myself wanting to blame the loss on the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ inability to stop the run. I thought I could say it was the fact that they couldn’t convert on their red zone opportunities. I could have said it was their lack of health. Which all led me to realize that every issue the Steelers have deserves attention when looking back on this game.

Last week in Miami, the Steelers allowed Jay Ajayi run for 204 yards which helped the Miami Dolphins come out on the winning end. This week, the Steelers defense let Legarrette Blount get behind the New England Patriots offensive line and pick up 127 rushing yards to go along with two touchdowns. Injuries to both Cameron Hayward and Ryan Shazier have left the Steelers thin in their front seven for the past couple of weeks.

Dating back to last season, when Cameron Hayward is starting, the Pittsburgh Steelers only allow their opponents to gain 87 yards on the ground per game. But in the past two weeks without Hayward, the Steelers have laid out a red carpet for the opposing teams lead running back to run up and down the field on. By allowing a 100+ yard rusher for the second straight week, the Steelers have fallen to 16th in the NFL in rush defense. A steep decline after being 5th in rush defense in 2015.

All week, the talk was about whether or not Landry Jones would be able to manage the game well enough to help the Steelers come out with the victory. Landry Jones finished the game with 281 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. According to Pro Football Focus, the players of the game for the Steelers‘ offense was the offensive line, who had four of the top five scores on Sunday. In 47 drop backs, Jandry Jones had only nine plays under pressure, in which he performed his worst throughout the game, posting just a 50.6 QB Rating.

But Landry Jones can’t get all the blame. Not only were the Steelers without Ben Roethlisberger, they were also hampered with injuries at the wide receiver position. Playing without Markus Wheaton, Eli Rogers, and (periodically throughout the game) Sammie Coates. There was even a point in the game where Antonio Brown left the game, when a hit from a helmet impacted him directly on his hip. So getting behind early in the game didn’t help the Steelers cause in any way.

Starting out in a 14-0 hole against the New England Patriots is never going to make the task of beating them any easier. But the Steelers were able to get the ball to their work horse Le’Veon Bell. Bell finished with 81 yards on 21 carries, 68 yards on 10 receptions. But all of this yards only came between the 20-yard lines. In their three losses this year the Steelers have scored only 17% of the time in the red zone. Landry Jones commented on this issue after the game.

“To be honest with you, we moved the ball up and down the field. That was no issue. The issue was in the redzone. We kicked field goals instead of scoring touchdowns. And then we had that interception on like the second drive of the game and missed a couple field goals and then had a holding penalty on a touchdown pass. So, everyone had a hand in it. We have got to solve this red zone issue for us to be the offense that we want to be.”

After playing against the New England Patriots on Sunday, the Pittsburgh Steelers know that they are not ready to compete with them this early in the season. If the Steelers are able to correct their issues before the end of the season, they may be in line for a rematch with Patriots in the playoffs. Only next time, the game may be played in New England where the Patriots really never lose.

The Pittsburgh Steelers head into the bye week with two consecutive losses, but still find themselves on top of the AFC North. The bye week could not have come at a better time with the Steelers looking to get healthy before beginning the second half of their season. And with all the issues on both sides of the ball, they will have plenty of time to look at the game tape and correct their mistakes.