I try to get the crew here at Steel City Blitz involved as often as possible and I found another opportunity. While still shaking our heads at the debacle that was the AFC Championship Game this past Sunday, we’ve come up with three suggestions that we believe the Pittsburgh Steelers need to make heading into the 2017 season.
1. Special Teams’ Coach Danny Smith Has to Go. The bubble-gum chewing Smith does little for us in terms of being a creative guy but more importantly, the overall struggles in the both return games have been awful. While we understand Smith only has what he’s given to work with, the kick return game in particular was disastrous this season. Sammie Coates and Fitzgerald Toussaint are fine players but neither should be returning kickoffs. Justin Gilbert, on the few occasions he had to return, was better but not much. Smith doesn’t hold guys accountable enough in my opinion and it’s time for him to go.
2. More Press Coverage. With the butt-kicking we received from Tom Brady still fresh in our heads the fact that the Steelers cannot sit in zone coverage all the time is overwhelming. Artie Burns played a lot of press and man at Miami and is more than athletic enough to do so in the NFL. Ross Cockrell and William Gay unfortunately aren’t nearly as capable. They are much more suited to zone styles of coverage, especially Cockrell. Butler’s unwillingness to at least try something different this past Sunday was troubling but borderline understandable.. The talent has to get better in the secondary so they can mix coverages more often.
3. Solve the Road Red Zone Woes. You saw it in Kansas City and you saw it again in New England. The Pittsburgh Steelers struggle to score in the red zone when they are on the road. How much you ask? When playing at home, the Steelers score touchdowns 72.4% (2nd overall) of the time when in the red zone. When playing on the road, that number dwindles to just 36.7% (29th overall). The easy explanation is communication, or lack thereof. When the Steelers get towards the end zone the opposing crowd obviously gets louder but that’s the case for every road team isn’t it? There were 21 teams in the League that had Red Zone TD rates on the road above 50% so it seems to us there has to be something else at play. Whatever it is, play-calling, audibles, personnel etc. it has to change for the better.
Other topics brought up included more stress on rugby-style tackling and more play-action.
Stats courtesy teamrankings.com
Photo courtesy cover32