The common narrative regarding the Pittsburgh Steelers and their offense is putting up 30 points per game on the scoreboard. The fans have been clamoring for this narrative since 2015 when Ben Roethlisberger stated 30 points was their target. With Hall of Fame quarterback Roethlisberger playing great football, Antonio Brown cementing himself as the best wide receiver in the league, Le’Veon Bell putting up astronomical numbers and Martavis Bryant’s big play ability, 30 points per game is being mandated by all. Is this demand unfair and outlandish?
To earn 30 points per game, the most straight-forward way is to score four touchdowns and one field goal, resulting in 31 points. The most reasonable way to think about scoring this is three touchdowns from Roethlisberger and one touchdown from Bell, right? Should Roethlisberger be expected to score three touchdowns per game? The answer is no. Three touchdowns per game from Roethlisberger is equivalent to 48 on the season and he has never thrown for more than 32 in a season (2007, 2014). How about Le’Veon Bell? Is 16 touchdowns unreasonable? The answer is simply yes. One touchdown per game means he scores 16 on the season. No Steelers running back has ever scored more than 14 rushing touchdowns in a season (Franco Harris, 1976), and Bell has never surpassed eight.
Now, there are other ways to score touchdowns. Don’t defensive and special teams touchdowns come into play as well to bail the offense out a bit? Not exactly. In the last four seasons (2013-2016, since drafting Le’Veon Bell), the Steelers have scored a total of 11 defensive touchdowns and three special teams touchdowns. That’s an average of 3.5 touchdowns per season. Even with this assistance, it bails out neither Roethlisberger nor Bell’s totals.
An alternative to the four touchdown-one field goal games would be to score three touchdowns and three field goals. Roethlisberger would have to match his season high of 32 touchdowns and Bell would still have to score 16. Roethlisberger’s target mark is most definitely feasible but as mentioned before, Bell has not scored more than eight rushing touchdowns in a season, which makes his target highly unlikely. Onto the three field goals per-game goal: We’ll stick to the last four seasons for consistency purposes and because it is when the Steelers acquired Bell. From 2013-2016 the Steelers have made an average of 1.7, 2.3, 1.9 and 1.9 field goals per game. As you can interpret, the three-field goal per-game option cannot be anticipated to be had.
How many opportunities are the Steelers offense given to score all of these touchdowns and field goals? Now read carefully as I have laid out some data about the Steelers’ opportunity to score in each game played.
2016 – 11.4 drives per game – 4.3 Punts per game – 1.9 turnovers per game = 5.2 drives per game available to score. The Steelers averaged 2.8 offensive touchdowns and 1.7 field goals per game.
2015 – 11.9 drives per game – 3.8 Punts per game – 2.3 turnovers per game = 5.8 drives per game available to score. The Steelers averaged 2.6 offensive touchdowns and 2.3 field goals per game.
2014 – 10.9 drives per game – 3.8 Punts per game – 1.7 turnovers per game = 5.4 drives per game available to score. The Steelers averaged 2.7 offensive touchdowns and 1.9 field goals per game.
2013 – 11.8 drives per game – 4.7 Punts per game – 1.9 turnovers per game = 5.2 drives per game available to score. The Steelers averaged 2.3 offensive touchdowns and 1.9 field goals per game.
Of the last four seasons, the Steelers only had roughly five drives per game to score after subtracting average punts and turnovers. If you look at the average number of offensive touchdowns and field goals per game of the last four seasons, neither satisfies the four-touchdown/one-field goal or the three-touchdown/three-field goal per game number needed.
To obtain 30 points per game, the Steelers will have to score a total of 480 or more points in the season. Since the birth of the Steelers in 1933, the Steelers have never scored more than 436 points in a season (2014), which means an average of 27.3 points per game. In that 2014 season, the Steelers scored 30 or more points in seven games, which is 41.2% of the time.
Can the Steelers score 30 points per game? Of course they can. Is it a reasonable expectation for them to score 30 point per game week in and week out? Well, if you’ve read carefully you would join with me in agreeing that it is not a reasonable expectation. The created narrative that the Steelers need to, or should score 30 points per game week in and week out needs to be eradicated.
Through three games, the Steelers have yet to score 30 points.
Photo Credit: Beast Dome