There are all kinds of hidden yards in NFL games. A team might rank among the best teams in the league in moving the ball, but it might not translate into scoring for a variety of reasons. One of them is average starting field position. So while the Steelers again ranked among the best teams in the NFL in total offense (7th) it wasn’t reflected in scoring (tied for 11th). Average to below average efficiency in the red zone is one reason for the scoring struggles, but field position is another. The Steelers were 27th in the NFL in average starting field position after kickoffs because their kickoff return game struggled. The Steelers’ average starting field position was the 24.3-yard line, according to Football Outsiders. In short, the Steelers had to travel farther than most teams to accumulate their points. If the Steelers simply knelt on the ball when it was kicked into the end zone they’d improve their field position without much effort. It’s like signing your name on the SAT. It’s free yards. Yet the Steelers continually gave their returners the green light to take the ball out of the end zone, and they continually failed to get to the 25. Many times, they failed to get to the 20, or even the 15. And other times their undisciplined blockers would get penalties that set them back even farther. It’s not like there was much incentive to bringing the ball out of the end zone. The longest return of the year by a Steelers returner was 44 yards and the returners averaged just 21.5 per return, which ranked 17th in the league. Sammie Coates was the best of the bunch with a 25.0 return average, but the Steelers could not find a way for kickers to kick to him. Fitzgerald Toussaint, who was described as the blocking back by head coach Mike Tomlin, had more than twice as many returns as Coates and averaged 21.4 yards per return.
Steelers return game could use an upgrade
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette | Apr 16