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Faulkner has Steelers focused on details in red zone

Details matter.

That's the mantra of new Steelers offensive coordinator Eddie Faulkner, a detail-oriented guy.

That's why fixing the Steelers' ability to punch the ball into the end zone once they reach the red zone is a top priority for Faulkner as he heads into his second game as the team's coordinator after taking over for Matt Canada last week.

The Steelers posted their first 400-yard game since the 2020 season in last week's win over the Cincinnati Bengals. But they also scored just one touchdown in four trips inside the Cincinnati 20-yard line in that 16-10 victory.

Quarterback Kenny Pickett threw for a season-high 278 yards, while the running game produced more than 150 yards for the fourth consecutive game.

But it all resulted in just one touchdown.

"We have just got to keep on getting in those details," Faulkner said Thursday at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex as the Steelers (7-4) prepared to host the Arizona Cardinals (2-10) Sunday at Acrisure Stadium.

"When you get down to that tight red (zone), you've got 22 grown men in that tight space. The details are so much more intensified and those moments and so that's where we're going to keep focusing."

The Steelers are just 10 of 23 scoring touchdowns in the red zone this season, so the issue didn't just arise last week. But earlier in the season, the team was getting some chunk scoring plays.

They had some of those chunk plays in the game against the Bengals with Faulkner drawing up the game plan and quarterbacks coach Mike Sullivan calling the offensive plays on game day. In fact, the Steelers had a season-best six plays of 20 or more yards against the Bengals.

But you also can't count on all of those going for touchdowns. So, to Faulkner's point, when you get in close, focusing on the details and getting things right can be the difference between scoring a touchdown and being forced to kick a field goal.

Then again, getting into the red zone is half the battle. The Steelers did that better than they had previously all season. Now, it's just a matter of finishing off drives.

"We just keep on hammering away," Faulkner said. "I think I said last week about the details and ironing those out. I think it'll come with that. I think the guys are all-in on understanding. I know the points weren't where we want, but the success we had last week really gave me a good stage to be able to coach and sink the hook in and get the guys to buy in and be like, 'OK, let's go.' So it just made this week easier and in the process of preparation. So, from that standpoint, I wouldn't expect anything for us to continue to be on a steep trajectory moving forward."

The Cardinals could be a good team against which that could happen.

Arizona's defense has allowed opposing offenses to reach the red zone 54 times this season. And it has given up 34 touchdowns in those situations. The 59.3 percent conversion rate isn't the lowest in the league, but the Cardinals allow opponents to drive deep into their territory – a lot.

Dale Lolley is co-host of "SNR Drive" on Steelers Nation Radio. Subscribe to the podcast here: Apple Podcast | iHeart Podcast

As the Steelers' coaching staff finalizes its game plan this week, figuring out ways to be the next team to exploit that becomes critical.

And then it will be up to Sullivan as the team's play caller to dial up the right plays at the right time.

Faulkner was happy with how the communication worked between himself and Sullivan last week and how the entire offensive staff chipped in to produce a game-winning scheme.

"It was fantastic. It couldn't have been any better if I was over there telling Sully, 'Hey, let's do this.' He was right on board with it wasn't like any kind of pushback with anything, but it was awesome. And Sully called a great game, and let's talk about that. Like really? He was awesome in that game. And, I'm just really, really excited about the trajectory with what's going on right now."