A Thorough Analysis Of the Steelers Tendencies on 3rd and Short

 I had to investigate the Pittsburgh Steelers tendencies on 3rd and short yardage situations. It seemed to me that we threw the ball ALL the time on 3rd and short, but I wasn't entirely positive. So it was a bit tedious, but I went through the play-by-plays of every game this season and charted what we did each time we faced a 3rd down with 2-4 yards to go. Why did I selected 2-4 yards? Well, I thought it was the appropriate range. Even the most passy happy teams run on 3rd and 1 first of all. And while I think an occassional run should be sprinkled in on 3rd and 5-6 type situations, I think we all generally agree that that's a passing down.

But in the 2-4 yard range, we're basically just needing to get our very modest season average of about 3.5 yards per carry to get a new fresh set of downs.  I tried to summarize all the data both in the headers and in a table below so no need to make any sort of calculations for yourself. I did that, and when you see what Bruce Arians has been up to on 3rd and short this year, you may just grow some even stronger opinions about the way our offense has been managed in certain regards and at certain times this year.

 

WEEK 1 (1 run, 3 passes):

3-4-HOU46(9:09) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger scrambles right end pushed ob at HST 29 for 17 yards (Z.Diles).

3-3-HOU22(7:10) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to S.Holmes to HST 13 for 9 yards (J.Reeves).

3-2-PIT39(3:07) B.Roethlisberger sacked at PIT 27 for -12 yards (M.Williams).

3-2-PIT28(6:15) W.Parker right tackle to PIT 32 for 4 yards (CC.Brown, Z.Diles).

WEEK 2 (0 runs, 3 passes)

3-4-PIT25(12:04) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to S.Holmes pushed ob at PIT 41 for 16 yards (E.Wright) [M.Adams].

3-2-PIT49(10:18) B.Roethlisberger sacked at PIT 40 for -9 yards (sack split by C.Williams and N.Sorensen).

3-4-CLE30(8:11) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short left to S.Holmes (E.Wright) [S.Rogers].

WEEK 3 (0 runs, 4 passes)

3-4-PHI45(6:38) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to H.Ward to PHI 39 for 6 yards (L.Sheppard).

3-4-PIT39(7:49) (Shotgun)
PENALTY on PHI-M.Patterson, Defensive Delay of Game, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 39 - No Play. (Shotgun = about to pass)

3-3-PHI49(6:00) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger sacked at PIT 45 for -6 yards (J.Parker). FUMBLES (J.Parker) [J.Parker], RECOVERED by PHI-B.Bunkley at PIT 45. B.Bunkley to PIT 45 for no gain (H.Miller).

3-2-PHI13(1:08) (Shotgun) B.Leftwich sacked at PHI 22 for -9 yards (sack split by D.Howard and D.Klecko).

WEEK 4 (0 runs, 3 passes)

3-2-BAL47(10:24) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to N.Washington to BLT 35 for 12 yards (C.Ivy).

3-4-BAL38(4:17) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to S.Holmes for 38 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

3-3-PIT37(2:51) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to M.Moore to PIT 43 for 6 yards (B.Scott).

WEEK 5 (0 runs, 2 passes)

3-3-JAC20(12:49) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete deep right to M.Moore.

3-3-PIT43(4:40) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short left to N.Washington to JAX 45 for 12 yards (B.Williams).
PENALTY on PIT-N.Washington, Unsportsmanlike Conduct, 15 yards, enforced between downs.

WEEK 7 (1 run, 2 passes)

3-3-CIN3(:51) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short right to H.Miller.

3-2-CIN44(10:02) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to M.Moore to CIN 44 for no gain (J.Joseph). FUMBLES (J.Joseph), ball out of bounds at CIN 45.

3-3-CIN13(8:36) M.Moore left end for 13 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

WEEK 8 (0 runs, 2 passes)

3-2-PIT48(8:07) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle intended for N.Washington INTERCEPTED by B.Kehl (J.Butler) at NYG 39. B.Kehl to PIT 44 for 17 yards (G.Russell). Penalty on PIT-L.Sweed, Offensive Offside, declined.

3-2-NYG36(1:06) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger sacked at NYG 45 for -9 yards (M.Kiwanuka).

WEEK 9 (0 runs, 5 passes)

3-2-PIT40(12:58) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short middle to M.Moore (L.Fletcher).

3-2-WAS16(8:52) B.Roethlisberger sacked at WAS 17 for -1 yards (D.Evans).

3-4-PIT40(4:46) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short middle to H.Ward (F.Smoot, L.Fletcher).

3-4-PIT40(:24) (Shotgun) B.Leftwich pass short right to M.Moore to WAS 47 for 13 yards (C.Rogers).

(2:45) (Shotgun) B.Leftwich sacked at PIT 27 for -5 yards (sack split by D.Evans and R.McIntosh).
PENALTY on PIT, Illegal Formation, 5 yards, enforced at PIT 32 - No Play. Six men on the line

WEEK 10 (0 runs, 7 passes)

3-2-IND42(11:41) B.Roethlisberger pass deep right to S.Holmes to IND 19 for 23 yards (A.Bethea).

3-2-PIT16(1:30) B.Roethlisberger pass deep left intended for S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by K.Ratliff at PIT 32. K.Ratliff to PIT 30 for 2 yards (S.McHugh).

3-4-PIT46(6:44) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to M.Moore to IND 48 for 6 yards (M.Bullitt, T.Jennings).

3-2-PIT49(14:19) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass deep middle to H.Ward to IND 34 for 17 yards (F.Keiaho).

3-2-IND26(12:15) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to N.Washington to IND 20 for 6 yards (K.Ratliff).

3-4-PIT34(4:51) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle intended for S.Holmes INTERCEPTED by T.Jennings at PIT 38. T.Jennings to PIT 32 for 6 yards (B.Roethlisberger).

3-3-PIT34(2:22) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to M.Spaeth to PIT 44 for 10 yards (M.Bullitt).

WEEK 11 (1 runs, 3 passes)

3-2-PIT29(12:18) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short right to M.Moore to PIT 33 for 4 yards (S.Cooper).

3-2-SD49(:42) (No Huddle, Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass short middle to H.Ward to SD 42 for 7 yards (E.Weddle).

3-4-SD22(:11) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass deep left to S.Holmes to SD 3 for 19 yards (A.Cromartie).

3-4-SD4(:21) W.Parker left tackle for 4 yards, TOUCHDOWN NULLIFIED by Penalty. PENALTY on PIT-S.McHugh, Offensive Holding, 10 yards, enforced at SD 4 - No Play.

WEEK 12 (0 runs, 4 passes)

3-3-CIN19(2:00) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short middle to S.Holmes (Da.Jones).

3-4-PIT29(12:02) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger scrambles up the middle to PIT 35 for 6 yards (R.Jeanty, D.Blackstock).

3-2-CIN20(8:30) (Shotgun) B.Roethlisberger pass incomplete short left to H.Ward. COVERAGE BY #29 HALL

3-3-CIN8(2:22) B.Roethlisberger scrambles left guard for 8 yards, TOUCHDOWN.

**************************************

Pittsburgh Steelers on 3rd and 2 - 3rd and 4
Total Opportunities Total Runs Total Passes 1st Down % Running 1st Down % Passing Sacks
41 3 38 100% 54% 7

 

Conclusions:

1) We can all agree to disagree about what's the best general offensive philosophy to deploy based on or personnel and what tends to work these days in the league, but I contend wholeheartedly that we are doing ourselves a huuuge disservice by not forcing opposing teams to keep things honest at all.  We all know that these coaches have access to every last bit of data out there, so we can all agree that opposing defensive coordinators know this.  There's enough data now that defenses know we're throwing. Period. That's a huge disadvantage. We may not have the ideal line or power running back to lean on too heavily in these types of situations, but 7% is not nearly enough balance in those situations.

2) It's largely irrelevant because there's not enough data points in the running game to make any worthwhile conclusions, but my guess is you too noticed that we had some good fortune on those very few instances when we ran it. Just saying!

3) And finally, 3 of Ben's 11 INTs have come in these 38 pass attempts. We have thrown the ball 334 times so you do the math.   27% of Ben's picks have come on just 11% of his passes. That's not a tell all fact necessarily, but knowing what we do about our defense, this is a very easy way for us to improve our chances of winning close games in December and January. It doesn't require us to change our identity either. We can still be a 30-35 throw / 28-32 carry type of offense and still shift things around a bit to better disguise what we are trying to do. And at worse, the evidence suggests we'd at least hold on to the ball more carefully.

 

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