Johnny's Stat Sheet Week 1: Steelers Defense, AA for the Falcoholic

Finally, we have football.  Real Football.  And not just any football, Pittsburgh Steelers "hit you in the mouth" football.  No more of that vanilla preseason football.  Time to get interesting and try some chocolate, strawberry, or even cookie dough if you feel like going totally bonkers.  All the action was there: expensively insured hair flying around all over the field, Deebo absolutely abusing offensive linemen, Woodley churning out sacks like it's his job (oh wait, it is), etc.  Speaking of Deebo, did you see him out there, lining up with WRs presnap?  That guy can do it all, chocolate mint pistachio caramel.  Did I take the ice cream joke too far?  Good.  Now we can get this started.

Stat of the week: Hines Ward now has 11,055 receiving yards in his career, becoming only the 24th player to do that in professional football.  Ward has a good chance of pushing his name 4 or 5 spots further up that list this year.  What always amazes me about Ward, is that, of those top 25 yardage receivers, Ward has the lowest yards per reception (12.23).  That means that his numbers are not inflated by deep balls, because he has never been a huge deep threat.  Instead he catches underneath and abuses you for yards with his feet and tenacity.  If he had been on a passing team early in his career, you would have to believe he would have at least 1,000 receptions by now.


Week 1 Ranks (ranks will be skewed the first couple of weeks until they average out)

9.0 points per game (T-3rd)
295.0 yards per game (13th)
4.2 yards per play (10th)
58.0 rush yards per game (6th)
2.3 yards per rush (3rd)
0 rush TDs allowed (T-1st)
237.0 pass yards per game (22nd)
5.7 yards per pass attempt (11th)
0 passing TDs allowed (T-1st)
2.0 sacks (T-5th)
67.6 QB Rating (10th)
Even Turnover Ratio (T-12th)

For now, I would only focus mainly on the average yards per play.  Last year, the best defenses gave up 4.2 yards per play (Jets), 3.4 yards per rush (Ravens), and 4.6 yards per pass attempt (Jets).  It looks like our defense is off to a good start this year, especially against the run.  Also, giving up 0 touchdowns is something to be very happy about.  Moreover, the defense only allowed the Falcons to get into our Redzone only 1 time, yielding only a field goal.



Week 1 Ranks

15.0 points per game (T-17th)
354.0 yards per game (11th)
5.9 yards per play (T-5th)
32:06 Time of Possession (11th)
28.6% 3rd down completion % (T-23rd)
143.0 rush yards per game (4th)
4.6 yards per rush (10th)
1 rush TDs (T-4th)
211.0 pass yards per game (16th)
9.1 yards per pass attempt (T-2nd)
0 passing TDs (T-25th)
3 sacks allowed (T-23rd)
81.6 QB Rating (16th)

By looking at these numbers I am a bit concerned about the offense for now.  Last year, we put up a lot of yards (7th), but failed at putting points on the board (12th).  That is not a huge discrepancy, but consider that 5 of our losses were by 3 points, another by 4, and the last by a touchdown.  Another number I am scared about is that 28.6% on 3rd downs.  That does not cut it in the NFL, the worst 3rd down conversion in the NFL was 25.8% last year (Bills).  Our 28.6% would have ranked 30th in the NFL last year.  Only one team in the bottom 10 of 3rd down conversions last year finished above .500 (Eagles).  More on 3rd down conversions further down.  For the most part, the averages look good.  The passing average is tremendous, especially when you consider a large chunk of Dennis Dixon's passes were short, high-percentage type plays.  Our rush average is skewed by one big play, but so is everyone else's average.


Field Position

Starting Field Position

Steelers: Own 22
Falcons: Own 28.6

Average Starting Field Position for Season

Steelers: 22
Opponent: 28.6
Differential: +5.3


Numbers that Matter

3rd Down Conversion

There are a few stats that have a strong correlations to winning percentage (i.e. TO Margin, 3rd Down conversion %, Time of Possession, etc.).  Third down conversion is one of those, because (warning: obvious statement ahead) when you convert on 3rd down it allows you to continue your drive.  Sustained drives keeps the ball out of your opponent's offense's hands, gives you a leg up in time of possession and field position, and gets you down the field to score points.

Last year, the average 3rd down conversion rate was 40%; the leader was 49.2% (Colts) and the bottom was 25.8% (Bills).  Last year's Steelers finished just below the average at 39.4%.  Like I mentioned before, 9 out of the 10 worst 3rd down conversion teams finished below .500 .  In the top 10 of that category, 8 of 10 teams finished above .500.

Against the Falcons, the Steelers faced 14 third downs and completed a measly 4 of them.  3 attempts were designed runs and 2 were converted (66.6%).  That leaves 11 attempts as passes with only 2 being converted (18.2%).  So run it on third down and do not pass it?  Not exactly.  All three third down runs were all on 3rd and 1.  The passing downs were 3rd and 6, 4, 8, 5, 10 (converted), 6, 19 (after Florzell Adams false start on 3rd and 14), 3, 8 (converted), 11, and 14, respectively.  In my opinion, when you get above 3rd and 6 you are getting into difficult situations.  More than 6 yards gives room for the defense to blitz and enough space to stop a quick route short of the first down.  I wish BA had tried a run on either the 3rd and 4 or 3rd and 3.  Anyway, we also gave up 1 sack and had 1 penalty on 3rd down, those are big no-no's.


Quick Slants

  • LaMarr Woodley now has at least a half sack in 9 straight games.  Over that period, he has 12.5 sacks.  Wood took 8 games to heat up last year, having only 2 sacks in those games.  If he gets hot early we could be seeing a lot of QBs eating turf and dirt.
  • Jeff Reed's 52 yard field goal on Sunday was the longest ever kicked in Heinz Field in an NFL game.  Reed nearly hit one from 55 a few series later, doinking it off the upright.  A good game for Skippy, except his blunder on a 40 yard attempt to win the game late in the 4th.  That was quite rare for the kicker who is usually lights out in crunch time.
  • James Harrison ended a 6 game sackless streak by running over an OL and getting to Matt Ryan.  I am glad to see him healthy and looking like his 2008 self, pushing OL around and disrupting plays.
  • In just 1 game, Lawrence Timmons collected 14% of his tackle total from last year, making 11 tackles.  That marks a career high for Timmons and only the second time in his career with double digit tackles (Cincinnati in 2008 week 7).  That Bengals game was probably the best of his career, because he also recorded 2 sacks.  Anyway, look for Timmons to be a monster in the run game all year.
  • Bryant McFadden was targeted 14 times by Matt Ryan and allowed 10 of those to be completed (71.4%).  That is bad, but McFadden did his job in our defense, recording 15 tackles, 3 stops, 1 pass deflection, and allowed less than 1 yard of YAC per reception.
  • Ike Taylor was targeted 9 times and allowed 5 receptions (55.6%).  Ike also had 7 tackles, 2 stops, 1 pass deflection, and a QB pressure.
  • William Gay was targeted 3 times and allowed 1 reception (33%).  Back in the Nickle defense makes a big difference, huh?  Gay was giving up a 67.5 catch percentage last year as the #2.
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