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A Statistical Breakdown of the Steelers 36-17 loss to the Patriots

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A statistical analysis of the Steelers AFC Championship loss to the Patriots.

NFL: AFC Championship-Pittsburgh Steelers at New England Patriots James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

The Steelers’ season came to an abrupt end on Sunday when they lost to the New England Patriots 36-17. The Steelers had won nine in a row heading into the game, but miscues on both sides of the ball led to an easy win for the Patriots. Below is a complete breakdown of the Steelers last game of the season.

All stats are official and from the NFL unless otherwise noted.

Running Game: Many Steeler fans were excited at the prospect of finally seeing the Steelers take on the Patriots with a healthy Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown, and Le’Veon Bell in one game. Unfortunately, those hopes were quickly dashed on Sunday when Bell was hurt late in the first quarter. Bell injured his groin on an innocent looking run up the middle. He then jogged to the sideline and would later attempt to return, but he was again taken out of the game. Bell finished with six carries for 20 yards.

With Bell out, the Steelers turned to capable backup DeAngelo Williams, who had 34 yards and one touchdown on 14 carries. Williams had some early success running the ball, but the Patriots’ dominate run defense quickly adjusted and shut down the Steelers’ rushing attack. Additionally, as the Patriots pulled further and further ahead, the Steelers had to throw the ball more and abandon the running game.

In the second quarter Williams scored on a 5-yard run to make the score 10-6 Patriots. For a brief moment, it looked like the Steelers would climb back into the contest but it was not to be.

Passing: Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger completed 31 passes for 314 yards, one touchdown, and one interception. With the Patriots, double covering Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger did an excellent job finding other targets to spread the ball around to. Roethlisberger was also let down by his receivers dropping passes that could have resulted in big plays for the Steelers.

The lone touchdown pass of the day came with 3:42 left in the game and the score well out of hand. Roethlisberger found Cobi Hamilton in the end zone for a 30-yard touchdown pass. The Steelers then went for a two-point conversion where Roethlisberger hit DeAngelo Williams to make the score 36-17 Patriots.

Despite facing double coverage, the leading receiver for the Steelers was still Antonio Brown who had seven receptions for 77 yards. Eli Rogers and DeAngelo Williams each caught seven passes as well, for 66and 51 yards respectively. Sammie Coates drew attention to himself, though unfortunately for him it wasn’t for stellar play but for dropped passes. What started out as a promising season for Coates turned into one marred by drops and inconsistency. He’ll have motivation for the offseason.

Defense: The Steelers knew they’d have to play their best game of the year against the Patriots to move onto the Super Bowl, and quite simply they came up short. Tom Brady completed 32 passes for 384 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no turnovers. Brady was rarely under duress Sunday night, and the Steelers dearly payed for their inability to get to the Patriot’s signal caller. In typical Patriots’ fashion, an unheralded receiver played like a star in a big game. This time that player was Chris Hogan who was the leading receiver for the Patriots with nine receptions for 180 yards and two touchdowns.

The Patriots scored four touchdowns Sunday evening. Late in the first quarter Brady rolled out to his left, then threw across the field to a wide-open Chris Hogan in the end zone for a 16-yard touchdown. Between the time, Brady had to complete the pass and the secondary losing track of Hogan, this was a colossal mistake for the Steelers to make in a playoff game. Midway through the second quarter Brady again found Hogan, this time on a 34-yard flea flicker that caught the Steelers by surprise. The Steelers were able to hold the Patriots to only 57 rushing yards, but LeGarrette Blount was still able to score on a one yard run in the third quarter. Finally, Julian Edelman caught a 10-yard touchdown pass later in the third quarter for New England’s final touchdown of the night. The game was Tom Brady’s ninth postseason game with three or more touchdown passes, which tied him with Joe Montana for the most three touchdown postseason games in NFL history.

The Steelers’ defense recorded two sacks, three quarterback hits, no turnovers, and no passes defended. Lawrence Timmons led the Steelers with 14 combined tackles.

Efficiency: The Steelers were 9 for 15 on third down while the Patriots were only 11 for 17. The Steelers were the only team to attempt a fourth down conversion, which was unsuccessful. The Steelers averaged 5.5 yards per play compared to 6.1 yards per play for the Patriots.

The Red Zone: The Patriots were 3 for 5 in the red zone, while the Steelers were 1 for 3. If the Steelers want to look for a reason their playoff journey ended early, going 1 for 7 in the red zone over the course of two playoff games is a strong starting point.

Turnovers: The Steelers weren’t able to force any turnovers, while the committed two.

Eli Rogers fumbled the ball after being hit by Kyle Van Noy. Rob Ninkovich recovered the ball for the Patriots and four plays later New England was in the end zone again. The second turnover came on a Roethlisberger interception with 10:26 to go in the game. Eric Rowe stepped in front of a pass that was intended for Darrius Heyward-Bey for an easy interception. The Patriots would add a field goal off of this turnover.

The Steelers appeared to have a takeaway in the third quarter on a rare Tom Brady fumble, but the officials ruled that there was inconclusive evidence when Mike Tomlin challenged the play, one that is sure to stick in the minds of fans for a long time.

Penalties: The Steelers committed three penalties for 19 yards. The Patriots were slightly better, committing only two penalties for 10 yards. Watching a game with only five accepted penalties was a relief, but the officials appeared to miss several calls that would have resulted in first downs. The reason the Steelers loss can’t be blamed on the officials, but their missed calls certainly didn’t help.

Under Pressure: The Steelers got to Tom Brady three times Sunday evening. Sean Davis and Javon Hargrave each recorded a sack on Brady. Stephon Tuitt recorded a hit on Brady as well.

The Steelers’ offensive line was able to keep Roethlisberger clean except for one Trey Flowers hit. The offensive line came together well for the Steelers over the season and should be proud of the way they played during the stretch run.

Kicking: Chris Boswell made his only field goal attempt, a 23-yard attempt. Boswell also badly missed an extra point try that would have made the Patriots lead only three points. Boswell saved the Steelers’ season twice in a five-game stretch so it’s not fair to make him the scapegoat of the game, but he had a rough postseason.

If a fortuneteller had said the Steelers would play the Patriots and commit only three penalties, Roethlisberger wouldn’t be sacked, and the defense would sack Brady twice, most people would assume the Steelers would win and not be thoroughly blown out. Alas, it was not to be. The Steelers one again had no answer for Tom Brady and they paid for it. As much as the season ending loss stings, there are several positive aspects fans can take into the off season. The offensive line gelled as the season went along. The young defensive players played well enough to keep the team competitive in most games and avoided a lot of the typical growing pains of young players. As tough a pill it is to swallow, the reality of life in the NFL is that only one team -and fan base-is truly satisfied at the end of the season. Hopefully the Steelers are lucky enough to be that team in February 2018.