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Analyzing the Steelers’ Week 14 loss to the Raiders, by the numbers

Numbers are usually objective, but it’s hard to stay that way with the current state of the team.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at Oakland Raiders Neville E. Guard-USA TODAY Sports


This first section is going to be a little bit different than usual. After three straight losses, it’s getting harder and harder to break down the stats. I usually try to wait a couple days after a loss so I’m not emotionally criticizing the numbers. But there aren’t enough days for me to get over this one. I’ll do my best to try to give a balance of statistics showing both the positive and negative aspects of Sunday’s loss to the Raiders. But there are no promises this time.


With 9:18 left in the third quarter, Ben Roethlisberger emerged from the locker room during a challenge by Oakland of a JuJu Smith-Schuster catch. With 5:20 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ben took the field at quarterback after the Steelers had lost their lead. So for 18:58 minutes of time on the clock, Ben Roethlisberger was available for the Steelers with his injured ribs, yet he was not in the game. During any of this 18:58, Ben could have been used to try to widen the lead. But instead, it was decided to not have him come into the game until the Steelers were trailing.


While Ben Roethlisberger was on the sidelines, the Steelers managed only three first downs. To make it worse, there was not a single drive which had multiple first downs. So the Steelers were not really getting anything going on any single drive while Ben was out, even though Coach Tomlin seemed to think otherwise in his post-game press conference.

2.11 vs. 2.20

Surprisingly, the Steelers and the Raiders finished with almost identical yards per rush for the game. The Steelers average 2.11 yards with 40 yards on 19 attempts while the Raiders averaged 2.20 yards with 55 yards on 25 attempts. Oakland started the game with 16 yards on five attempts the first drive. After this, the game was basically a wash when it came to rushing the football.


What a play. When Ben Roethlisberger completed the 5 yard pass to James Washington, I wasn’t sure what the Steelers were thinking. But the pitch to JuJu Smith-Schuster for another 43 yards was a thing of beauty. It was the spirit-lifting play Steelers’ fans needed right before their souls were absolutely crushed. The play was tied for the eighth longest play of the season for the Steelers, with three of the other plays also involving JuJu Smith-Schuster.


This stat was inspired by one of the comments from my Crunching the Numbers article last week. Since 2009, there have been 10 games where an NFL team was favored on the road by 10 or more points and lost the game. The Steelers were the loser in four out of those 10 games. No other team has had more than one game, although the New England Patriots were very close to having this happened back-to-back years in Miami. The only thing saving them from the embarrassment of another game on this list was they were only nine-point favorites this past week. Although the Steelers have won six games on the road where they were favored by 10 or more points, they have only managed to cover the spread one time in these games under Mike Tomlin.


One bright spot for the Steelers was they only had two penalties for 14 yards against the Raiders. It was the fewest penalty yards called against Pittsburgh in 2018. A five-yard defensive offsides in the second quarter and a 9-yard holding call (which occurred past the line of scrimmage, hence the nine yards) in the third were the only two infractions. It was the lowest penalty yardage against the Steelers since Week 7 of 2017.


The Steelers finished the game with one timeout in their pocket. While it was wise to have the TO in case JuJu Smith–Schuster did not get out if bounds on the Steelers final offensive play, the Steelers used the other timeout they had available with 0:30 left in the game when the clock was already stopped. Not only was the timeout used in a way which didn’t preserve any time for the offense, it benefited the Raiders more than the Steelers. After holding Oakland to one total yard on three plays, the Steelers used their timeout to give the Raiders’ offense and coaching staff time to figure out the best play they had on 4th & 6. Since having enough time was not going to come in to play for the Raiders, the Steelers would have been much better off using their second timeout to preserve some clock. If the Steelers would have used the timeout after the first-down run they would have been receiving the kickoff with just under a minute left in the game.