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Crunching the Numbers: Tom Brady, rushing, and turnovers

This Sunday the Steelers face one of two teams who have a better record than them at Heinz Field.

NFL: New England Patriots at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports


With the last home loss against the Chargers, the Steelers fell to third place in team winning percentage at Heinz Field. With a record of 110-44-1, their winning percentage of 0.713 is just behind Jacksonville, whose 5–2 record at Heinz Field gives them a win percentage of 0.714. The all-time winningest team at Heinz Field is the New England Patriots with a record of 6–2 and a win percentage of 0.750. If the Steelers can win on Sunday, they would move back into the top spot in their own stadium.


In the past 15 seasons, the New England Patriots have only lost back-to-back games seven times. In every one of those pairs of games, Tom Brady has thrown at least one interception. for the record, Tom Brady did not have an interception last week in their loss to the Dolphins. Vince Williams’ interception last year was the first time the Steelers picked off Tom Brady since 2006.


When comparing the Steelers 2018 six-game winning streak to their current three-game losing streak, the Steelers are averaging 0.5 fewer touchdowns per game in both passing (2.5 vs 2.0) and rushing (1.5 vs 1.0). Additionally, they are averaging 0.5 more interceptions per game (0.833 vs 1.333).

+46 and -54.7

When comparing the Steelers previous win streak to their current losing streak, the Steelers are averaging 46 more yards passing per game in the losing streak (341 yards per game) than what they had in their six game winning streak (295 yards per game). When it comes to rushing the ball, the Steelers are averaging 54.7 yards less during the current streak (114.7 yards per game vs 60.0 yards per game).

<13 vs >24

A lot has been said about the Steelers not running the ball much during their 3-game losing streak. But if looking at both streaks this season (the last 9 games) there is an almost perfect correlation of time the Steelers were playing from behind versus rushing attempts and yards. Over the last 9 games, if the Steelers trailed for less than 13 minutes in the game, they rushed the ball more than 20 times and had over 110 yards. If they trailed for 24 minutes or more, they had under 20 rushing attempts and 75 yards or less rushing. The only exception was the game against the Chargers when they only trailed for 3:59 but only rushed 17 times for 65 yards.


This particular statistic was a request by someone in the live chat of BTSC’s Steelers Preview podcast. Since Mike Tomlin became the head coach in 2007, the magic number of turnovers per game seems to be two. When the Steelers turn the ball over more than two times, they are 11-22-1 overall and 6-7 at home. The winning percentage improves tremendously when turnovers are reduced. When having exactly 2 turnovers in the game, the Steelers 26-17 overall and 14-5 at Heinz Field. When the Steelers have only one turnover, or none at all, they are 86–26 and 48-14 at home.


Although turnovers are important, turnover margin is usually a more helpful statistic. When having a turnover margin of -1, the Steelers are at 23-41-1 and only 12–15 at Heinz Field since 2007. When playing even in the turnover margin, the Steelers are 38-16, but an impressive 24-5 at home. When winning the turnover margin at all, the Steelers are 62–8 overall and 32–6 at home. When having an advantage of two turnovers in a game, the Steelers have only lost once at home since 2007. This loss was a Thursday night game against Baltimore in 2015, a game I have affectionately come to describe as the “Scobee debacle.”


Here are some additional stats courtesy of Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL Network: