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Crunching the Numbers: The Pittsburgh Steelers’ first-quarter woes

The Steelers’ offense has been feast or famine during the first 15 minutes of each game.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Pittsburgh Steelers Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

To say the 2018 Steelers have struggled in the first quarter of each game holds a good amount truth. But according to the numbers, the more offensive production from the Steelers to start the game, the better the final outcome. Coupled with the Steelers’ success at home in December, there is light at the end of the tunnel.


The Steelers have only scored points in the first quarter in four their 11 games in 2018. In those four games, they are 4-0 with an average margin of victory of 16.25 points. In games the Steelers fail to score in the opening period, they are 3-3-1.


The Steelers have scored a total of seven touchdowns in the first quarter on the season. Of those seven touchdowns, four of them came on Ben Roethlisberger passes, two were James Conner rushes, and one was a Vince Williams pick six.

0/2 and 5/7

The opening period has not been kind to Chris Boswell in 2018. He has yet to make a first-quarter field goal with misses of 49 yards against Kansas City, and a block from 48 yards last week in Denver. In Boswell’s defense, any time a field goal is pushing the 50-yard mark it is not completely unusual when unsuccessful. But adding the fact Boswell has missed two PAT‘s, Steeler fans have been collectively holding their breath every time the field goal unit is on the field in the first 15 minutes.


In only two games in 2018 have the Steelers scored points on multiple possessions in the first quarter. In both games, the Steelers actually scored touchdowns in every position of the opening period. In those games, both at home against NFC South opponents, the Steelers margin of victory was 24 and 31 points.


So far on the season, the Steelers have scored points in the first quarter against every NFC opponent they have faced. The only AFC opponent in which the Steelers put up points in the first period was the Ravens in Baltimore. Ironically, it was the first time since 2002 the Steelers scored a touchdown in Baltimore in the first quarter. The James Conner touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger against the Ravens was the longest first-quarter scoring drive for the Steelers in 2018, consisting of 9 offensive plays.


Antonio Brown has started slow in almost every game this season. In the first quarter, Brown only has 88 yards receiving with zero touchdowns. Only 10.1% of AB’s total yards receiving for 2018 have come in the first period.


Of the 26 drives the Steelers offense has completed in the first quarter, half of them ended in a punt. Of those 13 punts, eight came in a 3 & out situation. The other 13 first-quarter drives in 2018 concluded with two missed field goals, three interceptions, two lost fumbles, and six offensive touchdowns.


When the Steelers had possession of the ball at the end of the first quarter in 2018, they have been very successful as those drives progressed into quarter #2. The Steelers are five out of five when it comes to producing points on these drives, scoring three touchdowns and two field goals. Unfortunately, the last time the Steelers had the ball to begin the second quarter was at Cincinnati in Week 6.


If scoring points in the first quarter is an indication of victory for Sunday night’s game, Pittsburgh could be in very good shape. The Steelers have scored in the opening period of 12 consecutive home games in the month of December. During the current streak dating back through 2013, the Steelers have scored 11 touchdowns, four field goals, and a safety in the first quarter.