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Analyzing the Steelers’ Week 16 loss to the Saints, by the numbers

Untimely penalties and turnovers were the biggest culprit in the Steelers coming up short.

NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers at New Orleans Saints Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports


The Steelers gave up 21 points on drives which were extended on pass interference penalties. Two penalties were on fourth down which would have ended each drive, and the other would have left the Saints with a 3rd & 10. Regardless of the legitimacy of the calls, penalties which give teams a first down and extend drives which lead to points are the worst kind a defense can give up.


For more than half the game the Steelers held the advantage in turn-over ratio. Sean Davis’ interception with 10:18 left in the first quarter gave the Steelers a much-needed takeaway which had eluded this defense most of the year. But two fourth-quarter turnovers took away the positive ratio the Steelers needed.


The Steelers won the points-off-of-turnovers battle at 3-0. Although the Saints didn’t score, both fumbles occurred at the New Orleans 35 yard line when the Steelers were on the cusp of putting points on the board. So even though the Steelers did not surrender points after the turnovers, the fumbles kept them from scoring points of their own.


With the three-point loss to the Saints, the 2018 Steelers have a record of 5-5-1 in games in which were decided by less than one score. The last time the Steelers had a .500 record in one-score games was 2015, which was the last season the Steelers did not win the AFC North.


When the Steelers chose to run a fake punt in the fourth quarter, they gave the Saints the best starting field position of the game. Starting at the Pittsburgh 46 yard line, they had to travel less than half a field in order to take the lead. Although, if executed correctly, the call would have been brilliant by keeping possession of the ball. But had the Steelers chose to punt, they could have given the Saints their worst field position of the game if they were able to pin the ball inside the 20 yard line.


Overshadowed by the loss was the amazing individual efforts given forth by Antonio Brown and JuJu Smith–Schuster. Brown finished with a stat line of 14 receptions for 185 yards and two touchdowns, while JuJu added 11 receptions with 115 yards. It was the first time ever where both receivers had double-digit receptions in the same game.


In Sunday’s game, each team had six plays where they gained 20 or more yards. All of these plays were passes. For the Steelers, four of them were deep passes while two were classified as short passes with run-after-the-catch yards. For the Saints, five plays were considered short passes with a lot of yards after the catch. The only deep completed pass for the Saints over 20 yards was the 25-yard completion on third and 20 on their final scoring drive. In fact, Drew Brees only had two completions which were considered deep passes, both to Ted Gunn, Jr. (15 and 25). Ben Roethlisberger had six deep completions, five to Antonio Brown and one to Vance McDonald.