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Crunching the Numbers: Tomlin vs. inferior opponents, Ben out west, and second-down play calling

The Steelers have been accused of losing too many games under Coach Tomlin when playing a team with a losing record.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Jacksonville Jaguars Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images


Entering 2018, the Steelers are 74-28 under Mike Tomlin against teams who finished the season at .500 or below. Their home record is 39-8 while only managing a record of 35–20 on the road. This season, the Steelers are currently 6–1–1 against teams who do not have a winning record as of week 13. The one loss may very well disappear soon as Denver is likely to eclipse the .500 mark.


Of the games outlined previously against teams who did not have a winning record at seasons end, the Steelers are 20–7 in the final four games of the season. Although this record does not seem overly impressive, they have won seven straight of those games, and four straight on the road. In short, the Steelers have not lost in the final quarter of the season to a team who did not end up with a winning record since 2015 in Baltimore.


In games in which the Steelers have been favored by 10 points or more, they are 21–4 under Mike Tomlin. They have won six straight games and 15 of their last 16. The lone defeat in this stretch was, once again, in Baltimore in 2015. The Steelers are currently 10.5-point favorites on Sunday in Oakland.


The Steelers are currently on their eleventh 2-game losing streak under Mike Tomlin. Of the previous 10, six of them the Steelers won the next game to end the streak. Of the games they lost, two were in Baltimore (one without Ben) while the other 2 were at home. They are 2-1 against teams who have a losing record with the one loss being 2 years ago versus the 3-4 Ravens.


Ben Roethlisberger has a record of 1–6 when playing in the Pacific time zone. After winning his first trip to the West Coast in San Diego in 2005, Ben has lost six straight games with three of the six losses being against the Raiders. In games on the West Coast, Ben has thrown eight TDs, rushed for one, thrown 13 INTs, and fumbled three times. The Steelers did win in San Diego in 2015 with Michael Vick filling in at quarterback.

188 vs 76

On second down, the Steelers have the second fewest number of rushes in the NFL with 76, one behind Cincinnati. The Steelers have thrown more second-down passes than anybody with 188, which is 14 more than second place Tampa. Their breakdown for 2nd down is 71.8% passing to 28.2% rushing, while the league average is 59.2% passing and 40.8% rushing. So the Steelers passed 12.6% more on second down than the typical NFL team. With an average distance of 7.81 yards to go on second down which ranks 12th lowest in the league, it’s not like the Steelers are forced to throw the ball more than normal. Second down is generally when a team has the most freedom to run plays of their choosing if they are not behind the sticks, and the Steelers are constantly choosing to pass.


It has been highly publicized this week that Ben Roethlisberger is 0-3 when visiting the Raiders, regardless of which home city they were playing in at the time. Additionally, Mike Tomlin’s record is 0-2 in Oakland with games taking place in September and October. The one record that has not been discussed much is how Raiders coach John Gruden is 0-3 against Pittsburgh in his head coaching career for both Oakland and Tampa Bay. Of those three losses, two of them came in seasons where his teams had 10 or more wins at the time of the game. Another item of note, all three of these games where Gruden has lost to the Steelers have occurred the month of December. So between Gruden and Tomlin, one of them will break the trend while the other continues the losing streak.