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Crunching The Numbers: Home Openers at Heinz Field and Ben Roethlisberger bouncing back

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The Steelers first game of the year in Pittsburgh and Ben’s record after a 3 INT game are both numbers to get excited about.

NFL: Tennessee Titans at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome to our house.

Heinz Field is truly amazing for a Steelers fan. If you have never attended a game there, you need to move that item to the very top of your bucket list. Between the Lombardi trophies on display in the great hall or the feeling when the jumbotron goes black just before the stadium erupts to Renegade, it is an experience that almost can’t be described.

With a home record of 99-36-1, the Steelers hold the third highest win percentage (73.2%) of any home team in their current stadium. Only Gillette Stadium (Patriots; 83.7%) and U.S. Bank Stadium (Vikings; 76.4%) hold a higher home team win percentage.

As impressive as that is, the Steelers are even more successful in their home opening games. Since Heinz Field opened in 2001, the Steelers are 15-2 in their first contest at home each year. They are 8-1 when opening the first week of the season, and 6–1 when their first home contest comes in Week 2. The lone time the Steelers did not play at home in the first two weeks of the season was during the inaugural 2001 season when the September 11 attacks postponed the second week of the season and the Steelers did not play their next game at home until October.

For the past three seasons, the Steelers have not played at home until Week 2. In each of those games, their opponents came in to the game with a record of 1-0. The Steelers have won all three of those games by an average of 16.7 points.

Additionally, the Steelers are 12-1 in home opening games at Heinz Field that are played at 1 PM.

There are a variety of statistical trends for the Steelers in their home opener that would be wonderful to replicate:

Run! Run! Run!

All 17 victories have occurred when the team has rushed 20 or more times, and 13 of those victories came with 30 or more rushing attempts. The Steelers are 11–0 when rushing for more than 100 yards in a game, and are still 4-2 when failing to reach the century mark.

Cause-and-effect is a great question for each one of these games. Were the Steelers running the ball because they were winning or were they winning because they were running the ball? Either way, the attempts need to come.

First and Foremost

It’s all about the first half at Heinz Field in the opening game. The Steelers or 15–0 when leading or tied at half time. The only two times they have lost the home opener they trailed at the half.

Give and Take

The two losses both occurred when the Steelers were -2 in turnover ratio. They have taken care of the ball for the most part, with only two games with three turnovers or more (1-1).

D is the Key

The Steelers have never given up more than 30 points in the home opener. Outside of a loss to the Raiders in 2002 (30 points)and wins over the Browns in 2014 (27 points) and the Raiders in 2004 (21 points), The Steelers have not given up more than 18 points. The average points against in a home opener at Heinz Field for the Steelers is 13.6 points.

Bouncing back in a big way.

It’s an understatement to say that Ben Rothlisberger had a rough game last week. Three interceptions and two fumbles is the epitome of a disastrous outing. Steeler fans have realized that Ben bounces back rather quickly, and the numbers give much evidence to that statement.

In the last 10 years (2007-2018), Ben has had seven games in which he has thrown three or more interceptions. After each of those games, the Steelers are 7–0 the following week. Additionally, Ben has only thrown three interceptions TOTAL in those seven follow-up games.

It should be noted that after the game on December 19, 2011 where Ben threw three interceptions in San Francisco, he did not play the following week due to a high ankle sprain. Charlie Batch lead the team to a 27-0 victory over the Rams in Pittsburgh. Ben did start the following week, which was a victory in Cleveland 13-9.

Another game of note was when Ben started the Monday night game in Washington on November 3, 2008 which was a week after he threw four interceptions against the Giants. Ben only played in the first half of that game in Washington due to a shoulder injury, but left the game with a 10-6 halftime lead. Byron Leftwich commanded the team the rest of the way for the 23–6 win

Numbers For Victory

  • Run the ball 30 or more times for over 100 yards (this sounds very familiar).

  • Hold the halftime advantage, keeping the run game in play.

  • Bounce back by keeping turnovers to a minimum (I’m talking to you, Ben).

  • Keep the Chiefs to 17 points or less.

Between the great numbers in home openers and the tendency for Ben to play big after rough outings the week before, it’s shaping up to be a good scenario for the Steelers. But all the past numbers mean nothing when it comes time for kick off on Sunday.