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The Steelers are starting slow in more ways than one

A 1-4 record is one thing, but starting each game has been even worse

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are off to a very slow start. Not only has their season started slowly, but every game has followed suit. Although the Steelers have been in every game through the first quarter particularly due to solid defensive play, getting an early lead has not been something the Steelers have managed to do often. In this week’s installment of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take at the Steelers slow starts offensively in 2019 both in the first quarter and specifically on their first offensive possession of the game.


The Pittsburgh Steelers have been averaging a mere 2.6 points in the first quarter so far in the 2019 season. This total has them ranked 27th in the NFL. The only teams with fewer points in the first quarter are the Dolphins (2.5), Rams (2.4), Texans (2.0), Saints (2.0), and the Jets (1.5).

The Steelers have scored only 13 points in the first quarter all season. Additionally, they were the 30th team to get a first-quarter touchdown in 2019 as they went 72:19 first-quarter minutes before JuJu Smith-Schuster scored the 35-yard touchdown against the Baltimore Ravens. The Los Angeles Rams have yet to score a first-quarter touchdown as have the New York Jets. But the Jets have only played four games so far in 2019, so they can still be ahead of the Steelers if they score a touchdown early this week against the Cowboys.


When it comes to starting slow, the worst part of the first quarter is the Steelers opening drive. In 2019, the Steelers have only managed to first downs on any opening offensive possessions. It just so happened both first downs came in the Steelers first game of the season against the New England Patriots. The drive was seven plays and gained 27 yards before the Steelers were forced to punt.

3.6, 7.6

Yards per drive and number of offensive plays have been a major concern in opening drives as well. Obviously, if a team is not gaining first downs they are running less plays and not gaining many yards. But the specific numbers for the Steelers are only an average of 3.6 plays and 7.6 yards in their opening possession of every game in 2019. If we took away their opening drive in Week 1 against the Patriots, the numbers plummet to under three plays per drive and less than three yards gained.


Surprisingly, even with the Steelers inability to move the ball on their opening drive, they do at least have one field goal to show for it. It came in Week 3 against the San Francisco 49ers after T.J. Watt intercepted Jimmy Garoppolo and put the Steelers at the edge of field-goal territory. The resulting drive only lasted three plays and 5 yards before the Steelers were forced to kick a 46-yard field goal.


When you’re not sustaining drives, you are not controlling the time of possession. The Steelers are only averaging just over two minutes on their opening drive. Their longest drive was 4:00 in Week 1 where they actually achieved two first downs. The shortest drive was 0:46 against the Bengals in their lone win of the season when Diontae Johnson fumbled a pass on the Steelers’ second play on offense.


The reason the Steelers first-quarter atrocities on offense may not be as noticeable to some is the fact the defense has really helped to cover it up. Although the Steelers only scored 13 points total, they’ve given up only 20 first-quarter points on the season. The average of 4.0 first quarter points a game has them 15th in the NFL.

It should also be noted that 10 of those points were last week against the Ravens. Baltimore’s field goal on their first possession is the first opening drive points the Steelers have surrendered all season. So while the offense has struggled early, the defense has definitely stepped up to help the cause.

So these are some of the numbers outlining the Steelers woes in starting off games in 2019. Can the Steelers break the trend of starting slowly in Week 6? Or will the defense be forced to keep them in the same early on? Please leave your answers in the comments below!