The Pittsburgh Steelers got back into the win column, defeating the Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 on Sunday night. Heading into the bye, the Steelers have improved their record to 2-4 as they use the extra week to recover from a barrage of injuries they’ve experienced over the last two weeks. With six players ruled out for Sunday’s game due to injury, the Steelers had an additional five players who dealt with injuries throughout the game.
While many fans expected quarterback Devlin Hodges to “fling the rock” up and down the field in his first start, the Steelers implemented a run heavy attack against the Chargers. For the first time all season, the Steelers ran more offensive plays on the ground than through the air. Hopefully the Steelers running game in Los Angeles is a sign of things to come down the stretch.
It was a very different game for the Steelers in 2019 as the defense made a statement early and the offense controlled the ball. With this in mind, here are some additional numbers which contributed to the Steelers win in Week 6.
I was so impressed with this performance and I had to start with this stat. The Steelers were credited for 10 passes defensed, three of which were by Cameron Sutton. Three of them were batted balls at the line of scrimmage and the rest were defenders knocking the ball away from receivers. It’s the first time the Steelers had double digits in this statistical category since Week 1 of 2018 in the overtime tie against the Cleveland Browns.
The Steelers finally got past their dreaded number of three third-down conversions, and they had the number crushed by half time. In all, the Steelers were 8 for 13 on third down conversions, leading to long drives and keeping their defense off the field.
The Steelers finally owned the time of possession advantage in a game in 2019, holding the ball for more than eight minutes longer than the Chargers. On top of that, the Steelers had a drive in the first quarter which lasted 9:09 ending with a 26-yard James Conner touchdown catch and run from Devlin Hodges, their longest drive from a time standpoint in 2019. Their previous longest drive was in Week 2 against Seattle which was 6:40 and ended in a Mason Rudolph touchdown pass to Vance McDonald.
Part of the reason the Steelers held the ball for so long were their 36 rushing attempts, which was 10 more rushes than they had in any game in 2019. With 124 yards on the ground, the Steelers average 3.44 yards a carry. More importantly, they had nine first downs via the rush.
One large contributing factor to the Steelers victory were the three turnovers they forced. The first was a fumble recovery by Devin Bush which he returned for a touchdown. On the ensuing Chargers drive, Tyson Alualu batted a Philip Rivers pass into the air which Bush intercepted and the Steelers turned into another touchdown four minutes later. The final takeaway was Cam Sutton’s interception to seal the victory.
Starting fast was an important factor for the Steelers in Week 6. Even though they went three and out on their opening possession, the Steelers responded with a defensive touchdown and a touchdown off a takeaway to score 14 points in the first quarter. Coming into Week 6, the Steelers only had 13 points in the first quarter in five combined games.
Jordan Berry has been a pleasant surprise in 2019. On Sunday, he averaged 46.3 yards on his punts which included his last punt of 35 yards which pinned the Chargers at the 1 yard line. Taking away the final impressive punt, Berry’s average would have been 50 yards.
Quarterback Devlin Hodges did a great job filling in, especially with his short passing game. In passes where the ball did not travel more than 10 yards behind the line of scrimmage, Hodges was 15 of 16 attempts with a touchdown. Inversely, this means that passes Hodges threw beyond 10 yards, he was 0/4 with an interception.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Sunday night against the Chargers. While many of these numbers are encouraging, the most important number is getting the win. Do these numbers accurately describe what transpired Sunday night? Were there any other numbers not listed which really stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.