The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers head into their bye week with a 2-4 record, but are coming off an impressive road win on the West Coast. Since the bye week is often a great time to reflect on what the Steelers are doing well and where they need to improve, this is exactly what we’re going to do. In the second of this week’s three installments of Crunching the Numbers, we’ll take at some of the Pittsburgh Steelers numbers on the offensive side of the ball for the 2019 season. Each statistic is broken down into a “do” or “don’t.” The “do’s” are areas where the Steelers need to keep up the good work, while the “don’ts” are areas where they need to improve.
The best statistic for the 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers offense is, by far, the number of sacks the Steelers have surrendered through six games. With opponents only being able to haul down the quarterback five times on the Steelers so far in 2019, they are leading the league in this category. Additionally, it is the fewest number of sacks the Steelers have surrendered through six games under Mike Tomlin. Each year this number has been improving since 2016 when the Steelers surrendered 11 sacks in the first six games followed by 10 and 2017 and nine in 2018.
I constantly remind people, including myself, about how the correlation between rushing attempts in a game and wins definitely is a question of cause and effect. Do the Steelers win more because they are rushing the ball, or do they rush the ball more because they are winning? In 2019, the Steelers have carried the ball 131 times through the first six games. This number averages to 21.8 carries per game, ranking 24th in the NFL. The 36 rushing attempts against the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday night helped bring this number up a little as the Steelers were only averaging 19 carries through the first five weeks which was 28th in the league.
On a side note, the Steelers have the exact same number of rushing attempts through the first six games as they did in 2018.
The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers are currently ranked 14th in the NFL in completion percentage at 65.3% in the first six games. While the statistic doesn’t seem to be overly impressive, the Steelers have been gradually creeping up from opening the season 27 of 47 in New England. Over the last three games, the Steelers rank 8th of the NFL in completion percentage at 70.4%.
It’s a number which is been highlighted after almost every game in 2019: the Steelers third-down conversion rate. Going into Week 6, the Steelers had only converted three third-down attempts in each game with a 28.3% conversion rate which ranked them 29th in the NFL. After their 8 for 13 performance in Los Angeles, the Steelers did improve to 34.8% and jumped up to 21st in the league. So while the statistic needs to improve, it is trending in the correct direction based on the Steelers final game heading into the bye.
The Steelers have averaged 27:20 as their time of possession (excluding overtime) for the 2019 season. This currently has the Steelers ranked 30th in the NFL. Prior to their game against the Chargers, the Steelers’ average was 25:59 which was 31st in the league. Moving forward, the Steelers need to be more around the 34:05 range they were in Los Angeles, or at least a number which starts with a “3” rather than a “2.”
The Steelers have started three different quarterbacks in 2019. The last time the Steelers started this many quarterbacks in a season was in 2015, and the last time they did it in the first six games was in 2010 when Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch each started two of the four games in which Ben Roethlisberger sat out to start the season. As far back as I was able to go (1951), the Steelers have never started four quarterbacks in a season. So let’s not start a trend.
So these are some of the numbers outlining the Steelers offense through the first six weeks of 2019. Can the Steelers keep up their ability to protect the quarterback? Will the offense improve on their time of possession and third-down conversions? Please leave your answers in the comments below!