There was a lot of drama leading up to the Steelers Week 13 game at Heinz Field against the Cleveland Browns. Between the suspension-filled incident at the end of their previous matchup 17 games earlier as well as various T-shirts sported by various players and coaches, it appeared both teams were highly motivated leading up to kickoff. As much as the Browns wanted to make a statement they were relevant again in the AFC North, they will have to wait yet another year in order to take out the Steelers on their home turf.
The victory over the Browns kept the Steelers in the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs while all but eliminating the Browns from playoff contention. As bittersweet as this victory was for both of those reasons, there is still work to be done if the Steelers wish to reach the postseason in 2019. But before worrying about next week, here are some of the numbers which led to the Steelers’ seventh victory of 2019.
It was the 31-yard pass when the Steelers had a free play due to the Browns jumping offsides which seemed to spark the confidence in the offense. It was with 6:53 remaining in the second quarter when James Washington pulled in the pass just shy of midfield. It was the Steelers first completion beyond the line of scrimmage in the game.
Speaking of James Washington, he eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the first time in his NFL career on Sunday with 111 yards on four receptions and a touchdown. With an average of 27.8 yards per catch, only his performance last week against the Bengals of 32.7 yards per catch has been higher in his career. He has also caught a touchdown in three of the Steelers last four games.
The Steelers rushed for over 100 yards for second straight game and only the fourth time in 2019. With 124 yards on 32 carries, The Steelers averaged 3.88 yards per carry. Leading the way was Benny Snell Jr. who led all rushers with 63 yards on 16 carries and his first career touchdown in the NFL.
There are many statistics one can look at when it comes to the passing game. The one I am choosing to focus on is this: Devlin Hodges only threw seven incompletions against the Browns. His overall passing stats were 14 of 21 for 212 yards with one touchdown and one interception. While the number of completions is nice, having only seven plays go for no gain helps to keep drives alive. It was only one more incompletion than what Hodges had last week in less than a half of play. Comparatively, Baker Mayfield had 14 incompletions in the game.
In every game the Steelers have a takeaway in 2019, they have managed to force more than one. With two more on Sunday, the Steelers are now up to 30 takeaways on the season. The two in week 13 were very important as they did not have any takeaways against the Browns in their first match up. Additionally, they both occurred in the second half with the final interception by Joe Haden sealing the game.
Only getting to Baker Mayfield once in Week 11, the Steelers were able to sack Mayfield five times on Sunday. T.J. Watt extended his streak to nine games with at least 0.5 sacks as he now has 12.5 on the season. The most important sack of the game may have been from Javon Hargrave whose 8-yard sack took the Browns out of field-goal range with just under seven minutes left in the game.
A pleasant surprise came on the Steelers first kickoff by Kerrith Whyte Jr. when he returned the kick from the 7-yard line to the 41. The 34 yard kickoff return was the longest on the season for the Steelers with the previous record being 26 yards in Week 1.
The Steelers started a drive at their own 1-yard line with 5:35 left in the game holding onto a seven point lead. They were able to instantly gain 11 yards on the first play thanks to a Benny Snell Jr. rush. As the drive continued, the Steelers were two of three on third-down conversions. In every situation, it was a Devlin Hodges pass as the play call. The first conversion was a 14-yard catch and run by Diontae Johnson on third and five. Unfortunately, Johnson went out of bounds rather than keep the clock running. The next third-down play was on third and six where Hodges dumped the ball off the tight end Vance McDonald who fought for the first down. While many fans felt the Steelers should have just ran the ball on their final attempt of third and six, the Steelers went for the win and put the ball in the air. Unfortunately, Devlin Hodges chose to throw the ball out of bounds rather than just take a sack and allow the clock to run. Even with the mental lapse on the final play, the two previous conversions put the Steelers in the situation in the first place.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Sunday against the Browns. It was yet another win the Steelers were not projected to get, so adding that notch in the win column feels a little more special. Were there any other numbers which stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.