The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers continue to do things that they aren’t supposed to do. They’ve won seven of their last eight games even with making a change a quarterback. They are missing a plethora of offensive weapons. And most recently, they picked up their second victory on the season west of the Mississippi as an undrafted rookie quarterback won his third start of the season.
The victory over the Cardinals kept the Steelers in the sixth seed in the AFC playoffs. While a win from the Tennessee Titans still has them tied with the Steelers for the final spot, they now have a little bit of wiggle room as the next closest teams are two games behind with three remaining. Before we get ahead of ourselves with all the playoff talk, here are some of the numbers which led to the Steelers’ seventh victory in the last eight games.
It has to be the first statistic mentioned. The 85-yard punt return for a touchdown by Diontae Johnson was the first for the Steelers since Antonio Brown in 2015. Johnson is the first Steelers’ rookie to return a punt for a touchdown since Santonio Holmes in 2006.
3 & 4
Week 14 was the Steelers most successful opening drive of 2019. Scoring three points after moving the ball 66 yards with four first downs, the Steelers matched their season total of points scored coming on their first possession of the game. With for first downs, this was also a number which is now doubled for the Steelers on opening drives in 2019. Additionally, 66 yards gained was more than the previous 12 games of 2019 combined which had only produced a total of 58 yards.
3 & 4 (5)
Another important statistic which involved the numbers three and four were the number of interceptions and sacks. Beginning with the statistics for sacks, four Steelers were each credited with one sack as of Sunday night, but the Steelers defense itself has been credited with five as one sack has been uncredited at this time. For those who are wondering, it was the second-down play on the Cardinals last possession when quarterback Kyler Murray fumbled the ball behind the line of scrimmage and the Cardinals recovered. Two plays later, the Steelers made their third interception of the game to seal the win, and the second interception on the day by Joe Haden. The final interception, along with T.J. Watt’s end zone pick, came on fourth down. It was the fifth time in 2019 the Steelers forced a turnover on fourth down.
A question I posed Saturday on the Steelers’ Burning Question podcast was an appropriate number of incompletions for Devlin Hodges against the Cardinals. Surprisingly, Hodges only had three incomplete passes on the day. Unfortunately, his final past attempt was one of the three which would have burned another 40 seconds off of the clock at the end of the game if the pass would have connected to Diontae Johnson. Regardless, three incompletions on nearly 20 passes is very efficient.
One category of major improvement from last week (and oeverall in 2019) was the number of penalties called on the Steelers in Week 14. With only four penalties for 20 yards, the Steelers tied their season low which they achieved in Week 4 against the Cincinnati Bengals. The penalty yards of 20 was their lowest of 2019.
When the Pittsburgh Steelers received the kickoff from the Cardinals with 6:44 remaining in the game, they were clinging to a three-point lead. The Steelers managed to run 5:02 off the clock and connect on a 25-yard field goal from Chris Boswell to double their lead. While the drive did a great job of chewing up a decent bit of clock, the Steelers incompletion on second down at the 12-yard line kept them from bleeding even more time. So while the drive was successful, there was still room for improvement.
The Steelers total of 140 yards rushing on 35 attempts was the third straight week in which the team has gone over the century mark. Averaging 4.0 yards a carry, the Steelers were docked 8 yards from their rushing total on the failed fake punt. Regardless, the Steelers had five players in double digits for rushing yards including quarterback Devlin Hodges (34) and wide receiver Diontae Johnson (16).
Giving an update on a sometime overlooked player for the Steelers in 2019 is Chris Boswell‘s continued success on extra points and field goals. Not being called upon for last-second kicks like in 2017, Boswell is just as accurate this season (92.0%) as he was in that Pro Bowl season (92.1%). On Sunday, he connected on all three field goals and both extra points.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Sunday against the Cardinals. It was the Steeler’s second win traveling two or more time zones west in 2019, something they haven’t done since 1984. Were there any other numbers which stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.