One down, three to go.
Preseason Week 1 is in the books. The Steelers have played their first game in over eight months, so the whole issue of the long offseason is now behind all of us. Most importantly, there were basically no Steelers who left with injury other than Christian Scotland-Williamson who exited with a hamstring issue. Granted very few projected starters were in uniform Friday night, but it’s still nice to know players made it though the game and the Steelers pulled out a victory.
But did they Steelers perform in a manner where coaches and fans should be satisfied with the product at Heinz Field from the black and gold?
In my earlier Crunching the Numbers article, I compiled some statistics from the 2018 preseason in order to have a baseline of comparison. Using those stats, let’s look actual statistics from Week 1 to help determine if our expectations were met in Friday’s game.
This was the exact average of points scored per game from the 2018 preseason, and the exact number I predicted. Using six scoring drives (three touchdowns and three field goals), a thirty-point output checks off one box for sure. The Steelers also had three points off of turnovers, although seven should have been the goal when the Steelers recovered a fumble at the 27-yard line in Buccaneers’ territory towards the end of the first half. On the positive side, it was nice to see the Steelers be successful on all their field goal and extra point attempts.
The Steelers were slightly over their average of nine accepted penalties per game in the 2018 preseason. While some penalties in the preseason are to be expected, it did appear the officials were quite over-zealous to throw the flag in several circumstances. At least the Steelers had four less penalties than their opponent.
Once again, the Steelers matched their 2018 preseason average, this time in first downs. If only the Steelers could have managed only one or two more at the end of the game, the contest wouldn’t have been in doubt and the game would have ended much sooner. It is also a concern that the Steelers’ defense gave up 31 first downs.
The Steelers managed to keep their turnover count down, but two particular plays need to be noted from a negative standpoint. The lone Steelers’ turnover came late in the fourth quarter when the Steelers could have clinched the game, so the timing of their only official turnover was highly undesirable. Additionally, the Steelers had another turnover in the first half which was negated by offsetting penalties. As for the positive note, the turnover margin of zero is down from the 2018 average, but this number is misleading. The Steelers actually had two takeaways in the game, but only one counted statistically because the interception occurred on a two-point conversion attempt. During the untimed down, the only statistic the NFL uses is “points scored” if the attempt is successful. Even if Ulysses Gilbert had returned the conversion for two pints in the Steelers favor, he would have been rewarded the score but not the interception.
Once again, this statistic is misleading, even though it out performed the last year’s average. While the Steelers 108 rushing yards beat the 97.75 average from the 2018 preseason, almost 40% were by quarterbacks. I had made the statement that, due to limited carries, an average of 5.0 yards per carry or greater would be the standard for a running back’s success. The only running back on the Steelers who averaged over five yards a carry was Jaylen Samuels who averaged 10.5 yards on two rushes for 21 yards. Ironically, Samuels’ two carries were for -1 yard and 22 yards.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers first game of the 2019 preseason. Which number were you pleased with the most? What was the most disappointing statistic? Is there another one not listed which really stands out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below!