Preseason Week 3 is in the books. The Steelers have now played their third game, and this time the first-team players collectively saw the field. With Joe Haden being the only starter not suiting up, the team in uniform on Saturday night during the first quarter gave Steelers’ fans the long-awaited preview of the 2019 season they had been eagerly awaiting through the long offseason.
But did they Steelers perform in a manner where coaches and fans should feel they are prepared to go into Foxborough in two weeks?
In my earlier Crunching the Numbers article, I compiled some statistics from the first quarter of the last three preseason Week 3 games in order to get an idea of what to expect from the Steelers’ starting team. Using those stats, let’s look actual statistics from Week 3 to help determine if our expectations were met in Sunday’s game.
The offensive starters were on the field for three series to start the game against the Titans. With the first two drives ending in punts, there was over nine minutes left in the first quarter when the offense stalled the second time. The quick turnaround after the safety made three drives a certainty, and the nine-play touchdown drive was a good place to end the night for the first team.
The starting offense ended up running 20 plays on the night. With 19 official plays and a two-point conversion attempt, it was a the desired amount for the first-teamers to see the field. The Steelers did achieve a first down in every drive by the starters with a total of six in the three drives. Of the 20 plays, 14 were passes with nine completions to four different receivers including the conversion attempt. Of the six rushing attempts, five were by James Conner for 41 yards. The only other attempt when Roethlisberger was in the game was a 3 yard gain by Trey Edmunds on 3rd & 1 the play before the 17-yard touchdown pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
The amount of points scored in the first quarter in Week 3 of the preseason had a much different distribution than in recent years. The defense coming up with a safety was the first time since 2015 points were scored by the Steelers in preseason Week 3 that were not a result of a Ben Roethlisberger-led drive. Add another seven points from the second unit from the 41-yard touchdown connection from Mason Rudolph to James Washington and the first quarter gave an interesting variety of points scored.
While Ben Roethlisberger did complete over 60% of his passes (8 completions on 13 attempts), he failed to reach the 100-yard passing mark. Of course the weather may have played a factor as the rain increased significantly following kickoff. One of the biggest factors which indicates the weather may have inhibited the offense was Roethlisberger’s yards per completion. Averaging over 11 yards per completed pass over the last three preseasons, Big Ben’s 7.9-yard average could be contributed to the rain.
The streak continues. Ben Roethlisberger has not thrown an interception in the preseason over the past five seasons. While each of the other quarterbacks managed to each throw a pick, Roethlisberger took very good care of the ball. Additioanlly, the offensive line gave Big Ben plenty of time to pass. In fact, the Steelers did not surrender a sack on the night while getting seven of their own on defense.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers third game of the 2019 preseason, most of which hit the mark. 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!