It’s only the preseason.
As much as Steelers fans are itching to see a win Friday night, wining the game is merely an added bonus in the eyes of the coaching staff. Instead, there are so many other results they are looking for other than the score. In the regular season, a player’s fantastic performance can be overshadowed by a loss. In the preseason, individual and team performances take precedence over the scoreboard.
So if winning isn’t everything for the preseason, what should fans look for to determine if the Steelers were successful against the Buccaneers?
I compiled some statistics from the 2018 preseason in order to have a baseline of comparison. The Steelers went 3-1 last preseason, so the statics led to a successful (but not perfect) record. Using those stats, let’s look at a few categories to help determine our expectations for Friday’s game.
The Steelers averaged exactly 30 points a game last preseason, eclipsing the mark in three of the four games. Surprisingly, one of the 30+ point games was a loss to the Green Bay Packers. If the Steelers can put up 30 points or more against the Buccaneers, I will be more than satisfied with their point output. Frankly, I believe 24 or more would be a good night.
The Steelers averaged nine penalties a game in the 2018 preseason. They were actually pretty consistent with three games with eight penalties and one (their loss) with 12. If the Steelers can have less than 9 accepted penalties, the play will not be considered too sloppy, even at this early stage of the season.
The Steelers averaged 19 first downs last preseason, with their lowest being 17 and the highest being 20. While scoring on long plays can distort this statistic, being able to grind out a long drive at various points in the game would be very telling. If the Steelers can get to 20 or more first downs, the offense as a whole will most likely be considered a success,
The most likely way the Steelers can reach 20 first downs but not be considered a success is if they don’t finish drives by turning the ball over. It’s probably too much to expect a team who only had their first practice 2 weeks before the game to play mistake-free football. But in 2018 the Steelers avearged exactly one turnover each preseason game while finishing with an average of a plus-one turnover margin. Being the first game, I’m fine with a couple turnovers, just as long as the turnover margin stays at zero or slides into the positives.
One thing Steelers fans are looking forward to against Tampa Bay is the squad of young running backs who should see action. While they didn’t average 100 yards rushing, the Steelers were pretty close last preseason with 97.75 yards. Seeing the team go over the century mark would be great, but don’t be surprised if no one back gets more than 60 yards in the game due to restricted carries. While looking at each players yardage is good, if any individual rushes for over five yards per carry they should be labeled as having a great night.
So there are some numbers to use as a measuring stick for the Steelers first game of the 2019 preseason. Which number would you most like to see the Steelers reach? Is there another one you’re looking for? Please leave your answers in the comments below!