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Analyzing the Steelers Week 3 loss to the 49ers, by the numbers

This time, it was the offense who couldn’t stay on the field long enough to help out the defense

Pittsburgh Steelers v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Daniel Shirey/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers fell in defeat for the third straight time as they are currently 0-3 to start the 2019 season. Although they possessed the ball with less than five minutes remaining in the game with a three-point lead, a late turnover gave the ball back to the 49ers in field-goal range who punched it into the end zone to take a four point lead. Unable to move the sticks on their final position, the Steelers offense finished up in the same manner they did most of the day – without a first down.

Now that the Steelers have dug them selves into the worst hole possible after Week 3, perhaps they can dive deep into self-evaluation when viewing the tape from Sunday. While the Steelers have maintained a close game the last two weeks, they still have fallen short of victory and have many things they can look to fix in the upcoming weeks.

There were many things that contributed to the Steelers loss, and the numbers outlined here probably only scratch the surface. Unlike last week, the most glaring numbers were back to being with the offense in my opinion even though there was plenty of blame to go around. So here are some of the numbers which contributed to the Steelers loss in Week 3.


The time of possession was highly skewed in favor of the 49ers on Sunday. In fact, they possessed the football 12:34 longer than the Steelers which is the equivalent of almost an entire quarter difference. It also marked the second straight week in which the Steelers opponent ran more than 70 plays.


The Steelers final drive of the first half lasted 5:55 on 11 plays for only 34 yards. It resulted in a punt from 49ers 41-yard line. Shockingly, it was the longest drive in terms of clock usage by either team the entire game. In fact, the Steelers only had one other drive which lasted longer than two minutes which resulted in their second field goal after the Minkah Fitzpatrick interception. This means the Steelers had 11 drives during the game which only took 2:00 or less off of the clock.


The Steelers defense gave up 168 yards rushing on 40 attempts to the 49ers on Sunday. While this is a concerning statistic, it is largely from a result of the first two numbers which were mentioned. The Steelers defense spent entirely too much time on the field Sunday and gave up many rushing yards late in the game as defenders had been on the field for an uncharacteristically long time.


Other than the two long plays which scored touchdowns, the Steelers passing game was pretty much nonexistent. In fact, the Steelers only had 59 receiving yards which were not as a result of touchdowns. The 76-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster and the 39-yard touchdown to Diontae Johnson was pretty much the entire offense on the day.


The Steelers forced five turnovers on Sunday and had a turnover margin of +3. It was the first time they had such a large margin in almost exactly one year when they did it in Week 3 of 2018 in Tampa Bay on Monday Night Football. The last time the Steelers had a +3 turnover margin and lost the game was by an identical score of 20-24 to the Miami Dolphins in Week 5 of 1985 when they intercepted Dan Marino three times. Sunday was also the first time the Steelers had five or more takeaways since Week 3 of 2010 when the Steelers defeated the Tennessee Titans 19–11 in a game where they had seven takeaways.


One bright spot for the day was Jordan Barry has seemed to straighten out his punting woes from 2018. Berry averaged 52.3 yards on six punts against the 49ers.


It’s important to put into perspective the quality of the opponents the Steelers have faced in 2019. After Week 3, the Patriots, Seahawks, and 49ers have a combined record of 8-1. The only team to suffer a loss so far in 2019 is the Seattle Seahawks who fell to the two 2-1 New Orleans Saints in Week 3. So while the Steelers could very easily be 2-1 at this moment, they are also playing teams who have had success (granted against the Steelers as well) for the 2019 season.

So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance in San Francisco. Do these numbers accurately describe what transpired Sunday? Were there any other numbers not listed which really stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.