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The Steelers’ 2019 pass defense was lights out since the addition of Minkah Fitzpatrick

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After a rough two games to start the season, the Steelers had an exceptional “post-Minkah” portion of 2019

Los Angeles Rams v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

Now that the Steelers 2019 season has concluded, the long off-season has begun. As we move through the remainder of the NFL postseason and beyond, it’s time to look back at some of the numbers the Steelers put up (or failed to put up) this past season. There are some numbers that are great, while others are definitely short of the mark. Either way, let’s put some context behind a few of the statistics for 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers produced during the season.

We have already looked at some items such as takeaways, sacks, points scored, and rushing. This time, it’s a category where the Steelers made a vast improvement during the season.

Pass Defense

The 2019 Pittsburgh Steelers defense is a tale of two parts of the season: pre-Minkah and post Minkah. While the pre-Minkah period was only two games, the sheer difference beyond those games is undeniable. Granted, the Steelers did start the season against two teams who eventually made the postseason, there were plenty of other teams who also made the playoffs where the Steelers fared much better.

To begin, the Steelers gave up 3,113 passing yards in 2019. This amount ranked them third in the NFL behind the San Francisco 49ers and the New England Patriots. Of those 3,113 yards, 2,473 occurred after the Steelers acquired Mikah Fitzpatrick from the Miami Dolphins. So in two of the Steelers 16 games, 20.6% of the passing yards they surrendered came in those games. Additionally, the Steelers surrendered 23 passing touchdowns on the season, six of which occurred in the pre-Minkah period. This means 26.1% of the Steelers’ passing touchdowns came in 12.5% of their games.

To point out how much Minkah Fitzpatrick meant to the secondary, the Steelers only surrendered pass 18 plays in which the total yardage gain was 25 yards or more. This total was only one behind the New England Patriots who led the league with 17. But of these 18 plays, six of them occurred in the first two weeks before Minkah Fitzpatrick joined the Steelers. So over the final 14 games of the season, the Steelers gave up only 12 pass plays of 25 yards or more. As for passing touchdowns of 25 yards or more, the Steelers only surrendered three on the season all of which were both before Mikah Fitzpatrick join the team.

Another interesting statistic when it came to the Steelers pass defense was they led the NFL with 11 games where their opponent had under 200 yards passing for the game. One factor in this number is yardage lost due to sacks comes out of passing yards. With the Steelers leading the NFL with 54 sacks, these yards added up in many games. With the 11 games where the Steelers held their opponent under 200 yards passing, all of them occurred in the 14-game post-Minkah period.

When it comes to pass defense, the effectiveness of all players on the field is the true reason behind success. With the players upfront getting more pressure on the quarterback and cutting down on the time to read defenses, the players in the secondary have to hold their responsibilities for less time. In all, it’s the great balance throughout all levels of the Steelers defense which can be attributed to their success against the pass in 2019. And with the majority of the Steelers defense under contract for 2020, the Steelers are hoping to grow in all aspects of the defense.