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Don’t look now, but the Steelers’ defense is leading the NFL in points per game

Holding their opponents to under 20 points the last 3 games, the Steelers have leaped into the NFL’s top spot.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Dallas Cowboys Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers are rolling along through the 2020 season with an undefeated 10-0 mark entering Week 12. Although the team has been stacking wins from when I first stepped on the field in September, they have also been correcting various aspects of their game as the season has progressed. Of course, as improvements are made, their rank in the NFL among all 32 teams will continue to climb in a number of categories. Already leading the league in sacks, takeaways, as well as being tied for fewest sacks surrendered, the Steelers made a leap into the top spot of another major statistical category following their 27-3 victory in Jacksonville in Week 11.

So what category do the Steelers now lead the NFL? It’s average points surrendered per game. What is even better is it was the Baltimore Ravens who held the top spot in this category in three of the four previous weeks who have now fallen to third as the Steelers leapfrog into the top spot with 17.4 points surrendered per game.

Just a few short weeks ago as the Steelers were preparing to face the Ravens in Baltimore in Week 8, they entered the game 6th in the league surrendering 19.7 points a game as Baltimore was first with a mark of 17.3 points per game. Following their matchup and entering the next week, the Steelers held the same position of 6th place in the NFL but the points per game jumped up to 20.3 while the Ravens temporarily dropped to 2nd place with 18.9 points per game just behind the Miami Dolphins who had 18.6 points per game.

After the Steelers defeated the Ravens 28-24 in Week 8 and their points per game took a dip, they began to decrease over the next few weeks as their NFL rank went higher and higher. Entering Week 10, the Steelers were ranked 4th in the league with 20.1 points and followed up with having their average down to 19.0 points per game and 3rd in the NFL by the time they faced the Jaguars in Jacksonville. After only giving up three points on the day, the Steelers jumped up in the 1st place in the league with their 17.4 points per game average which is more than two points greater than the Ravens 19.5 points per game which dropped them to 3rd place behind the Los Angeles Rams with 19.2 points per game entering Week 12.

Of course, having a record of 10-0 has also helped Steelers to hold the best point differential in the NFL at 124 points going into Week 12. The only other team with more than a 100 point differential before this week’s games was the Kansas City Chiefs at 107. Coming in tied for a distant third was the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints with a 73 point differential. In all, there were 15 teams with a positive points differential on the season entering Week 12 with the only team with a losing record in the positives being the San Francisco 49ers at +4 with a record of 4-6 prior to their win over the Rams on Sunday. On the other end, the Cleveland Browns were the only team with a winning record and a negative point differential at -23 points.

Admittedly, the Steelers last three opponents were all teams who ranked outside the top 20 in points scored on the season and do not have winning records. Regardless, the Steelers did what they need to do to hold the scoring of these teams to a minimum as they have only given up 32 total points in the last three weeks. Not one of the Steelers opponents has scored 30 points this season as the team who was the closest was the Philadelphia Eagles scoring 29 points in Week 5. The only other team in the NFL who had not given up 30 points in a game prior to Week 12 was the Chicago Bears who haven’t given up more than 26 points. Obviously that changed Sunday night when the Green Bay Packers but up over 40 on the Bears.

As long as the Steelers can continue to keep their opponents point totals low, the pressure on the offense to put up huge numbers on the scoreboard is much less. And as coach Tomlin has previously said, “If they can’t score, you can’t lose.”