The Pittsburgh Steelers are now experiencing the wrong kind of streak in 2020 after winning their first 11 games. Coming off of two straight offensive performances where the team failed to break the 20 point threshold, the Steelers had their lowest point total of the season in Week 14 in Buffalo when they faced the Bills.
After dropping their second straight game of the season, here are some of the numbers which helped lead to the Steelers 26-15 defeat at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
To get it out of the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers extended their regular season streak of games with at least one sack to 70 games. This accomplishment moved them ahead of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 1999 to 2003 for the most consecutive games since sacks became an official statistic in 1982. If looking at overall NFL history, it is second behind the 1960-1965 Detroit Lions who reached 76 games.
With 1:42 to go in the first half, Pittsburgh Steelers took over at their own 25 yard line on a touchback following a Bills field goal. After moving to their own 41 yard line in 0:40, Ben Roethlisberger targeted JuJu Smith-Schuster at the Bills 49 yard line only to have the pass intercepted and returned for 6 points. This single play changed the entire tone of the game as the Steelers defense had been dominant the entire first half only to find themselves trailing going into the break.
With 5:33 remaining in the first quarter, Ben Roethlisberger completed a pass to JuJu Smith Schuster which went for 13 yards from the Steelers 27 yard line to the 40 yard line. This play was on a third down with 6 yards to go, and it was the only third down conversion Steelers had the entire game. So the Steelers went the final 50:33 of the game without converting a third down play.
68 vs. -9
Many times the most important drive for both teams is what they do coming out of the halftime break especially in a close game. The Buffalo Bills got the second half kick off and after a return to the 32 yard line, they moved 68 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. On the Steelers first possession, they got the ball at their own 25 yard line on a touchback and went -9 yards in three plays before punting the ball away.
After holding the Bills to 68 net passing yards in the first half, the Steelers defense surrendered 162 passing yards in the second half in Buffalo. Of those 162 yards, 104 of them were on the first two drives of the second half which ended in Bills touchdowns.
One of the issues for the Steelers defense was spending so much time on the field throughout the game. In just the second half of the game, the Steelers offense only had 8:20 time of possession. After doing the math, you should realize this meant the Steelers defense was on the field for 21:40 of the second half.
Not only was the defense put at a big disadvantage by being on the field for so long in the second half, they were unable to get an important stop to give the offense a chance of trying to erase the two-score deficit they faced of the fourth quarter. Unfortunately, the Bills were able to hold the football for the final 7:11 of the game after Ben Roethlisberger threw his second interception of the night.
The Steelers defense did their part, especially in the first half, in getting two takeaways on the night. While the Steelers managed to squander the first opportunity with a three and out, the second takeaway resulted in the team’s first touchdown of the game in the second quarter. Unfortunately, the Steelers also turned the ball over twice. The one turnover was already outlined as the pick six just before halftime, while the other turnover was just mentioned as it was the Steelers final offensive play of the night even though almost half of the fourth quarter remained.
One of the reasons the game got out of hand for the Steelers in the second half was the performance of wide receiver Stefon Diggs. Having 10 receptions for 130 yards with a touchdown, Diggs was the difference maker when the Bills came out of the locker room at halftime. In the first two drivers of the second half where Buffalo scored their two offensive touchdowns, Diggs had six of his 10 receptions for 83 yards.
What ultimately spelled the Steelers defeat in Week 14 wasn’t as much the points that they surrendered as it was their lack of offensive output. Only scoring a season-low 15 points, the Steelers actually held the Buffalo Bills to two points lower than their average scoring output on the season. Unfortunately, the Steelers have gone from a team who was averaging over 30 points a game several weeks ago to now failing to reach the 20 point threshold for the third straight week.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Sunday night against Buffalo. It was the third straight performance in which the offense sputtered and put the defense in a bad position. Luckily the defense scored in Week 12 which led to the Steelers victory, but it wasn’t enough the last two weeks. Now the Steelers only have three weeks remaining to turn things around before they head into the 2020 postseason.
There were so many more numbers than the ones listed above. Were there any other numbers which stood out to you? Please leave your answers in the comments below.