The Pittsburgh Steelers hit their first stumbling block of the 2020 season. While it was a major accomplishment to be in the second game in the month of December before experiencing their first loss, it is important for Steelers to get things back on track in order to finish strong for the 2020 season. Before moving on to prepare for the Buffalo Bills, there are some things to be learned from their defeat on Monday.
After halting their historic winning streak to open the season at 11-0, here are some of the numbers which helped lead to the Steelers 23-17 defeat at the hands of the Washington Football Team.
To get it out of the way, the Pittsburgh Steelers extended their regular season streak of games with at least one sack to 69 games. This accomplishment has them tied with 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 tied for second behind the 1960-1965 Detroit Lions who reached 76 games. On the night, the Steelers had three sacks all of which were in the first half.
For the first time in six games, the Steelers had a negative turnover margin. The interception thrown by Ben Roethlisberger, which was off a batted ball at the line of scrimmage has the game reached the two minute warning, was the only turnover by either team in the game. It was only the second game of the season in which the Steelers did not have a takeaway on defense.
Unfortunately for the Steelers, the offense hung their defense out to dry and had them on the field entirely too long late in the game. The Steelers only had the football for 5:34 during the fourth quarter. Of this time, 4:16 was on one drive where the Steelers failed to convert a 4th & 1 at Washington‘s 28 yard line.
On the drive mentioned above, the Steelers had the opportunity to attempt a 46 yard field goal with just under five minutes remaining in the game. With the game tied at 17, the Steelers did not want to put the pressure on Matthew Wright who was playing in his first NFL game. It was reported that Wright was struggling with kicking long field goals during pregame warm-ups which may have factored in the decision.
After holding Washington to three points in the first half which were scored in the final seconds on a questionable decision by the officials, the Steelers gave up 20 points in the second half. The only time in 2020 where the Steelers gave up more points in a half was when they surrendered 21 points to the Houston Texans in the first half before shutting them out in the remainder of the game. The most second-half points the Steelers had surrendered in 2020 previous to Week 13 was 18 points to the Denver Broncos in Week 2.
In the second quarter, Steelers had five attempts from the 1 yard line to score a touchdown and were unable to do so. After a penalty on an incomplete pass, the Steelers got a new set of downs in which they ran three times for no gain and had another incomplete pass.
As much as I hoped the Steelers offense would bounce back from a poor performance last Wednesday against the Baltimore Ravens, it appeared to be a lot more of the same coming from the Steelers. One of the biggest problems were the number of drops by the receivers. While I can’t say for sure exactly how many drops the Steelers had in the game, I counted at least seven. The NFL does not keep official statistics on drop passes as they are often a judgment call. But if the Steelers are going to continue to not come up with catches they should make, the offense will continue to struggle since they are relying so heavily on the pass.
Part of the reason the Steelers are relying so heavily on the pass is due to the inability to run the ball. The Steelers only had 21 rushing yards on 14 attempts which comes to only 1.5 yards per attempt. The longest rush on the day was 9 yards by Anthony McFarland Jr. It was the fourth time in six games where the Steelers failed to rush for at least 50 yards, and this time they didn’t even make it half way.
I don’t want to make excuses as the Steelers need to do all they can to prepare to play a game, it was apparent that the team just seemed to run out of gas as the game went on. Playing a game on only five days rest, there was a significant competitive disadvantage as the Washington Football Team had six extra days to prepare for the game. While facing a team who has had added rest is nothing new to the Steelers as they have faced several teams this season who have come off their bye week, taking on a team getting extended rest when playing on a short week created a less-than-ideal situation. Had the Steelers taken advantage of opportunities earlier in the game to build a larger lead, running out of steam in the second half may not have cost them the game.
Another positive which can be taken from the Steelers in Week 13 was it was a fifth stright game in which Ben Roethlisberger was not sacked. Not being taken down in sixth of the last seven games, by not giving up a sack the Steelers ended the Washington Football Team’s 23-game streak of registering at least one sack.
So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ performance Monday against Washington. It was definitely not a perfect performance by any standards, and this time it wasn’t enough to get the job done. Although the defense did the job for a good portion of the game, between running out of gas, losing players due to injury, and getting little support from the offense led to the defeat.
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.