Steelers General Manager Kevin Colbert met with members of the Pittsburgh media on Thursday and discussed a variety of issues. One of the topics Colbert discussed was the goals of the defense based on who was playing quarterback for the Steelers any given week. Looking at the confidence the team had in scoring points for each player, the numbers broke down somewhat how one would expect.
Colbert noted that when Roethlisberger was healthy, they had a goal of not giving up more than 21 points. When it was Rudolph, it was 17. When it was Duck, it was 14.— Mark Kaboly (@MarkKaboly) February 13, 2020
Looking at these goals for 2019, it was difficult to judge as there were four different games in which multiple quarterbacks played. Since these goals would have been going into each game, let’s look at how the Steelers’ defense fared in games started by each quarterback.
In his two starts of 2019, the Steelers defense did not come anywhere close to keeping their opponents to 21 points or less when Ben Roethlisberger was at quarterback. In the two losses, the Steelers surrendered 33 and 28 points for an average of 30.5 points against in game started by Roethlisberger. It should also be noted the Steelers did not have Minkah Fitzpatrick for either of Roethlisberger’s starts.
As for Mason Rudolph, in the eight games he started in 2019 the Steelers averaged 16.75 points surrendered. While their average was right in line and led to a 5-3 record, there were only four occasions where the Steelers held their opponents to 17 points or less. Those four games were all victories which were over the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams, and twice against the Cincinnati Bengals. The only game the Steelers won where Rudolph started and their opponent scored over 17 points was against the Indianapolis Colts when they surrendered 24 points but also added a defensive touchdown to help in the effort. The Steelers defense also scored a touchdown against the Rams, but they only gave up three points as the other nine were a result of plays by the offense.
When it came to the six games started by Devlin Hodges, the Steelers went 3-3 but did not meet their goal of surrendering only 10 points a game. The Steelers averaged 18 points surrendered when Hodges was under center, and the fewest points was the 20-13 victory over the Cleveland Browns. It should be noted there was also a game started by Hodges where the Steelers’ defense scored a touchdown to help counter the points they had surrendered. As before, if the seven points the defense earned was subtracted from the amount given up, the Steelers would have only surrendered 10 points to the Los Angeles Chargers.
It will be interesting to see if the Steelers employ a similar strategy in 2020 of holding teams to a certain number of points based on who is taking snaps. In looking at what both Art Rooney II and Kevin Colbert have said, the Steelers plan on going into 2020 with the same stable of quarterbacks.
Colbert on QBs behind Ben: 'We know who are backups are. We're comfortable with who our backups are. We're comfortable with those four guys (Rudolph, Hodges, Paxton Lynch, J.T. Barrett) entering camp.'— Bob Labriola (@BobLabriola) February 13, 2020
There’s no way to know unless the Steelers are forthcoming with the information as to what their goals would be based on each quarterback, but using this formula from 2019 and equating it to 2020 may be a great starting point. If all goes well, a healed Ben Roethlisberger will be the starter for 16 games and more in 2020. Regardless of who ends up being under center for the Steelers next season, leaning heavily on their defense will be a strategy the Steelers will most likely deploy.