The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers came up short of their goals for the season. After starting off 11-0, it seemed like the sky was the limit for this team. But managing only one victory in their last seven games including the postseason, things went south in a hurry.
Falling to the Cleveland Browns 48–37 in the Wild Card Round, the Steelers did not match their performance from the regular season. Places where the team had excelled they struggled, and places where the team may have had a deficit they over-performed.
So where did the numbers match up? In what areas did the Steelers exceed their regular-season averages, and where did they come up short?
While “over” and “under” seem to be a good way to describe these things, not all statistics are judged in a positive manner. For example, teams wanted to have a large amount of points scored but a small amount of turnovers. With this in mind, we will use the term “over-achieve,” “under-achieve,” and “push” in order to describe the statistical categories for how the Steelers performed in their postseason game versus their regular season average.
Points Scored: 26.0 regular season, 37 postseason
Yards/play: 5.13 yards regular season, 6.58 yards postseason
First Downs: 20.1 regular season, 34 postseason
Completions/Attempts: 26.8 of 41.0 regular season, 47 of 68 postseason
Passing yards: 250.2 yards regular season, 501 yards postseason
Passing Touchdowns: 2.2 regular season, 4 postseason
Although there were a number of categories where the Steelers put up better numbers than the regular season, the game situation and being down by so many points dictated the style of play. The fact the Steelers put up 1.45 yards per play more in the playoffs is an interesting statistic, along with the number of first downs they were able to achieve. Although the numbers were higher for completions and attempts which is not a good thing for the most part, the completion percentage was significantly better than the regular season at 69.1% versus 65.2%. Putting up more than twice as many yards in the air as they did on average in the regular season, passing yards is not a very telling statistic as Ben Roethlisberger has never passed for more than 275 yards in a playoff victory.
Turnovers: 1.125 regular season, 5 postseason
Fumbles lost: 0.44 regular season, 1 postseason
Interceptions: 0.69 regular season, 4 postseason
Rushing attempts: 23.3 regular season, 16 postseason
Rushing yards: 84.4 yards regular season, 52 yards postseason
Rushing yards/attempt: 3.62 Y/A regular season, 3.25 Y/A postseason
The fact that there are as many underachieving statistics as the previous category tells why the big passing numbers did not lead to a victory. Yes, breaking the turnovers down in the multiple categories skews things a bit, but their overall importance to the outcome of the game cannot be overstated. Obviously the Steelers did not rush the ball nearly as much as they did in the regular season based on game circumstance, but their continued low output in terms of yardage is to be noted although their yards per attempt was not that far off the pace.
Sacked: 0.875 regular season, 0 postseason
Rushing touchdowns: 0.75 regular season, 1 postseason
There weren’t that many categories where the Steelers performed similarly to the regular season. Not giving up many sacks on the year did go to show that giving up no sacks in the playoffs was to be expected. Additionally, the Steelers rushed for three touchdowns every four games in 2020, so getting a rushing touchdown in the postseason was par for the course.
So there is the comparison of how the Steelers performed statistically in the postseason versus the regular season for a number of offensive categories. While the Steelers tried to make up by overachieving in some areas, the turnovers ultimately led to the doom of the offense. When it comes to the defense, it was an entirely different story which will be laid out in Part 2 coming soon to BTSC.