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 sacks but a small amount yards surrendered. 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.
Since we’ve already taken a look at the offense, it’s time to check out the defense.
Rushing yards/attempt: 4.31 Y/A regular season, 4.10 Y/A postseason
That’s it. When it came to the Steelers defense, there was only one statistical category where they performed better than the regular season average. It wasn’t much, but they did hold the Browns to slightly less yards per carry than what they did their opponents during the regular season.
Points Surrendered: 19.5 regular season, 48 postseason
Yards/play: 4.91 yards regular season, 6 yards postseason
Takeaways: 1.69 regular season, 0 postseason
Fumbles recovered: 0.56 regular season, 0 postseason
Interceptions: 1.125 regular season, 0 postseason
Passing yards: 194.4 yards regular season, 263 yards postseason
Passing Touchdowns: 1.38 regular season, 3 postseason
Sacks: 3.5 regular season, 0 postseason
Rushing Touchdowns: 0.81 regular season, 2 postseason
This is where all the difference in the Steelers postseason performance lies. The biggest difference from the regular season was points surrendered as a team, which includes points scored by the opposing defense. The Steelers averaged less than 20 points surrendered on the season and hadn’t given up more than 29 points, but yet they surrendered 48 to the Browns. Add in having no sacks and no takeaways, the Steelers couldn’t hold Cleveland despite being put in a bad situation by their offense.
First Downs: 17.6 regular season, 20 postseason
Completions/Attempts: 18.6 of 32.9 regular season, 21 of 34 postseason
Rushing attempts: 25.9 regular season, 31 postseason
Rushing yards: 111.4 yards regular season, 127 yards postseason
Technically every one of these categories were also under-achieving, but it wasn’t as much as others. The Steelers did not give up an unusual amount of rushing attempts or rushing yards. Also throwing in completions and attempts, the downfall of the Steelers in the postseason were the yards they gave up in the passing game coupled with the aforementioned lack of sacks and takeaways.
So there is the comparison of how the Steelers performed statistically in the postseason versus the regular season for a number of defensive categories. When it came to the offense, the game situation shaped a lot of their statistics. While the defense was put in a bad spot with the offensive turnovers, they still surrendered the points which put them so far behind.