The 2021 Pittsburgh Steelers have had an up-and-down season. After having a terrible performance, especially to start the game, on Thursday Night Football in Week 14, the Steelers came back to Heinz field and pulled out a hard-fought victory over the Tennessee Titans. It was not pretty, especially on offense, but it was a victory nonetheless.
So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers’ win over the Titans.
While turnover margin is often a key statistic in a game’s outcome, having an advantage of four is a really big deal. But with the Steelers offense struggling to get things going against the Titans on Sunday, they needed every one of those four turnovers in order to secure the win. The last time the Steelers had four takeaways in a game was in Week 11 of 2020 in a 27-3 win over the Jaguars.
From the four takeaways the Steelers defense was able to force against the Titans, the Steelers turned them into 12 points. The good news was the Steelers put points on the board after every takeaway. The bad news was it was four Chris Boswell field goals and no touchdowns. The Steelers received the ball almost in field goal range on all four takeaways with their worst field position being at the Tennessee 41 yard line. In the four drives following the takeaways, the Steelers only had a total of three first downs, one of which was on a penalty and actually negated a play in which James Washington fumbled after a reception. The final two takeaways, which resulted in six points which were the ultimate margin of victory, didn’t produce a single first down.
The Steelers continued to struggle to stop the run against the Titans as they gave up 201 rushing yards on the day. With the Titans compiling 42 rushing attempts, only three less than the total number of plays the Steelers ran on offense, they averaged 4.79 yards per carry. With the Titans only having 153 gross passing yards on the day, the rushing attack made up 63% of their offensive yardage.
Last week, the Steelers were criticized for only having 66 yards of offense in the first half. In Week 15, the Steelers didn’t even reach that mark in the second half against the Titans. Despite only gaining 65 net yards of offense in the second half, the Steelers still managed to put up 16 points thanks to three second-half takeaways. The Steelers single touchdown drive only covered a total of 63 yards, but 24 of those yards came via penalty with the other 39 yards coming on eight plays.
Pittsburgh Steelers also were dominated in the time of possession against the Titans. Tennessee was able to control the ball for 39:08 while the Steelers possessed the ball for 20:52, which gave the Titans an 18:16 advantage. The bigger discrepancy came in the first half were the Titans controlled the ball for over 21 minutes, more than 10 of which came in their field goal drive in the second quarter. In the second half, the discrepancy wasn’t as bad as the Titans only possessed the ball for 17:49 in the third and fourth quarter.
Going up against the NFL’s second-ranked rush defense, the Steelers were not expected to be able to run the ball down their throat. Unfortunately, the Steelers didn’t even make much of a splash at all in the running game where they only gained 35 yards on 17 carries for a 2.1 yard average. Running back Najee Harris only gained 18 rushing yards on 12 carries.
The Steelers finished with four sacks of Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill. The Steelers defense got off on the right foot with Chris Wormley getting a sack on Tennessee’s first offensive play of the game. Other players getting in on the action were Derrek Tuszka with a sack when he forced a Tannehill fumble when he dropped back to pass. Defensive captain Cameron Heyward also got a shared sack on the day in which the other half went to T.J. Watt, along with another sack of his own. With 1.5 sacks on the day, T.J. Watt now has 17.5 sacks for the season which broke James Harrison‘s single-season Steelers sack record.
Between the two teams on Sunday, they were only two touchdowns scored. Interesting enough, both touchdowns, one by each team, was scored on a quarterback sneak. With Ben Roethlisberger getting a rushing touchdown, it was his first since November 18, 2018 when he dove for the score in the final seconds to defeat the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Another concerning area for the Steelers came in their punting game. Pressley Harvin III only averaged 39.8 yards on his five punts, and that came with a long of 51 yards. It was also a 55-yard punt return in the second quarter which set the Titans up for a short field in which they only had to move the ball 25 yards on six plays for their only touchdown.
This game had a lot of ugly parts. The offense really struggled against a very stout Tennessee Titans defense. Luckily for the Steelers, the defense was able to come away with four takeaways and a second half shutout despite struggling with stopping the run. Even after considering all these things, what ultimately is the most important is that the Steelers got to add one more game to the win column.
So there are some numbers to try to help put the Steelers Week 15 win over the Titans in perspective. Although the Steelers did fight their way back to overcome a 10-point halftime deficit, there are still plenty of issues on both sides of the ball which need fixed. Heading into Kansas City next week to face the Chiefs, the Steelers will have their work cut out for them as heavy underdogs.
So what numbers from Sunday’s game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.