On the most recent episode of the Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I was tasked with a question of determining what statistical categories the Steelers need to improve the most for the 2020 season. While digging through the statistics, there were some that I found which were obvious improvements while others were things the Steelers would be best to maintain into the next season. Since the improvements were covered yesterday, here are six various statistical categories the Steelers need to maintain for greater success this upcoming season.
Sacks per pass attempt
NFL Rank: 1st
It’s been no secret that the Steelers have led the NFL in sacks the last three seasons. The number which is impressive is the 10.65% in sacks per pass attempt. The Steelers are the only team over 10% in 2020 as well as 2019. In fact, a percentage of 10 or higher has only happened four times since 2014 with the Steelers holding three of those in 2020, 2019 (10.51%), and 2017 (11.22%). The only other team to reach that amount was the 2017 (10.81%) Jacksonville Jaguars.
Statistic: 81 penalties
NFL Rank: T-5th
One statistic in this group which encompasses all phases of the game is the number of penalties accepted against the Steelers. With 111 penalties accepted against the Steelers in 2019, which was tied for 20th in the NFL, the Steelers made vast improvements in 2020 in not costing themselves extra yardage on both sides of the ball. If the Steelers can either continue, or possibly improve, this statistic, it will only allow them to maintain drives on offense, not prolong drives on defense, and get the best possible field position on special teams.
4th down conversions surrendered
NFL Rank: 1st
In 2020, Steelers opponents went for it on fourth down 20 times during the season. Out of those 20 times, teams only converted on five plays. The 25% conversion rate was tops in the NFL as the next closest was the Washington Football Team at 37.5%. If the Steelers can continue to shut down their opposition on fourth down, not only does it have the other team turning the ball over on downs, they may think twice about going for it and choose to punt instead.
Total first downs surrendered
Statistic: 281 first downs
NFL Rank: 2nd
With the Steelers offense needing to make a vast improvement with the number of first downs they achieved in 2020 (26th), the defense needs to continue with their ability to keep their opponents from getting first downs. The Steelers were second in the NFL with first down‘s per game with 17.6 trailing only the Los Angeles Rams (17.5). With first downs being the key to sustaining drives, getting off the field like the Steelers did in 2020 only help their chances in 2021.
First quarter points surrendered
Statistic: 54 points
NFL Rank: 3rd
Yet another category where are the Steelers offense needed to improve yet the defense was thriving is their play in the first quarter. While Steelers only scored a mere 62 points in the first quarter all season, the defense only gave up 54 points which was third in the NFL. Just thinking about the possibilities of the offense starting quickly and the defense minimizing the opponents opportunities to start the game should get any Steelers’ fan excited for the upcoming season. But if first quarter scoring continues to be a weakness for the offense, it will take the defensive strength to cover said weakness.
Sacks per pass attempt surrendered
NFL Rank: 1st
One thing where the Steelers offense thrived in 2020 was keeping their opponents from getting to the quarterback in time to register a sack. Although part of the reason was the Steelers quick passing on short routes in 2020 which is a part of their offense which many hope to move on from this season, what would be ultimately impressive is if the Steelers could keep down the number of sacks surrendered while pushing the ball down the field in the passing game. Whether or not they can do this remains to be seen as it is a huge challenge.
So there are six statistics which would be great if the Steelers could maintain for the 2021 season. While the Steelers improving on any of the statistics would be more than welcomed, simply maintaining their position at the top of the NFL would likely suffice enough to have a very successful 2021.