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Analyzing the Steelers preseason loss to the Panthers, by the numbers

There was not a lot for Steelers fans to be encouraged about on Friday night.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Carolina Panthers Photo by Chris Keane/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 preseason is now complete, and Friday night’s game couldn’t end soon enough. While the outcomes of these games are basically meaningless, the quality of play is what is the ultimate measuring stick. Unfortunately the Steelers came in way below the line as they fell 34-9 to the Carolina Panthers.

So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers loss in Charlotte.


The Steelers defense simply could not get off the field consistently enough on Friday night. Giving up yards in chunks at times, the Steelers ultimately surrendered 404 yards to the Panthers in the form of 127 of yards on the ground and 277 yards coming through the air. While neither of those numbers individually seemed to be overly atrocious, the fact the Steelers gave up almost twice as many yards as they gained (221 yards), it was a big disadvantage.


One thing which did not help the Steelers chances was turning the ball over three times. Losing the ball in three different ways in the form of an interception, fumble on a rushing attempt, and a muffed punt, it wasn’t just one aspect of their game where the Steelers struggled with ball security. The Steelers even had another fumble on a snap which they regained and a second muffed punt which they did not lose.


The Steelers leading receiver of the night was Ray-Ray McCloud with 61 receiving yards on 4 receptions and a touchdown. Unfortunately, it came on 9 targets so McCloud had a catching percentage of less than 50%. McCloud was the only player on the Steelers who had more than three targets on the night.


Just like all of the other preseason games, the Steelers gave up one sack on the night. It was the 6-yard loss on the stack of Joshua Dobbs in the fourth quarter which ended his night as he is now dealing with a turf toe injury.


One statistic which may be surprising is it the Steelers had more yards per rushing attempt than the Panthers. With 84 yards on 20 attempts, the Steelers had a 4.2 yards per carry while the Panthers were at 4.1 yards per carry as they had 127 yards on 31 attempts. Benny Snell Jr. led the way for the Steelers with 28 rushing yards on 8 carries. Unfortunately, the majority those yards came on one 17-yard run where otherwise he only had 11 yards on 7 carries.


For the second time this preseason, the Pittsburgh Steelers failed to get on the scoreboard in the first half of the game. In fact, the Steelers did not put points on the board until more than 43 minutes of clock time. It was Chris Boswell‘s 52-yard field goal which finally changed the number on the board with 1:43 left in the third quarter.


The Steelers finished the night with only 9 first downs for the entire game. Unfortunately, one-third of the first downs the Steelers achieved came in the final two minutes of the game on their touchdown drive.


The first half was very ugly for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Trailing 17-0, quarterback Dwayne Haskins only had a 2.8 quarterback rating at halftime. Only completing 3 of his 9 attempts for 24 yards and an interception, Haskins ultimately finished the night with a rating of 71.9 after throwing for another 84 yards on 6 of 7 attempts and a touchdown in the second half.


With special teams being a big focus in the last game, the Steelers punt returns had a lot to be desired. Matthew Sexton muffed two punts and lost one while recovering the other. In his two kick returns, he netted -2 yards.

3 v. 4

The overall conclusion of this game is it the Steelers simply did not play well regardless of who was on the field. The reason there was so much disparity on the night was the fact that the Carolina Panthers were playing this game as their third preseason game while the Steelers were treating it is how they would have a fourth preseason game in years past. Much like how the Steelers played their starters in their third game last week, the Panthers did the same thing. With the teams not being on a similar schedule, it simply was not a very even matchup from the beginning. Regardless, the players who took the field needed to perform at a higher level.

So there are some numbers to help evaluate the Steelers’ final preseason game of the 2021 season. It wasn’t pretty from start to finish as many players did not help their case to earn a spot on the 53-man roster. When the Steelers take the field again on September 12, it will be with a whole different line up taking the first snaps. That’s about the best thing fans can take away from this one.

So what numbers from Friday night’s game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.