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Analyzing the Steelers Week 1 win over the Bills, by the numbers

The defense kept the Steelers in the game early, and all three phases pull together for a victory.

Pittsburgh Steelers v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan M. Bennett/Getty Images

The Pittsburgh Steelers 2021 season got off to a fantastic start! With many Steelers fans unsure if the team could pull it all together to start the season with so many question marks, the Steelers weathered the storm in the first half and took care of business in the second half to start the season 1–0. It was a glorious game for Steelers’ Nation.

So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers win over the Bills in Buffalo.


The Pittsburgh Steelers officially had five members of the 2021 NFL draft class credited with a start. Not even counting seventh-round draft pick Pressley Harvin IIII who won the punting job, the Steelers had one player on defense on the field the first snap as Tre Norwood began in the slot cornerback as the Steelers opened in there nickel defense. On offense, running back Najee Harris, offensive linemen Kendrick Green and Dan Moore Jr., as well as tight end Pat Freiermuth all started on the field the Steelers opening drive.


The Pittsburgh Steelers offense struggled mightily in the first half of Sunday’s contest. Only totaling 54 yards on offense in the opening half, the Steelers had seven rushing yards and 47 net passing yards as Ben Roethlisberger had 58 yards in the air but had lost 11 yards on two sacks. But in the second half, the Steelers out-gained the Bills by racking up 197 yards (to 182 yards) with 67 rushing yards and 130 passing yards with no sacks surrendered.


Despite not having any contact in practice throughout training camp and the preseason, T.J. Watt was game ready and had to sacks on the day along with three tackles and five quarterback hits. One of the sacks was of the ‘strip-sack’ variety where the fumble was recovered by Cam Heyward.


The Pittsburgh Steelers secondary weathered the storm brought by the Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen as he attempted 51 passes on the day. Throwing for 270 yards, Allen only averaged 5.3 yards per attempt compared to Roethlisberger’s 5.9 Y/A. The Steelers also forced 21 incompletions to keep Allen under a 60% completion rate for the game and only 56% in the second half where he was 14 of 25.


The Steelers only possessed the ball five times in the second half and had four scoring drives ending with three field goals and a touchdown. The only drive of the second half where the Steelers did not score points was when they assumed victory formation with 0:46 left in the game. In the first half, Steelers had six offensive possessions with the first five ending in a punt and the last one consisting of a kneel down.


The Steelers defenders did a great job getting their hands on the football in the passing game. In all, Steelers had seven passes defensed in the game. The breakdown came with two each by Cameron Sutton and Cameron Heyward where Minkah Fitzpatrick, James Pierre, and Melvin Ingram each had one.

Seven also represents the Steelers’ special teams points as the punt blocked by Miles Killebrew which was recovered by Ulysees Gilbert III and returned for a touchdown ended up being the difference in the game.


One of the big numbers which Steelers fans realized would be important coming into this game was taking care of the football. The Steelers finished +1 in turnover margin as they had one takeaway and did not have a turnover. Even though the Steelers did have one fumble on offense, it was recovered by Chuks Okorafor. Additionally, Ben Roethlisberger‘s apparent interception was negated by a defensive holding call. The Steelers defense forced four Bills fumbles in all while recovering one.


It really was a second-half performance for the Steelers as they outscored the bills by 17 points over the final 30 minutes. After going 1–6 for a 17% conversion rate on third down in the first half, the Steelers improved to 3–6 for a 50% conversion rate in the second half. Additionally, the Steelers only had three first-half first downs while they notched 13 in the second half. Additionally, the Steelers offense more than doubled their yards per play as they were at 2.5 through the first 30 minutes yet had 6.0 after halftime.


The Steelers came in to this game a significant underdog as the consensus odds had them at +6.5 for the game. The last time the Steelers were underdogs by 6.5 points or more and managed to pull out of victory was on December 12, 2012, in Baltimore.


In what is the ultimate goal week in and week out, the Steelers added a number to the win column while keeping a zero in the loss column. As great as all the other numbers are, this is the one that counts the most.

So there are some numbers to help put the Steelers Week 1 win in perspective. While it was not a complete game for the offense, the Steelers defense did the job throughout the game by holding the second-ranked offense from the 2020 season to only 16 points. If the Steelers can win games along the way as they look to improve each week, they will be a force to be reckoned with throughout the year.

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