The Pittsburgh Steelers lost in dramatic fashion to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Sunday, and some statistics reflect that, but many of them show a team that's improving in many key areas.
Offense not so balanced
The Steelers lost the game, but the offense didn't have the balance that gave them success in the Week 3 win against the Carolina Panthers. The Steelers threw 41 passes to 27 runs, and that has never been a recipe for success as long as Ben Roethlisberger has been the Steelers' signal-caller. Due to the lack of running, Le'Veon Bell only carried the ball 19 times for 63 yards. His six receptions for 46 yards was nearly the same as his rushing totals. For the Steelers to see true offensive success, their method must be a balanced attack between the run and the pass, not emphasizing any one direction.
OLBs need to show up
The Pittsburgh Steelers played three outside linebackers against the Buccaneers Sunday. Arthur Moats, James Harrison and Jason Worilds combined for a whopping two tackles and two quarterback pressures. Moats and Worilds both were credited with one tackle apiece, and Worilds was credited with two quarterback hits. For a defense that thrives on the outside pressure to cover up their secondary issues, the OLBs need to be better than what was shown on Sunday.
Killing them softly
The Steelers dominated the time-of-possession battle to the tune of 34:15 to 25:45, yet still managed to lose the game. On top of the time of possession, the Steelers had six more first downs (27 to 21) than the Buccaneers, but the Bucs' ability to score quickly off of their only turnover early in the game, and again in the fourth quarter, proved to be the difference.
Allen's giant target on his back
Steelers' cornerback Cortez Allen has been the second-leading tackler on the team for the second week in a row, and it isn't because he's attacking the line of scrimmage and stopping the run. It's because he's being targeted more than any other Steelers' defensive back. To compound the targets, his tackling numbers are increased because the players Allen is covering all are having the time and space to make catches before being tackled. Allen's struggles need to improve if the defense expects to be a formidable unit.
Special teams not so special
Although being praised through the first three weeks, the special teams unit had its flops against the Buccaneers. In 2013, Shaun Suisham was the only NFL kicker who didn't attempt a 50-yard kick, and fans saw why on Sunday when Suisham missed badly on a 50-yard field goal attempt to end the half. Punter Brad Wing had a decent game until it mattered most. When the Steelers took a delay of game penalty to kill as much clock as possible, Wing had the space to really lay into his final punt. But the result was a 29-yard dud that gave the Buccaneers phenomenal field position leading to the game-winning touchdown.
Big Ben's big season continues
Ben Roethlisberger has had a great start to this young, 2014 season. Roethlisberger has already eclipsed the thousand-yard mark in passing (1,092 yards), has thrown six touchdowns and has only turned the football over twice (one interception and one fumble). Although those statistics aren't career marks for the Steelers' franchise quarterback, through the first four games dating back to the 2010 season, his 99.4 passer rating represents his second-best rating, behind only the 2012 mark of 102.8.
Anyone seen Dri Archer?
Archer, who missed the last two games due to an ankle injury, suited up Sunday but was hardly noticed in the game plan. Archer had one chance to return a kick, but fellow return man LeGarrette Blount told him to kneel down and take a touchback. Outside of the return game, Archer wasn't even used as a decoy on Sunday. Archer had one carry, a jet-sweep toss inside the redzone that went for one yard. Archer is a versatile player who could draw the attention of the defense. If healthy, Archer could be a difference-maker on the field for many reasons.
Stop the Haley hate
Some fans still long for the days of Bruce Arians, but the Todd Haley hatred might need to be tempered when looking at the statistics. Pittsburgh's offense ranks fifth overall in the NFL in terms of yards gained (1,648 yards), fifth in yards per game (412-yard average), eighth in passing (1,073 yards), fourth in rushing (575 yards) and ninth in total points scored. The Steelers' offense is averaging 24.3 points per game, which puts them 13th overall in the NFL. Plain and simple, when it comes to the offense producing, Haley has the Steelers in the top-10 of almost every major offensive category of note.
With the good, comes the bad
As good as the Steelers' offense has been through four games, the defense hasn't come close to being as efficient. Among NFL teams, the Steelers' defense currently is tied for 17th in yards allowed (1,411) and they're tied for 16th by giving up a whopping 352.8 yards per game. They rank 20th in the NFL for passing yards allowed (958 yards) and 16th for giving up 239.5 yards passing per game. Against the run, the team is tied for 16th, giving up 453 yards on the ground, and is tied for 15th in surrendering a per-game average of 113.3 yards on the ground. The Steelers rank 23rd in the NFL, giving up 98 points through four games, and they rank 21st in points-per-game, giving up 24.8.
The difference is the difference
When you look at a team that's yielding 24.8 points per game, with an offense averaging 24.3 points per game, you've got a team that's balanced, but not in a good way. The Steelers' offense has taken tremendous strides through four games, but the defense has taken several steps backwards at times. This team will be defined by consistency and the ability to make plays when they present themselves.
All stats courtesy of ESPN.com.