Welcome to the BTSC statistical breakdown of the most recent Steelers game. Another week and another loss for the Steelers. It looked like the Steelers had finally ended the slide when they took the lead with under a minute in the game remaining, but alas, it was not to be. Below are all the relevant stats from Sunday.
All stats are from the NFL, except for DYAR and DVOA rankings, which are from Football Outsiders.
Running Games: Le’Veon Bell had a tough go of things on the ground against a stout Cowboys defense, against which he carried the ball only 17 times for 57. Bell did score his first rushing touchdown of the season when he found pay dirt in the fourth quarter. As is usually the case with Bell, he was able to still put up solid numbers when you combine his rushing and receiving stats. With DeAngelo Williams out Bell handled every rushing attempt except for one trick play where Antonio Brown lost ten yards.
Passing: After looking out of sorts against the Ravens in his first game back from injury, Ben Roethlisberger played sensational against the Cowboys Sunday afternoon. Roethlisberger completed 37 of his 46 passes for 408 yards and three touchdowns. Additionally, Roethlisberger didn’t throw any interceptions or fumble the football. Roethlisberger played nearly perfectly and looked to have a vintage comeback win that he was so famous for early in his career before the defense let him down.
The leading receiver for the Steelers was Antonio Brown who caught 14 passes for 154 yards and a touchdown. Foolishly, Brown ran out of bounds on the last play of the game instead of attempting a last chance lateral. That being said, Brown played great on Sunday and never should have been in that situation in the first place. Brown tied Hines ward for the most 100 yard receiving games in franchise history with 29. Look for that record to be Brown’s alone in short order. Le’Veon Bell had nine receptions for 77 yards and a touchdown, his first receiving touchdown of the year. Ladarius Green finally made it onto the field Sunday where he caught three passes for thirty yards. Hopefully another week of practice will lead to Green getting more involved next week. Eli Rogers left his mark on a game for the first time in a while when he tallied 42 yards and a touchdown on the day. In total eight different receivers caught a pass.
Defense: Dak Prescott continued to endear himself to Dallas fans with his game on Sunday. The rookie signal caller was 22 for 32 with 319 yards and two touchdowns. Prescott didn’t throw any interceptions but he did lose one fumble that the Steelers were able to capitalize on. All in all, another fine day for the young quarterback. The leading receiver for the Cowboys was Dez Bryant who had 116 yards and a touchdown on six receptions. Ezekiel Elliot scored the other passing touchdown when he took a screen pass 83 yards to the end zone.
The Story of the game however was Ezekiel Elliott and the Cowboys rushing attack. Elliott punished the Steelers for 114 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner with 15 seconds left in the game. Elliott averaged over five yards per carry on the day. The balance the Cowboys showed on offense allowed them to keep the Steelers off balance all game long.
The Steelers had two passes defended (William Gay and Ross Cockrell), two sacks (Anthony Chickillo and Stephon Tuitt), and three quarterback hits. Anthony Chickillo forced a fumble of Dak Prescott that Ryan Shazier was able to recover. The Steelers were able to use the short field to get points on the board, something they’ve struggled with this season.
The Steelers leading tackler was Ryan Shazier with nine combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 4/10 on third down while the Cowboys were 7/13. Neither team attempted a fourth down conversion. The Cowboys averaged 7.2yards per play while the Steelers averaged 6.8 yards per play.
The deciding factor in the game may have been Pittsburgh’s failure to concert their two point conversions. After being dominant at it in 2015 (8/11), the Steelers went 0/4 Sunday. In fact, the Cowboys were also 0/2 meaning both teams were 0/6 at two point conversions. It’s hard to fault the Steelers too much for being aggressive, but their failure to execute was painful for fans to watch.
The Red Zone: The Steelers were 4/5 in the red zone while the Cowboys were 1/3.
Turnovers: The Steelers didn’t turn the ball over once. Le’Veon Bell fumbled but the ball fortunately hopped out of bounds before anyone could recover the ball.
Early in the first quarter Anthony Chickillo forced a fumble when he sacked Dak Prescott that Ryan Shazier was able to recover. The Steelers were able to make the Cowboys pay when Roethlisberger found bell for a touchdown a short while later.
Penalties: The Steelers had four penalties for 40 yards on Sunday, none bigger than the face mask penalty by Sean Davis on Jason Witten during the drive the Cowboys were able to score the game winning points on. Even if Elliott hadn’t broken free for the go-ahead touchdown, the penalty had put the Cowboys in field goal range where they could have still won. The cowboys committed ten penalties for 98 yards.
Under Pressure: James Harrison recorded a quarterback hit, while Chickillo and Tuitt each recorded one sack and one QB hit of their own.
The Steelers offensive line did a fine job securing the pocket for Roethlisberger. The limited the Cowboys to one sack (Demarcus Lawrence) and three quarterback hits (Lawrence, Justin Durant and Maliek Collins)
Kicking: Chris Boswell made two field goals but he also missed from 53 yards out at the end of the first half that would have been a big boost for the team had he made it. Earlier in the game Boswell made the mistake of kicking the ball out of bounds which gave the Cowboys a short field to work with. .
This was a heartbreaking loss for Steelers fans. After looking lifeless the week before, the Steelers looked reliant this week. They played well enough on offense to win, and indeed it looked like they would when they scored with only 43 seconds left in the game. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, a defense that was expected to grow into a reliable unit has failed to do so this year. According to Scott Kacsmar of Football Outsiders, Sunday was the eighth time in his career that Roethlisberger had thrown a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter, but the team went on to lose the game. That’s the second most of any quarterback in NFL history. Things are only going to get tougher going forward since after the game it was revealed that Cam Heyward is going to miss the rest of the season with a pectoral injury. The Steelers take on the Browns this week and if the team fails to win this Sunday there are going to be some coaches on Mike Tomlin’s staff that may not have a job on Monday.