Welcome to the BTSC statistical breakdown of the most recent Steelers game. After a stifling win over the Colts on Thanksgiving night, the Steelers appear to be getting back to the form they displayed earlier in the season. This marks the first time the Steelers have won two games in a row since the first week of October. More importantly, the Steelers once again have a winning record and control their own destiny with regards to playing serious January football. Below are the stats from the Steelers win over the Colts.
All stats are from the NFL, except for DYAR and DVOA rankings, which are from Football Outsiders.
Running Games: With each passing week, Le’Veon Bell makes the voices of those who say the Steelers should cut ties with him after the season get quieter and quieter. Bell torched the Colts for 120 yards on the ground and one touchdown. Bell averaged 5.2 yards per carry and has now found pay dirt three consecutive weeks. Fitzgerald Toussaint also got some carries this week, finishing the game with six carries for 28 yards. It should be noted that 16 of those yards came on one carry. It’s encouraging to see that the Steelers are getting the ground game going as the weather starts to turn and passing the ball becomes more difficult. When DeAngelo Williams returns from his injury that will only bolster the running game.
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger had a very efficient game against a Colts defense he has carved up over the last three meetings. Roethlisberger only threw 20 passes, completing 14 of them for 221 yards and three touchdowns passes, all to Antonio Brown. Roethlisberger didn’t throw any interceptions this week, or take any sacks. If ever there was a defense for Roethlisberger to face to get his confidence back, it’s the Colts defense.
Antonio Brown put on a show Thursday night by catching five passes for 91 yards and his first career three receiving touchdown game. Over the last three games against the Colts Brown has seven receiving touchdowns and one punt return touchdown. He only had two receptions, but Ladarius Green was the Steelers second leading receiver on the night with 67 yards. When the Steelers signed Green the expectation was that the athletic tight end would be able to stretch the field and take advantage of the attention that is afforded to Antonio Brown. It appears that over the last month of games Green is going to do just that. Le’Veon Bell added 22 yards receiving to his rushing total for 140 total yards of offense. The other notable aspect of the receiving game is that Sammie Coates failed to catch a pass despite being targeted three times. The Steelers need the broken fingers he is playing with to heal fast. All together five different Steelers caught passes.
Defense: The Steelers defense epitomized the phrase ‘bend but don’t break’ in Week 12. Scott Tolzien got the start for the Colts in place of an injured Andrew Luck and while he certainly didn’t play well enough to threaten to take Luck’s job, he also didn’t cost the Colts the game either. Tolzien completed 22 of 36 passes for 205 yards, threw one touchdown and had two interceptions.
Tolzien threw a touchdown in the second quarter to Donte Moncrief which cut the Steelers lead to only seven points. The Steelers answered right back with a touchdown a few minutes later to give themselves some breathing room however.
The story of the game is the two goal line stands the Steelers had to stop to prevent any threat of the Colts making the game closer. Twice the Colts got aggressive in their play calling and went for touchdowns on 4th and goal situations that would have made it a one score game at home had they succeeded either time. Both times the Steelers defense was up to the task.
Three different Colts’ players recorded a rushing attempt, but only one (Jordan Todman) gained more than 30 yards. The defense did a good job making the Colts one dimensional and keeping the pressure on the backup quarterback.
The Steelers defense recorded three sacks, 11 quarterback hits, two interceptions, and six passes defended (Mike Mitchell, William Gay, and Ross Cockrell each had two). The Steelers leading tackler was Lawrence Timmons with ten.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 7/11 on third down while the Colts were 8/15. The Steelers didn’t attempt any fourth down conversions while the Colts were 2/4. The Steelers averaged 4.4 yards per play compared to 4.9 yards per play for the Colts.
The Red Zone: The Steelers were 1/1 in the red zone while the Colts were 1/3.
Turnovers: The Steelers didn’t turn the ball over on Thursday, while the Colts did twice.
Mike Mitchell intercepted Tolzien with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and set up the Steelers with decent filed position thanks to a 25-yard return. The Steelers were able to convert the good field position into the decisive touchdown minutes later. On the Colts, next possession, it was William Gay’s turn to intercept a pass and give the Steelers a chance to run some time off the clock.
In the first quarter Gay also had a sack and forced fumble, but Tolzien was able to get back on top of the ball for his own recovery.
Penalties: If there is one glaring issue the Steelers need to fix, it’s the penalties. The Steelers gave up 67 yards on seven penalties. The Colts only gave up ten yards on two penalties. The AFC playoff picture is so tight right now, that the Steelers can’t afford to give any games away. Giving opposing teams 67 free yards is a great way to ensure that the opponent is able to hang around in the game and have a shot at winning it.
Under Pressure: James Harrison, Javon Hargrave, and William Gay each registered one sack. The was a scary moment after Harrison’s sack when he was struck on the helmet by a player congratulating him and had to leave the game to be checked for a concussion. Fortunately, Harrison was able to return to the game. In addition to those three players, Bud Dupree, Daniel McCullers, Stephon Tuitt, Ross Cockrell, Lawrence Timmons, and Ryan Shazier each had a quarterback hit.
The Steelers offensive line did not surrender one sack and Roethlisberger was once, by safety T.J. Green.
Kicking: Chris Boswell made all four extra points as the Steelers decided against any two point conversions last week. He also recoded three touchbacks on kickoffs, but one of his kicks was returned by Jordan Todman for 43 yards. That isn’t Boswell’s fault, but special teams is an area the Steelers need to see improvement in. Earlier in the game the Steelers were fooled when Colts’ punter Pat McAfee threw a 35-yard pass to set up the Colts’ touchdown. Field position and situational awareness are aspects of the game that can come back to bite teams that aren’t focused in the playoffs.
Last Thursday the Steelers turned in a performance that gave their fans a lot to be thankful for. The offense played well, Ladarius Green appears to be working back to his potential, and oh yeah, they won. That being said, there are some areas the team needs to work on. The team had trouble getting off the field on third down. The let the Colts drive deep into the red zone twice, and they continue to give up yards due to penalties. That being said, a win is a win. For the second week in a row the Steelers displayed a pass rush and were able to win the turnover battle. Here’s hoping they can keep it going this Sunday when the New York Giants come to town.