Welcome to the BTSC statistical breakdown of the most recent Steelers game. The Steelers held on against the Bills to win their fourth game in a row. In a fun game to watch, thanks to the visuals of the snow falling, the Steelers had stretches of play where they looked like a dominant world beater and stretches marred by sloppy play. Some of the stats were good, and some not so good. We covered all of it below.
All stats are from the NFL, except for DYAR and DVOA rankings, which are from Football Outsiders.
Running Game: Le’Veon Bell’s stats from Sunday are simply absurd, there’s no other way to put it. Bell rushed for 236 yards and three touchdowns on 38 carries. Those 236 yards are a Steelers’ franchise record for most yards in a game, and are the most rushing yards anyone in the NFL has had since 2012. When you add in Bell’s 62 receiving yards, he alone out gained the entire Bills offense 298 yards to 275. In only his tenth game of the season, Bell went over the 1000-yard mark for the second time in his career. Bell averaged over seven yards per touch on Sunday. If you played against Bell in your fantasy league this week you have my condolences, since he most likely ended your season all by himself.
Bell tied yet another Steelers record on Sunday when he scored all three Steeler touchdowns on the ground. He scored from three yards out in the first quarter, seven yards out in the second quarter, and five yards out in the fourth.
Passing: For as great a day Bell had on Sunday, Roethlisberger had just as bad a day. Roethlisberger completed only 17 of his 31 attempts for 220 yards and three interceptions. Roethlisberger had been riding a hot streak coming into the game, so it was surprising to see him struggle like he did. What was most frustrating to watch, two of the turnover occurred deep in Bills’ territory when it looked like Steelers could have extended their lead even further.
The leading receiver for the Steelers was Antonio Brown who had five catches for 78 yards. Le’Veon Bell wasn’t far behind with four catches for 62 yards. In total seven different Steelers caught pass on Sunday, though none for touchdowns.
Defense: The Steelers’ defensive players certainly did things they can be proud of on Sunday, but they also made plenty of silly mistakes that let the Bills stick around and have a shot at recovering an onside kick in a one possession game. The Steelers limited Tyrod Taylor to 15 completions for 228 yards, one interceptions, and two touchdowns. The Bills were only able to manage 67 yards on the ground as a team, led by 34 yards from Mike Gilislee. The ever so shifty LeSean McCoy was held to only 2.3 yards per attempt, but he was able to find the end zone once.
The Bills were able to take advantage of some miscues from the Steelers to score three touchdowns and hang around until late in a game where they were out gained by almost 200 yards. After a Roethlisberger interception gave the Buffalo the ball with a short field, Taylor hit Sammy Watkins for an eight-yard touchdown pass midway through the second quarter. In the fourth quarter when the Steelers offense stalled the Bills’ offence came alive. Taylor hit Charles Clay on the sideline, then some sloppy tackling from the Steelers, a chronic problem in the second half, allowed clay to scamper for a 40-yard score. Thankfully, kicker Dan Carpenter missed the extra point to keep the score at 24-13 Steelers. The Steelers added a field goal before giving the ball back to the Bills with3:43 left on the clock. The Bills marched down the field in two minutes and LeSean McCoy scored on a three-yard run. The Bills failed to recover the ensuing onside kick and that was all she wrote for the Bills.
The NFL doesn’t keep missed tackle stats, but if they did the Steelers’ numbers would not be pretty. Too often the players appeared to be going for a big hit instead of just wrapping up and tackling the ball carrier. This is an issue the coaches are sure to bring up in film study this week.
The Steelers had four passes defended (Ryan Shazier, Ross Cockrell, Artie Burns, and Stephon Tuitt), one interception, five sacks, and eight quarterback hits. The leading tackler for the Steelers was Ryan Shazier with eight combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 6/14 on third down while the Bills were 3/9. The Steelers were 1/1 on fourth down and the Bills didn’t attempt any conversions. The Steelers averaged 6.3 yards per play compared to 5.7 yards per play for the Bills. .
The Red Zone: The Bills were 2/2 in the red zone. The Steelers were 3/6.
Turnovers: The Steelers had one takeaway Sunday afternoon, but unfortunately Roethlisberger threw three interceptions of his own.
Artie Burns continued to rise to the test of his trial by fire of starting in his rookie year when he intercepted Taylor in the fourth quarter.
Lorenzo Alexander nabbed the first interception of the game early in the game when he picked off Roethlisberger as the Steelers entered the red zone on their opening drive. The Steelers defense was able to stand tall and force a punt on the Bills first drive. After Bell’s second touchdown made the game feel like it would end up a blow out, Stephon Gilmore picked off Roethlisberger and returned the ball to the seven-yard line. Three plays later Watkins scored to make the score 14-7. In the fourth quarter the Steelers again had a chance to blow the game open, but Roethlisberger was picked off for the third time by Zach Brown on an ill-advised throw into the end zone. The Bills were not able to capitalize since on their next play is when Burns made his interception.
In the first quarter Williams Gay appeared to have an interception return for a touchdown, but the play was wiped out on a penalty by Burns.
Penalties: Both teams were nearly even in penalties accepted with the Steelers penalized six times for 45 yards, and the Bills seven times for 46 yards.
Under Pressure: Playing against a mobile quarterback like Taylor can be difficult for defensive players who need to be conscious of the quarterback scampering for a big gain. The Steelers were up to the task however as they were able to sack Taylor five times and hit him eight times. Bud Dupree (twice), Sean Davis (1.5), Shazier (1), and Stephon Tuitt (.5) were all credited with a sack. In addition to those four players, Anthony Chickillo was credited with one quarterback hit. Davis deserves recognition for having a second consecutive strong game. Davis had seven combined tackles, one and a half sacks, and three quarterback hits.
Besides opening holes for Bell to run through all afternoon, the Steelers offensive line did a fantastic job of keeping Roethlisberger upright. The quarterback was only hit once, by Lorenzo Alexander, and never sacked. This makes Roethlisberger’s struggles even more frustrating to Steelers’ fans.
Kicking: Chris Boswell retuned to the lineup after missing last week’s game with an oblique injury. As if performing up to expectations after being out with an injury weren’t hard enough, the snowy conditions alone could have been an issue. As an insurance policy, the Steelers made the unusual move of keeping two kickers on the active roster so Randy Bullock could take over in case Boswell faltered. It turns out there was nothing for the Steelers to worry about as Boswell was perfect kicking the ball. Ironically, it was the Bills’ Dan Carpenter who missed an extra point when in theory he should be the one used to kicking in treacherous conditions. Boswell hit all three extra points and two fourth quarter field goals of 37 and 39 yards.
The Steelers didn’t play perfect football against the Bills, but they played winning football and that’s what counts. The Steelers have now won four games in a row, and if the Patriots can win Monday night the Steelers will be in first place in the AFC North. The Steelers’ level of play over their current winning streak should make the team and their fans very confident. As anyone who remembers the 2005 Steelers Super Bowl run can tell you, it’s not how you start but how you finish the season that counts. The Steelers have a big matchup against the Bengals on Sunday that is sure to be an emotional affair.