Welcome to the BTSC statistical breakdown of the most recent Steelers game. The Steelers played their most complete game of the year Sunday afternoon when they beat a talented New York Giants team. The Steelers had control from beginning to end, and were really able to limit what the Giants could do offensively. All while they imposed their will against the Giants’ defense.
All stats are from the NFL, except for DYAR and DVOA rankings, which are from Football Outsiders.
Running Games: Le’Veon Bell is going to garner more than a few votes for team MVP. The stud running back rushed for 118 yards on 29 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per carry. Bell became the first back to run for over 100 yards against the Giants since week 16 of last year. When you throw in Bell’s 64 yards receiving, Bell totaled 182 yards from scrimmage, a staggering number. Bell has gained 100 yards from scrimmage in eight of the nine games he has appeared in this season, and leads the league in yards from scrimmage per game with 146.
Bell is going to get a very fat contract this offseason. The only negative mark against Bell on Sunday was that he lost a fumble for the first time in three seasons. He has fumbled four times this season, and was fortunate that he hadn’t lost one before then. To Bell’s credit, he didn’t get too emotionally down from the mistake and was able to bounce back and remain productive.
Passing: Ben Roethlisberger out dueled his fellow 2004 draft class member by posting a stat line of 24 completions for 289 yards and two touchdowns. After taking a big hit late in the third quarter, Roethlisberger threw an interception, though it could be argued that Eli Rogers didn’t fight hard enough for the ball to prevent the turnover. Roethlisberger now has 25 touchdowns and eight interceptions on the season. With four games remaining Roethlisberger has a legitimate chance to break his career high of 32 touchdowns passes.
The leading receiver for the Steelers was prized free agent acquisition Ladarius Green, who had six receptions for 110 yards and a touchdown (As a personal apology, I should note that I was skeptical of Green and listed him as a “sit” in Sunday’s Fantasy Football start or sit article. Green made me eat crow big time.). Le’Veon Bell was the Steelers second leading receiver with six receptions for 64 yards. Antonio Brown also had six receptions for 54 yards and one acrobatic touchdown. In total, six different Steelers caught a pass on Sunday.
Brown scored the first touchdown of the game with a 22-yard touchdown 7:20 to go in the second quarter when Roethlisberger found him open in the back of the end zone. The second touchdown for the Steelers came with three minute to go in the third quarter when Ladarius Green took advantage of an aggressive Giants defense and Roethlisberger found him for a 20-yard strike.
Defense: Don’t look now, but the Steelers’ defense has been rounding into form over the last several weeks. The Steelers held Eli Manning to only 195 yards of passing and two touchdowns, one of which came with the game already essentially over. The Steelers were able to sack Manning twice and force two interceptions. The defense was able to limit the Giants to only 57 yards on the ground, led by Paul Perkins’ 38 yards. The lack of a running game forced the Giants to become one dimensional, and that led to Eli Manning looking for Odell Beckham Jr. a whopping 16 times. Beckham finished with 100 yards on ten receptions, but was prevented from making any big plays.
The Steelers defense actually opened the scoring on Sunday when James Harrison’s hard work forced Giants’ guard Ereck Flowers to commit a holding penalty in the end zone which resulted in a safety.
The Giants scored two touchdowns Sunday. The first was on a well-designed 13-yard screen pass to Rashad Jennings midway through the third quarter that made the score of the game only 14-7 Steelers.
The second touchdown for the Giants came with thirty seconds left in the game when Sterling Sheppard caught a one yard pass. By this point the game was basically over.
The Giants went for it on fourth down on three separate occasions, and all three times the Steelers were able to stop them. The past two weeks have featured the Steelers being tested on fourth down numerous times, and every time the Steelers have answered the call. It’s encouraging to see how the Steelers were able to stand up to intense pressure over the last two weeks.
The Steelers had seven passes defended (Lawrence Timmons, Ross Cockrell, Ryan Shazier, Mike Mitchell twice, Stephon Tuitt and Sean Davis), two sacks, and three quarterback hits. The leading tacklers for the Steelers were Artie Burns and Sean Davis, each with seven combined tackles.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 7/15 on third down while the Giants were 4/11. The Steelers were 1/1 on fourth down while the Giants were 0/3. The Steelers averaged 5.6 yards per play compared to 4.3 yards per play for the Giants. .
The Red Zone: The Giants were 1/1 in the red zone while Steelers didn’t have any red zone attempts.
Turnovers: The Steelers lost one fumble and one interception on Sunday, but were able to force the Giants into two turnovers of their own.
Lawrence Timmons intercepted Eli Manning in the second quarter when he prevented the Giants from taking the lead when he intercepted Manning at the two-yard line and returned the ball 58 yards to set up the Steelers first touchdown.
In the fourth quarter Sean Davis was able to pick off Manning on fourth down when he stepped in front of Shepard at the six-yard line.
The Giants Jonathan Casillas forced a fumble by Bell in the third quarter that cornerback Eli Apple recovered. The fumble set up the Giants first touchdown to make the Steelers lead only one possession.
Apple returned to the score sheet when he picked off Roethlisberger by wrestling a ball away from Eli Rogers for a hard-earned interception. Luckily for the Steelers, the Giants turned the ball over to Davis on the ensuing drive and did not convert the turnover into points.
Penalties: The officials really let the defensive players play on Sunday and let a number of possible pass interference calls go. The Steelers in particular were handsy with Odell Beckham, but the refs let them play. The Steelers were flagged 12 times for 115 yards. The Giants were flagged only four times for 24 yards.
Under Pressure: James Harrison and Ricardo Matthews each recorded one sack. Besides those two players, Timmons recorded one quarterback hit. Timmons’ hit was notable as it came on a fourth down attempt and forced Manning to throw the ball before he was ready, resulting in an incomplete pass.
The Steelers offensive line gave up two sacks to Olivier Vernon and one hit to Devon Kennard, but otherwise kept the franchise quarterback upright.
Kicking: Chris Boswell was injured during the week which forced the Steelers to pick up Randy Bullock off the free agent list and start him on Sunday. More than a few fans on twitter were having flashbacks to Josh Scobee’s infamous 2015 cup of coffee with the Steelers when they heard the news of backup kicker. Instead, Bullock was very impressive kicking in the notoriously difficult Heinz Field. Bullock hit three field goals of 44, 34, and 38 yards and one extra point to go a perfect 4/4 kicking. Bullock did a fine job filling in for Boswell and the team should be confident if he needs to fill in again next weekend.
The chatter coming into the game was all about the wide receiver battle between Antonio Brown and Odell Beckham, and how this game would serve as a barometer for how good each team is. Beckham and Brown delivered in their own ways, but more importantly so did the Steelers. The Giants had won six in a row and looked like a contender in the NFC, while the Steelers were only 6-5 after two wins against the Browns and an injured Colts team. The Steelers had a major statement win by coming out firing against the Giants, and then refusing to let New York claw it’s way back into the game. The Steelers can feel good tonight, but they can’t take the peddle off the gas yet since the AFC playoff picture is very tight. The Steelers get ready for the Bills next in Week 14.