Welcome to the BTSC Steelers Wednesday Statistical break down. Below is a breakdown of the Steelers exciting victory against the Cincinnati Bengals, taking a look at what they did well and what areas they need to work on. All stats are from the NFL, except for DYAR and DVOA rankings, which are from Football Outsiders.
Running Game: For the second straight week DeAngelo Williams gave the Steelers at least 90 yards on the ground and a touchdown. The Steelers rushed for 124 yards as a team while the Bengals rushed for only 46. Williams himself accounted for 32 carries for 94 yards.
However, beyond the surface Williams wasn’t as dominant as it appears. Of those 32 carries only four were for first downs, nine were no gain or a loss, and eight gained exactly one yard. That is not very efficient running. Under Marvin Lewis Cincinnati has been tough defensively so it’s no surprise Williams struggled a bit. Additionally, the Steelers used the shotgun formation on almost 65% of their plays. Williams style of running is more conducive to having the quarterback lineup under center and using a fullback to block for him, something the Steelers did quite often in 2015, but can’t right now because of the injury to Roosevelt Nix.
Despite the struggles, Williams did provide the offense with enough balance to keep the Bengals on their toes, and most of his carries came in the second half when running out the clock was a priority. He also contributed with a receiving touchdown.
Williams still ranks third in DYAR and 13th in DVOA which is more than good enough to hold the fort down until Le’Veon Bell returns.
Passing: Roethlisberger threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns to go along with two interceptions. Roethlisberger looked like something was clearly bothering him in the second half when he missed throws he normally makes, and was seen flexing his hand a few times. Still, he threw for three touchdowns to three different receivers. In total, eight different Steelers caught a pass, including tight ends Xavier Grimble and Jesse James catching their first regular season touchdowns. The two longest plays of the day for the Steelers offense were Sammie Coates’ 53 and 44-yard receptions. Those were Coates’ only two receptions on the day, but he still led the Steelers with 97 receiving yards. It appears Coates has assumed Martavis Bryant’s role as the Steelers deep threat on offense.
After torching the Redskins for two touchdowns and 126 yards, Antonio Brown was held in check Sunday to the tune of only 39 yards on four receptions, despite leading the team with 11 targets. Brown also had an uncharacteristic drop that would have been a first down. Look for him to bounce back next week.
Defense: Andy Dalton threw for 366 yards but only completed 57% of his passes. The Steelers were able to hold dynamic AJ Green to only two receptions for 38 yards. The leading Bengals receiver was running back Giovani Bernard who had nine receptions for 100 yards and the only touchdown for Bengals. The Steelers had nine passes defended, including an athletic play form the Steelers first round draft pick Artie Burns where he was able to tip a possible touchdown pass over an open Brandon Lafell and out of the end zone. The Steelers continued to play their bend but don’t break style as they surrendered 412 yards, but only one touchdown and three redone field goals.
Ryan Shazier led the defense with 11 combined tackles and leads the team with 17 through two games.
Efficiency: The Steelers were 7/17 on third down and 0/1 on fourth down. The Bengals were held to 4/16 on third down and 1/1 on fourth down. The Bengals averaged 5.6 yards per play compared to 5.1 for the Steelers.
Run Defense: The Steelers held the Bengals to only 46-yards on the ground. Part of that success may be because Andy Dalton was productive though the air. Still, the Steelers have held opponents to only 101-yards through two games. Forcing teams to become one dimensional is key for winning the defensive battle.
The Red Zone: The Steelers converted on both of their Red zone trips into touchdowns while holding the Bengals to 0/3.
Turnovers: The Steelers had two fumble recoveries Sunday, although one of deserves an asterisk. The game clinching play came on a very questionable fumble call when James Harrison made a tackle on Tyler Boyd and the ball popped out as Boyd went to the ground. Upon replay it appeared Boyd was down before the ball was moving but the referees thought it was inconclusive and the play stood. The play ended the Bengals best shot at tying the game as the Steelers were able to run the clock down to only 14 seconds, then pin the Bengals deep with a punt by Jordan Berry. The second fumble recovery came on the last play of the game when the Bengals’ Giovani Bernard tried a desperation lateral with time running out and Cam Heyward got his hands on the ball.
The Steelers committed two turnovers, both interceptions by Roethlisberger. In the first quarter on fourth and five Roethlisberger threw the ball behind Antonio Brown and was picked off by Adam Jones. Late in the second quarter Roethlisberger was picked off when Dre Kirkpatrick was able to get in front of Sammie Coates on a deep pass down the sideline. The Bengals were able to get a field goal off the ensuing drive after the turnover. Through two games Roethlisberger has six touchdown passes and three interceptions.
Penalties: Beyond the usual intensity of a division rivalry game, Sunday’s matchup was being closely watched for any signs of cheap play after the last two games between the Steelers and Bengals saw over $100,000 in fines, multiple fights, and a suspension. This game was tamer and it looks as though the teams are fine with letting last year’s drama stay in the past. The teams committed five penalties each, and only one personal foul was called. The Bengals gave up 31-yards in penalties while the Steelers gave up 54.
Under Pressure: For the second straight week the Steelers didn’t generate much pressure against their opponent. The Steelers registered only one sack (Arthur Moats) and two hits (Moats and Stephon Tuitt) on quarterback Andy Dalton. Last season the Steelers were able to get consistent pressure on opponents when they finished third in the NFL with 48 sacks. Some of the lack of pressure is by design, but the Steelers should be a little concerned that they haven’t been able to take the burden off their secondary with a fearsome pass rush so far.
The Steelers were mostly able to keep Roethlisberger upright surrendering only one sack (Will Clarke) and five quarterback hits to the Bengals.
Punting: A special nod is in order for Jordan Berry, the Steelers punter. Berry punted eight times for an average of 47-yards. Five punts were downed inside the 20 and only one was a touchback. Berry routinely pinned the Bengals deep, forcing them to cover a lot of yards to get points. Andy Dalton was able to throw the ball on Pittsburgh, but by forcing his offense to start drives deep in their own territory Dalton had to work just to get the ball to midfield.
Ultimately, the most important statistic is that the Steelers won the game and improved to 2-0 on the season. The Steelers passed a hard test by playing against division rival Cincinnati and now get to travel across the state to face the undefeated Eagles.