The off-season is interminable.
Thank God for Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and the Penguins’ run for a second-consecutive Stanley Cup, or I’d be in a coma due to QPSW — Quality Pittsburgh Sports Withdrawal. Let’s not speak of this year’s Pirates, okay?
Lack of football makes a football writer do strange things, especially when OTAs are as boring as they were this year. No news is great news, unless you are already hard-up for angles to write about. We tortured the draft to death, and were rewarded with tales of borderline-stellar OTA performances from T.J. Watt, JuJu Smith-Schuster and Cam Sutton, at the very least. The biggest controversy? Senquez Golson is still healthy.
It’s so bad that I actually have started to care about — gasp! — statistics. It’s like sitting in the room waiting for the doctor: after the 45th minute passes, you actually start reading literature for ailments you physically could never have.
The good news? There are actually a few gems out there. Here are a few.
The Surest Hands in Steelers History belong to...
Among Steelers’ players with at least 150 targets (since the league started tracking that statistic in the mid-80s), the best catch rate is 78.0 percent. The owner of that record?
Sure, he catches a good number of screens and short check-downs. What sets Bell apart is a combination of how far he is ahead of other running backs, as well as his yards per catch. His 8.8 yards per catch is the highest among all Steelers runners. The only one with a higher catch percentage is Amos Zeroue, but he has fewer than 150 targets, and averaged nearly a full yard less per reception. The next-best running back with at least 150 targets is Jerome Bettis, who averaged 2.4 yards less per catch than Bell.
Are we wrong, or are the stats just lying?
Oft-maligned backup quarterback Landry Jones has a better career completion percentage (albeit with an admittedly small sample size at 85 completions on 141 attempts) than every single other Steelers quarterback, ever, with at least 100 attempts, besides Ben Roethlisberger. His touchdown percentage is just 0.1 percent behind Roethlisberger, and his career passer rating of 82.8 would be good for 42nd all-time in the entire league if he had enough attempts.
If you are anything like me, the sound you hear right now is a single cricket, chirping.
Give the Big Uglies a pat on the back for this one.
How good is the Pittsburgh offensive line at protecting the quarterback? In the last two years, very good. Through 2014, Roethlisberger was sacked fewer than 30 times in a single season just once — in 2006, when he also had the fewest passing attempts of his career, by far. In the last two years, despite posting two of his four highest attempts-per-game marks, he was sacked 37 times in both seasons, combined. As a percentage of his total dropbacks (attempts plus sacks), 2015 and 2016 were the two lowest sack percentages of his career, by a considerable margin.
And, finally, Yogi Berra was right.
It’s deja vu, all over again.
Ryan Shazier has been consistent, at the very least. In 2015 he started 12 games; had 55 solo tackles and 32 assists, good for a total of 87; and added 3.5 sacks. In 2016...he started 12 games; had 55 solo tackles and 32 assists, good for a total of 87; and added 3.5 sacks.