The Pittsburgh Steelers put together some impressive statistics, especially in the first half, in their 30-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns in Week 1 of NFL action. If you dig deep into the game statistics, you'll not only see trends but also some surprises along the way.
The Steelers are turning into a quick-strike offense
The days of the Steelers grinding the clock and methodically moving the ball down the field might be replaced by a quick-hitting offense that scores with regularity. In the six scoring drives the Steelers had on Sunday, it took them an average of 6.8 plays per drive to put points on the board. Even with the quick-scoring capabilities, the Steelers still dominated the time of possession with 32:27 of possession time to Cleveland's 27:33.
Roethlisberger on pace for career year
Ben Roethlisberger had a historic first half, but even his complete game statistics were impressive. Roethlisberger finished the day 23 for 34, for 365 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 interception. Roethlisberger averaged 10.7 yards per completion and ended the day with a 100.7 passer rating. In 2013, one of Roethlisberger's best statistical seasons of his career, he only ended a game with a 100+ passer rating 5 times.
Accuracy + great hands = success
The Steelers' offense had great numbers across the board, but what might be most impressive was the accuracy of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and the catches his receivers made. Of the five receivers that were targeted more than once, each had only one pass that wasn't caught. Antonio Brown 5 of 6, Markus Wheaton 6 of 7, Le'Veon Bell 6 of 7, Justin Brown 3 of 4 and Heath Miller 3 of 4.
Mike Munchak paying dividends in the rushing game
The offensive line coach is making more than just subtle changes, he's making a difference in the production of the Steelers' ground game. Against the Browns, the Steelers rushed for 127 yards on 28 attempts for an average of 4.5 yards per carry. Starting running back Le'Veon Bell averaged 5.2 yards per carry on his way to 100+ yards on the ground, as well as 100+ yards receiving. In 2013, the Steelers rushing attack averaged a measly 3.5 yards per carry. Do the math and that makes a big difference in the dynamic of a game.
Defense taken to the cleaners
The Cleveland Browns ran it up on the Steelers in the second half, literally. While en route to gaining 183 yards total on the ground, the Browns averaged 6.1 yards per rush. The Steelers allowed the likes of Terrence West to gain 100 yards on 16 carries for a 6.1 yards per carry. Isaiah Crowell rushed for 32 yards on five carries for a 6.4-yards-per-carry average and, not to be outdone, Ben Tate rushed for 41 yards on six carries for a 6.8-yards-per-carry average, all before having to leave the game due to injury. Those numbers scream of major issues lingering from the 2013 season in the run-defense category.
Steelers' tackle chart backwards
Simply look at the Pittsburgh Steelers chart of total tackles and you'll see what the day was like for the defensive unit. When your starting safeties are the top two tacklers, something went wrong. Troy Polamalu had 11 total tackles followed by Mike Mitchell with 7. No linebackers make the list until the 4-way tie with six tackles, and among those four players is cornerback Cortez Allen. The defensive front not only wasn't able to get penetration, but was unable to keep blockers off the linebackers which forced the secondary to make too many tackles.
Did the Steelers finally find a punter?
Brad Wing has been highly criticized this preseason, and rightfully so. But the young punter did a solid job against the Browns on Sunday. Wing averaged 43.7 yards per kick, pinned two kicks inside the 20 and had only one touchback. Pretty solid numbers for a position that has lacked stability within this organization for the last few years.