Now that Keith Butler has been named the Pittsburgh Steelers new defensive coordinator, the former linebackers coach will be in charge of a defense that struggled in several areas last season. One of those areas that he will need concentrate on fixing that we will focus on in this post is defending the pass better on first downs.
As you can see in the table below, the Steelers gave up an average of 5.93 yards per play in 2014 on first down and that tied them with the New Orleans Saints for the worst in the league when it comes to that stat.
When you look at that 5.93 number you would think that the Steelers play against the run helped contribute to it being so high, but that wasn’t necessarily the case. As the stats below will show you, the defense only allowed an average of 3.85 yards per rush on first downs and that was good for eighth best in the league.
However, against the pass on first down was where the Steelers defense really struggled in 2014 as their 7.70 yards per play average on those 233 plays was the worst in the league.
Here is where it gets more interesting and discouraging at the same time. Thanks to our 2014 charting project we can tell you that on the 129 first down pass plays against the Steelers base 3-4 defense the unit allowed a whopping 8.74 yards per play. Against the nickel (128 plays) and goal-line (1 play) sub packages, the defense allowed just 6.46 yards per first down pass play.
Against the Steelers base 3-4 defense on first downs, opposing passers completed 91-of-123 (74%) passes for 1,172 yards with 7 touchdowns and 5 interceptions. The defense only registered six sacks on first downs out of their base 3-4.
Against the Steelers nickel defense on first downs, opposing passers completed 63-of-111 (56.8%) passes for 690 yards with 6 touchdowns and two interceptions. The defense also registered another six sacks on first downs out of their sub packages.
The Steelers pass defense as a whole allowed 67.6% of all passes to be completed against them and that ranked then sixth-worst in the league in that stat.
Here is something else for you to chew on.
As far as deep pass attempts (16 or more yards past the line of scrimmage) went against the Steelers defense on first downs in 2014, the unit allowed a league worst 54.5% completion percentage. Those 24 completions resulted in 740 yards which was 39.7% of all passing yards allowed on first down all season.
Butler is now of course taking over for Dick LeBeau whose motto during his time in Pittsburgh was: “Stop the run, tackle the catch and don’t give up the big play.” As you can clearly see from last year’s stats, LeBeau’s defense only managed to accomplish stopping the run on first downs. It’s now up to Butler to fix the other two categories moving forward.
2014 Regular Season First Down Yards Per Play Allowed
|Team||Total Plays||YPP||Run Plays||YPP||Pass Plays||YPP|
2014 Completion Percentage And Deep Completion Percentage Allowed On First Down
|TEAM||COM %||D COM %|