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Six Numbers That Must Change Sunday Afternoon

I know most of us are tired of hearing about the Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the New England Patriots, but with the long week, it’s worth digging a little deeper into the box score.

Here are six numbers that need to change in order for the Steelers to have a better opportunity to win in Sunday’s tilt versus the San Francisco 49ers.

78.1% – That’s Tom Brady’s completion percentage from Thursday night, the highest given up by the Steelers since 2003 when Tim Couch torched them. Even since the preseason, quarterbacks have been far too efficient against this defense. Colin Kaepernick is not known as an efficient quarterback and if he can move the ball with ease, it’ll be a troubling sign for the Steelers’ defense.

4.6 – Or, Dion Lewis’ 4.6 yards per carry. Don’t let the team stat of 3.3 fool you – a lot of that had to deal with Brady’s sneaks and Brandon Bolden’s goal line carries. If Lewis, a player who hadn’t received a carry since 2012, I shudder at what Carlos Hyde could do to this defense. If Hyde is north of this number, it’d be a strong indication the Steelers came out on the losing end of this one.

4 for 81 – That’s the receptions and yards for Steelers’ receivers not named Antonio Brown, if we throw out the garbage time stats accumulated on the final drive. Not having Martavis Bryant in the lineup is going to curtail these numbers but getting more production out of Markus Wheaton and even Darrius Heyward-Bey would obviously be a plus.

63.6% – New England’s third down percentage Thursday. A clear sign the Steelers need to do a better job of getting off the field on third down. For what it’s worth, the 49ers were 5 of 12, 41.7%, on Monday night.

7 – The number of blitzes Keith Butler ran in Week One on 30 chances, according to my charting. It’s not a horrible number but below the reported average of 13 in Week One. It’s not about sending six or seven rushers. You can generate pressure with four and five man rushes if you get creative enough with your blitz packages. That’s the best kind – the fire zones Dick LeBeau would run. “Safe” pressure.

100% – As I mentioned shortly after the loss, the Patriots’ red zone touchdown percentage. And the only time a team scored all four of their touchdowns in the red zone. The 49ers don’t have the red zone weapons the Patriots did although Anquan Boldin is as sure-handed as they come. And that San Fran offensive line is nasty.

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