During the first half of the game yesterday, the Pittsburgh Steelers offense looked predictably fluid and deadly for most of the length of their drives, but, as happened in the first game of the season, there were a string of incidents that resulted in them finishing the first half with just nine points to show for a high volume of yardage.
After Ben Roethlisberger went down early in the second half, the offense struggled to do much at all, putting together just two first downs in four drives with Michael Vick at quarterback, totaling 14 plays.
Were it not for a late interception that gave the offense starting field position at the Rams’ 31-yard line, the Steelers would not have put up a single point in the second half. But thanks to a pretty strong performance from the defense, they wouldn’t have needed it, as Pittsburgh went on to win by a score of 12-6.
While Nick Foles did manage to complete about 68 of his passes, going 19 out of 28, he only averaged a little over seven yards per attempt, as he was held under 200 yards throwing in total, and, given the scoreboard, he obviously did not throw a touchdown pass.
He did, however, manage to complete one pass to the defense, as safety Will Allen picked off a deep ball late in the game that the offense, as mentioned above, was able to convert into three points and a bit of breathing room.
The defense gave up a total of just 258 yards on 49 plays, aided in large part by minimizing the Rams’ ability to create explosive plays. St. Louis has just two on the day, both in the second half, and neither went for more than 26 yards. In fact, as a whole, the defense has done well to limit explosive plays this season, though some of those explosive plays have picked up sizable chunks.
With Allen picking up the Steelers’ first interception of the season—and the safeties’ first interception since 2013—Stephon Tuitt and Arthur Moats also added to the team’s sack total, bringing their total through three games up to nine, an average of three per game, which would translate to 48 sacks prorated over the course of a full season.
Especially noteworthy was the run defense, under conventional circumstances. The Rams’ three running backs combined for just 37 yards on 16 carries, an average of 2.3 yards per rush. Foles himself added a scramble of 10 yards late in the game, and Chris Givens was able to pick up 24 yards on an end around for one of their two explosive plays of the day, but even factoring in those two numbers, St. Louis averaged under four yards per rush.
Perhaps most impressive, however, is the fact that the defense limited the Rams to just two successful conversions on third down, and they twice failed to convert on fourth down, with the first attempt coming on a fake punt.
And, of course, the defense held their opponents to just six points on the day, a week after holding the 49ers to just three points heading into the fourth quarter for extended garbage time. To be sure, there is still plenty to work on, but these are certainly fine results to have in the process of building up this defense.