Matthew Marczi just wrote about how good the Pittsburgh Steelers third down defense was in the win over the New York Jets and overall, the success they’ve enjoyed on the season.
That’s all spot on. But the third down offense is at a historically high number and just as much worth talking about.
Through five games, the Steelers have converted 31 of 63 opportunities. That’s 49.2%, the second highest mark in the league only slightly trailing the Dallas Cowboys. Dating back to 2000, that number has never been so high. Or anything remotely close. The closest you get is 2007 when Pittsburgh ended the year at a 46.8% clip.
Of course, you’d expect some regression to the mean over the course of the season and it’s highly unlikely the Steelers remain at their near-50% mark the rest of the way. But they’re on track to have one of their best marks ever and could certainly best what they did in 2007.
Only twice this year has Pittsburgh been held under the halfway mark in a game. Week Two against Cincinnati, where they had 17 attempts and played in ugly weather conditions and then the equally ugly Week Three loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
In Week One, Pittsburgh was 9-14. Two weeks ago vs Kansas City, they were 6-11 and last Sunday, they were 5-10.
Their success isn’t all coming from being ahead of the sticks either. In fact, relatively speaking, Pittsburgh is doing better in third and long than they were third and medium to short.
The percentages, naturally, lean towards being better in 3rd and 6 and closer, a 49% conversion rate, which is middle of the pack. But on 3rd and 7+, if you look at just passes, they’re a top six team with a 31% conversion rate. They’re able to keep drives alive because of stellar quarterback play from Ben Roethlisberger. They’ve also scored six touchdowns on 3rd and 7+, tied for second in the NFL.
Here’s the bottom line. In the key stats, Pittsburgh is dominating.
Points Per Game (Offense): 6th
Points Per Game (Defense): 9th
Third Down (Offense): 2nd
Third Down (Defense): 5th
Red Zone (Offense): 3rd
Red Zone (Defense): 4th
When you stack up those blanket numbers, it’s easy to see why the Steelers are having the success they are.