Over the course of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ first nine games—actually, eight of the nine first games—the offense, with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center, attempted 317 passes. That works out to an average of just under 40 pass attempts per game. In all three of the games that the Steelers lost in which Roethlisberger was healthy, he attempted over 40 passes.
Over the span of the last four games, Roethlisberger has only attempted a total of 123 passes, which works out to just under 31 pass attempts per game. In other words, over the course of the last month or so, he, and the Steelers, have been throwing the ball about a quarter less than they were for the first half of the year.
On the flip side, in Le’Veon Bell’s first six games—recalling that he spent the first three games serving a suspension—he only rushed the ball a total of 100 times. He only carried the ball at least 20 times twice in that span, with a high of 21 carries.
Over the course of the past four games? His lowest total of carries in a game has been higher than his previous high for a game over the course of his first six games. In fact, he has had more carries in the past four games than he did in the first six.
In Cleveland, he carries the ball 28 times. His numbers dipped to 23 against the Colts, in a game in which the Steelers only ran about 50 or so offensive plays, but last week, he had 29 carries, and, of course, on Sunday, he posted a career-high 38 carries.
He has rushed the ball 118 times in the past four games, which means that he has carried the ball very nearly as often as Roethlisberger has thrown it—123 passes to 118 rushes. That shift toward a more balanced offense has provided the Steelers with a significant edge in terms of time of possession.
The lone exception has been the game against the Colts, during which Indianapolis possessed the ball for about a minute and a half longer than Pittsburgh. The Steelers scored from distance a couple of times, and the Colts had some extended drives end in no points.
In the other three games, however, the Steelers have seen some stark advantages in their direction in terms of time of possession. In Cleveland, they held possession for nearly 34 minutes. Against the Giants, they held the ball for slightly over 34 minutes. On Sunday, they posted a nearly two-to-one ratio in the time of possession battle, holding the ball for 38:41.
The benefits of controlling the ball for the majority of the game are probably obvious, as long as the cause for that is not defensive touchdowns being scored and quick strikes from the opposing offense. One example of that benefit, however, has been the fact that no opposing team has gained even 250 yards of offense in the past four games.