The Pittsburgh Steelers will play the Kansas City Chiefs Sunday in the Divisional Round of the playoffs and as usual I have been doing quite a bit of statistical research ahead of that contest. I’ve been bad about not sharing my findings during the season and that changes today.
Here are quite a few statistical nuggets for you ahead of Sunday’s game.
Third downs are always important in every game but here is a stat that really sticks out when it comes to the Chiefs. On 93 3rd & 6 or longer dropbacks this season, quarterback Alex Smith moved the chains just 26.9% of the time through air. In short, the Steelers defense must get Smith in as many of these 3rd and long situations as possible.
Speaking of Smith and downs and distances, he wasn’t bad at all during the regular season when throwing on first. 71.6% of his first down throws were completed and he averaged 8.1 yards per attempt.
Oh, and Smith really gets the football out quick as he finished second in the NFL with a 2.38 second snap to throw time. Who finished first? His backup Nick Foles at 2.36 seconds. The Steelers defense can’t lay back and play a lot of cover-3 against the Chiefs.
While Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill did register 267 yards on 24 carries during the regular season, half of them came via two explosive runs of which one was 70 yards. Even so, Hill averaged 6.07 yards per carry on his 22 other rushing attempts.
As for the Chiefs running games as a whole, they only had a 37.5% “successful run” percentage by non-quarterbacks this season. Spencer Ware, however, had a little higher successful run percentage of 40%.
As for the Steelers run defense in 2016, only 39.3% of the runs against them this season qualified as “successful” runs. It will be very disappointing if they allow the Chiefs to gash them Sunday night.
About Ware. During the regular season the Chiefs running back caught 33 passes for 447 yards and his 13.5 yards per catch average was second-best behind Atlanta Falcons running back Tevin Coleman of the running backs who caught 30 or more passes. Ware also averaged 11.9 yards after the catch and that was third-best in the league of running backs with 30 or more receptions.
Do you remember how the Philadelphia Eagles beat the Steelers earlier in the season by using their running backs out of the backfield? Expect the Chiefs to really look at what the Eagles did offensively in that game.
So, what about when the Steelers have the football?
47.8% of the runs against the Chiefs defense this season qualified as “successful” ones. If that’s not enough, right at half of the runs against the Chiefs defense this season were scored as going right up the middle. 215 runs to be exact, tops in the NFL, and those rushes averaged 4.53 yards, which was 25th worst in the NFL for that direction.
Now, while the Chiefs rush defenses certainly isn’t great, they don’t give up many big runs. They allowed just 12 runs of 15 yards or more during regular season and Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell was responsible for two of them back in Week 4. Of those 12 runs, quarterbacks had 3 of them.
The Chiefs defense has only allowed 28 deep passes (16 yards or longer) to be completed against them all season and 7 of those completions went for touchdowns. The Chiefs only allowed 23 passing touchdowns all season and Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger had 5 of those back in Week 4. Oh, and Roethlisberger completed 6 of his 7 deep pass attempts in that game.
The Steelers defense only allowed 21 deep passes to be completed against them all season and Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton threw 5 of them. Not counting the Wild Card game, the Steelers defense only allowed 5 deep pass completions during their final five regular season games.
The Chiefs finished second in the league in points off of turnover with 105. They also started 21 drives on their opponents’ side of the 50-yard line and had the second-fewest drives in the league start inside their own 40 yard-line. The Chiefs offense scored a touchdown just 17.9% of the time that they started inside their own 26-yard-line.