Everyone loves stats. Stats are a way to measure, to a degree, how successful a player or team has been in several different categories. For the sake of this article, I want to focus on team stats that stood out in 2017. Both offensively and defensively combined, the Pittsburgh Steelers had impressive numbers in certain categories. Let’s take a closer look.
The third down conversion rate was excellent all season long. 92/209 (44.02%) was good for 2nd in the National Football League and the Steelers best since 2014. It seemed as if almost every big third down play late in games was converted. Like it or not, Todd Haley did a wonderful job mixing up the play calls on third down. Passing on 3rd down was extremely successful. Screen passes, quick slants, tight ends over the middle, and even the occasional deep ball were all used.
The defense was impressive on third down as well. Opponents only went 72/199 (36.2%), which ranked 7th in the entire league. A mix of several different blitz packages proved to be successful. Defensive Coordinator, Keith Butler did a nice job calling plays. The defense confused opposing quarterbacks and disguised different schemes extremely well.
A franchise record, 56 sacks is another great stat to note. A combination of Cameron Heyward (12 sacks), Vince Williams (8) and rookie, T.J. Watt (7) led the way. We saw great nickel blitzes from Mike Hilton as he blitzed more than any cornerback in the National Football League. Butler drew up a number of different packages that had several different players flying around in different directions.
As good as the defense was getting to the quarterback, the offensive line was just as good protecting Ben Roethlisberger. Steelers’ quarterbacks were only sacked 21 times last season and 24 times in 2017. Those 45 sacks allowed in two years are good for 2nd best in the NFL (Oakland Raiders – 42) over that span. There were very few times all season when an offensive linemen was bullied at the line of scrimmage.
377.9 yards per game on offense ranked 3rd in the NFL. The important thing to note with this is that there was a good balance, especially the latter half of the season. Other than Big Ben’s games against the Baltimore Ravens (506 yards) and Green Bay Packers (351), he was pretty consistently under 300 yards passing. The running game averaged just over 104 yards per game, but finished strong (aside from game two against the Ravens) as it started off the season a bit slow. The Steelers rushing attack only had one game over 105 yards in the first five games of the season.
Allowing only 306.9 yards per game on defense was good enough for 5th in the league. The run defense could have been better at times, but allowing only 201 passing yards per game is commendable. Although the defense let up just under 106 rushing yards per game, it ranked 10th in the NFL. It will be critical in the playoffs time for this number to stay at or under 300 yards.
Time of possession is crucial to a team’s success. The Steelers had the ball, on average, for 31:58 throughout the 16 regular season games. Although the Steelers fell to the New England Patriots, holding onto the ball for 35:07 in that matchup was extremely impressive. That is almost always a recipe for success and, if the Steelers can win the time of possession battle in the playoffs, it will benefit the team greatly.
It is easy to nit-pick some of these areas. The Steelers were not perfect in any category, however, they ranked near the top of the league in multiple both offensively and defensively. As a whole, the Steelers were extremely productive in these specific statistical areas.