It might not have felt like it while you were watching the games in real time on television, but the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has improved some the last few weeks in a few key areas with a notable one being the amount of explosive plays allowed.
While a recent graphic tweeted from ESPN’s NFL Matchup Twitter account shows the Steelers defense as currently being in the bottom third of the league in total amount of explosive plays allowed with 33, the reality of the matter is that only 10 such plays have been given up in the team’s last three games against the Baltimore Ravens, Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals. In fact, the Steelers defense only gave up one pass play of 20 yards or longer to the Bengals this past Sunday and two runs longer than 15 yards.
Here’s another stat that’s worth noting when it comes to explosive passing plays allowed so far this season by the Steelers defense. In the team’s first four regular season games the Steelers defense allowed opposing quarterbacks to complete 16 of a total 39 deep pass attempts for 511 yards and 5 touchdowns. In the last two games, however, opposing quarterbacks Matt Ryan and Andy Dalton combined to complete just 4 of their 16 total deep pass attempts for 81 yards with zero touchdowns.
In case you’re curious, last year through six games the Steelers defense had surrendered 13 pass plays that gained 20 yards or more and 13 running plays that gained 15 yards or more.
After their bye this week the Steelers will play a Cleveland Browns team that has managed to register 22 explosive passing plays and 14 explosive running plays in their first 6 games of 2018. In the regular season opener between the two teams the Browns offense managed to register 7 of those plays with now backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor being responsible for three of those via scrambles. 186 of the 374 total yards of offense the Browns registered in that Week 1 tie against the Steelers came on those 7 explosive plays.