One of the most interesting statistics to watch in today’s game is going to be how the Pittsburgh Steelers fare against the Denver Broncos’ defense on possession downs. The Steelers have had one of the best third-down offenses in the league, especially during their winning streak, but are coming off a rough game in that regard.
On the flip side is the Broncos defense, who were one of the best units on third down until recent weeks, and they had an especially bad game last week, allowing the Los Angeles Chargers a 60 percent conversion rate on 15 opportunities, even though they won.
Also worth noting is the fact that they have been nearly 10 percent better on third down at home than on the road. They had the second-best third-down defense in the NFL in 2017 as well, so their recent struggles have muddied how good they can actually be.
Both sides come into this game knowing that they were fortunate to come out with a victory despite not putting their best foot forward in one of the most critical areas of the game, on the plays that literally decide whether or not a drive is going to continue.
The Steelers even failed to convert a third down on a quarterback sneak last Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, so difficult a time they had. Ben Roethlisberger misfired on the team’s second attempt on third down, and then on a third-and-11, Jalen Ramsey got in front of Antonio Brown to break up a pass.
They would got one for six on third down in the first half and add another three failures on top of that, ultimately one for nine, leading up to their final two drives. Fortunately, they would only need to convert once on each, the first being third and one and the second a long third and 10, but they succeeded both times, when it mattered the most.
For the Broncos, their third-down defense was just good enough to get the job done. Following a touchdown with 20 minutes left to play, they only allowed the Chargers to convert once on five opportunities, limiting them to just a field goal in that time.
The culmination was a big stop on third and seven from near midfield at the two-minute mark in a game the Chargers were leading by two points at the time. Philip Rivers looked to his right for Keenan Allen but could not connect, forcing them to punt rather than add to their lead, and the Broncos would go on to kick the game-winning field goal as time expired, claiming the one-point victory.