One of the things that the Pittsburgh Steelers defense has done a good job of over the course of the team’s three-game winning streak has been putting a cap on the top of the defense. During that span, they have only allowed eight plays through the air of 20 yards or more, an average of fewer than three per game, though two have resulted in touchdowns.
That is tied for the third-fewest explosive plays allowed through the air over the course of the past four weeks along with the Dallas Cowboys, the fewest allowed being by the New Orleans Saints, who have only given up six in their past three games. The other team is the Arizona Cardinals.
What’s interesting is that they are not only giving up few explosive plays, they are also keeping them pretty contained. Outside of a 43-yard touchdown back in Week Five early in the second quarter, the defense hasn’t allowed a play through the air of longer than 24 yards.
And it has to be noted that two of those plays—both of their 24-yard passing plays—came on Sunday in garbage time against the Cleveland Browns with fewer than two minutes to play while their opponents were trailing by 21 points. The second came with 13 seconds remaining, a garbage touchdowns to make it 33-18.
Last season, the Steelers were the third-worst defense in the league in terms of giving up big passing plays of 40 yards or more, allowing 13 such completions, all of which happened in their final 10 games. Only two teams allowed more, those being the Kansas City Chiefs with 14 and the Houston Texans with 17.
This season, they have allowed four passing plays of 40 yards or more, and only seven teams have allowed fewer. Interestingly, their upcoming opponent, the Baltimore Ravens, is the only team that has not allowed any such receptions this season.
Over the course of the past four weeks, 22 teams have allowed at least two receptions of 40 or more yards, the Steelers being one of five that have only allowed one. Another five have not allowed any over that span.
They are hoping to keep that going against the Ravens, who have four passing plays of 40 yards or more on offense this year. They had a 71-yard pass against the Steelers back in Week Four, but have only had one since then.
The Steelers have been one of the best offenses in the league in producing such plays, recording seven so far on the season, averaging one per game. The only teams with more are the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Green Bay Packers with 10, and the Chiefs and Denver Broncos with nine.