By The Numbers is back sooner than expected thanks to a Thursday Night matchup between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Carolina Panthers. Both teams are red hot as the Steelers have won four in a row and the Panthers, three in a row. One of the more competitive Thursday Night Football matchups in recent memory, tonight’s game should be a treat for all viewing fans. Here are all the numbers you will need to know before tonight’s big game.
3rd – Panthers quarterback Cam Newton is enjoying a marvellous year in which he thrown 15 touchdowns to just four interceptions and is carrying a passer rating of 100.8. If there is on area in which the quarterback has found struggles, it is on third down. Newton is completing just 56.9% of his passes on third down along with throwing two interceptions. The key for the Steelers will be getting Newton in third and long situations as on third and 10, Newton has completed just 4/12 passes. On third and 7-9, the Panthers’ quarterback has completed just 7/12 passes along with one interception.
60 – Led by offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner, the Steelers’ third down offense has improved greatly from the first half of the season. After ranking near the league’s bottom through the first four games of the season, the offense now ranks fifth in the NFL, converting 46.2% of their third down attempts. The turnaround has been due to the effective third down play calling over the last four games. The Steelers have converted a whopping 60% of their third down attempts over the last four games and it is no surprise that all four of these games have resulted in victories. Now on a short week, the Steelers will look to continue their good fortune against the Panthers’ defense.
80 – One area that the Panthers have struggled in is their red zone defense. So far this season, the Panthers have allowed 16/20 of their opponent’s red zone attempts to be converted into touchdowns. Allowing touchdowns on 80% of their opponent’s red zone trips has the Panthers’ red zone defense ranked 31st in the NFL. This should be blood in the water to the Steelers’ red zone offense, which has feasted in the red zone this year. The Steelers’ offense has converted 75-percent of their red zone attempts into touchdowns, good for second best in the NFL.
108 – Steelers running back James Conner has been a workhorse back for the team this season as he has rattled off four consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. More concerning though is that Conner has totalled 108 touches over the last four games, averaging 27 touches per game. This stat may be concerning considering that Conner’s high mileage is matching up with the Steelers’ short week. Could Jaylen Samuels see more of the field considering the short week of preparation? It is certainly possible.
102.7 – Fichtner alluded to the fact that the Steelers could see more use of the no huddle offense tonight against the Panthers and based off the splits of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, the no huddle offense looks to be an effective one. So far this season, Roethlisberger has a 102.7 passer rating when he elects to go no huddle. The quarterback has also completed 67.1% of his passes along with four touchdowns to just one interception and 26 of his 47 completions have gone for first down when the Steelers’ go to their hurry up offense.