Coming into Monday night’s game against the Miami Dolphins, the Pittsburgh Steelers had converted just 23/66 third down attempts on the season, good for 22nd in the NFL. The offense’s inability to keep drives going when having their backs against the wall has been one of many glaring issues this season but for the second week in a row, the team took a step in the right direction.
The Steelers converted nearly 50-percent of their third down attempts on Monday (6/13) and this played an instrumental part in being able to overcome a 14-point Dolphins’ lead. Over the last two games, the Steelers are a combined 14/26 on third downs and it should come as no surprise that they escaped both games with a victory.
Over the last two games, the Steelers have been able to raise their third down conversion percentage by nearly 10-points as they have now own a 36.7 third down conversion percentage after sitting at 28.3-percent after week four.
The most impressive piece of significance when it comes to the Steelers’ improving third down play is their ability to find a way to convert third and long situations. Watching Ben Roethlisberger find a way to bail the team out of third and long situations has been a staple of the offense for years and it has been a missing piece since he was injured.
That is until last night.
Mason Rudolph converted four third and long (3rd and 8+ yards) attempts against the Dolphins, the most the Steelers have converted in any game this season.
Steelers Offense When Facing A 3rd and 8+ yards this season
Vs New England: 3/8
Vs Seattle: 1/6
Vs San Francisco: 0/2
Vs Cincinnati: 1/2
Vs Baltimore: 2/5
Vs Los Angeles: 1/4
Vs Miami: 4/6
The Steelers converted four third and long attempts against the Dolphins, exactly half of the total third and long conversions they had coming into last night’s matchup (8) and nearly matching their third and long total from their previous four defeats (6).
It goes without saying that you would rather not find yourself in a third and long situation but the good teams have to be able to find a way out of those situations. Rudolph did just that as he converted third down attempts of 20, 12, 11 and 8 yards on Monday night.
Each of those third and long conversions led to points on the board as well as the Steelers would add 17 points on drives that featured a third and long conversion. Perhaps no drive was more impressive than the touchdown drive that Rudolph led before halftime in which he completed a 17-yard pass to JuJu Smith-Schuster on third and 12 before eventually hitting Diontae Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown on third and 20.
Rudolph did what we have all become accustomed to seeing Roethlisberger do time and time again over the years. So many times over the years, Roethlisberger has done the impossible and helped the Steelers climb out of early deficits by converting a third and long. Rudolph had that exact same moment on Monday as for the first time in his NFL career, he not only helped his team climb out of an early deficit but he also secured a victory as well.
While the former third-round draft had just four games under his belt coming into Monday night’s contest, it certainly did not look like it when it mattered the most. That is going to be important for a Steelers team that is certainly facing some long odds when it comes to their playoff chances but hopefully Monday’s performance can foreshadow Rudolph’s ability to beat those odds – something that he did quite frequently on Monday night.