The Pittsburgh Steelers broke a 23-game streak last week of failing to score an offensive touchdown of their opening drive, but that doesn’t mean they have always gotten off to slow starts. In fact, they have had healthy leads early in the game lately, even bringing 24-7 margins into halftime in the past two games.
Things broke differently in each game, however. Two Sundays ago against the Cleveland Browns, they kept pouring it on, adding two more touchdowns and winning 38-7. This past Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, they were outscored 17-3 in the second half and barely won 27-24.
The Steelers only have three victories so far decided by more than a single possession, and two of those victories were within 10 points, with the Browns game accounting for the only game that could even come close to being called a blowout.
It’s not that the offense hasn’t been scoring, but they have done through stretches of ineffectiveness in the middle of games. They still rank fairly high around the NFL in terms of the percentage of their drives that end in three-and-outs. They rank ninth in average drive time, but 17th in plays per drive and 25th in yards per drive, which is a pretty interesting discrepancy, though they have had some short fields to work with (they have the second-best average starting field position).
“At times, we start off fast, and then we start to slow down and whatnot, but as the game goes on, we start to pick up right back where we left off at”, Diontae Johnson said earlier in the week. “Stuff like that is gonna happen. We just have to keep our foot on the gas, not let up, play one speed, put up points. We’ve just got to keep applying pressure. I feel like there’s more left in the tank, and we’re gonna show that Sunday”.
Johnson just returned from injury against the Titans and picked up 80 yards, recording career-highs with nine receptions on 15 targets for two receiving touchdowns. His ability to keep moving the chains proved important in Tennessee, and will likely continue to be vital facing the Baltimore Ravens this time around.
Baltimore just so happens to be the one team with a better average starting field position this year, interestingly enough, but their overall offensive efficiency numbers are not stellar. They rank 20th in average drive time, 31st in average number of plays, and 26th in average number of plays (though, again, the better your starting field position, the fewer plays you’re likely to run for fewer yards).
They do rank 18th in points per drive, but the Steelers rank 10th, so they have been more efficient in that front. The Steelers’ defense ranks seventh in points allowed per drive, but Baltimore ranks first, so this will not be easy sledding for either side.