If there were ever an era of the NFL in which a team was able to build a true dynasty franchise with no weaknesses, that time has certainly expired in the age of the salary cap and unrestricted free agency. There are no ‘complete’ teams, even if some might not have one glaring, obvious weakness that is an Achilles’ heel.
But where do the Pittsburgh Steelers rank among the 14 teams who have qualified for the postseason this year? At 12-4 during the regular season, there were only a few teams who are in the tournament who finished with a better record, even without taking into consideration the fact that they rested started in the loss in the finale.
According to Pro Football Focus, the team does not fare well at all in this metric. In fact, they rank the Steelers 14th out of 14 in terms of completeness among the teams who will be participating in the postseason over the next several weeks. Ian Hartitz notes of the offense:
- The only part of the Steelers offense that we can kinda sorta compliment is the offensive line. Even then, it’s tricky. This is the league’s second-worst offense in yards before contact per carry, and the only reason they rank first in pressure rate allowed is because Ben Roethlisberger is one of just 10 QBs with an average target depth under 7.5 yards.
- No offense has been worse in EPA per run play than the Steelers. They somehow totaled just 32 rushes of 10-plus yards all season; nobody else finished with fewer than 34 such carries. None of the team’s RBs ranked inside the league’s top-40 players in yards after contact per carry among 128 players with at least 25 carries.
That doesn’t sound too great, nor surprising. Of course, we knew that the running game has not been good, although James Conner did have success with yardage after contact in the early portions of the season, so I’m a bit surprised he wasn’t in the top 40 there. As for the offensive line, we know that story as well, and Ben Roethlisberger’s quick release. On to the defensive observations:
- This defense has gotten after opposing QBs at a historic rate all season long. Both T.J. Watt (73) and Stephon Tuitt (71) are two of just four players with at least 70 pressures. Cameron Heyward (62) isn’t too far behind. The reality that they’ve accomplished this without Bud Dupree (knee, IR) and Devin Bush (knee, IR) for most of the second half of the season has been even more impressive.
- The Steelers rank 27th in missed tackle rate, but that’s likely more of a result of them being such an aggressive and blitz-happy unit. The larger cause for concern is their standing as the 22nd-ranked defense in yards after contact per carry. This defense didn’t allow an opposing offense to surpass 105 rushing yards in Weeks 1-7; there have been seven offenses to surpass 125 yards on the ground against the Steelers in 10 games since.
Like the offensive running game, the run defense has not been the same since the early portions of the season. Some of that has had to do with the availability of players—and Devin Bush is a very notable absence given that timeline—but they have to work with what they have, obviously.
And the Steelers will start out by playing one of the top rushing offenses in the league with Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt in the backfield, against whom they just played and against whose defense they managed to rush for 85 yards.