Stats Of The Weird: Steelers Vs Bengals

The NFL season is back. And so are our weekly Pittsburgh Steelers’ stats of the weird. Gotta be honest though – it’ll be tough to top everything that happened in Cincinnati yesterday. But I’ll do my best. It’s an extra jam-packed episode of weird.

– Believe it or not, this is now the fourth Week One overtime game the Steelers have had under Mike Tomlin. They’re now 3-0-1 in those games. Their last one came in 2018, an ugly tie against the Cleveland Browns, with their last victory coming in 2010 against the Atlanta Falcons. Another game where the Steelers did not start Ben Roethlisberger. The other victory came in 2009 against the Tennessee Titans.

Pittsburgh’s only ever played one other Week one OT game prior to Tomlin. That came in 1979, a win over the New England Patriots.

– Thanks to overtime, the Cincinnati Bengals ran an incredible 94 plays Sunday afternoon. Comparatively, the Steelers ran just 61.

The last time the Steelers allowed the opposing offense to run 90+ plays? 2001. against yup…the Cincinnati Bengals. Another overtime game though Cincinnati won that one, 26-23.

It’s only the fourth time in Steelers’ history an opponent ran 90+ plays against them. The others were the Buffalo Bills’ and their K-Gun offense in 1994 and the New England Patriots in 1989. That 2001 game against the Bengals still holds the record for most plays run against Pittsburgh with a whopping 99. But the 94 Sunday is tied with that Pats game for second most.

– The Bengals had 32 first downs Sunday compared to the Steelers’ 13. It’s the first time in Pittsburgh’s history they had fewer than 15 first downs, allowed more than 30, and still won the game.

It’s only the 14th such example in NFL history and the first since the Los Angeles Chargers lost to the Miami Dolphins in 2020. It’s only the third instance since 2003.

– Here’s another crazy one. The Bengals possessed the ball for 43:43 Sunday. That is the longest a team has ever possessed the ball against the Steelers. It surpasses the previous high set in 1983…*also* by the Cincinnati Bengals. They held the ball for 42:08 that day and won that game, 23-10. But Week One set the record against Pittsburgh and it comes in a loss.

In NFL history, teams are now 93-11-4 when possessing the ball 42+ minutes in a game. The last 24 teams are 23-0-1 with that TOP outcome. The last team to have the ball for 42+ minutes and lose? The 2009 Pittsburgh Steelers, who fell 27-24 in overtime to the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers held the ball for 44:07 that day.

Some wild circular stats between the Steelers and Bengals.

– Pittsburgh’s defense forced five turnovers for the first time since 2019, Minkah Fitzpatrick’s first game with the team. Fitzpatrick had an INT in that game and a pick-six yesterday. Like the Bengals’ game, the Steelers recorded an INT on the opponent’s first drive of the game, too, T.J. Watt picking off a pass (though no TD) on the 49ers’ first drive.

It marks just the second time since 2011 the Steelers forced five turnovers in a single game. The last time also happened in Week One occurred in 2007, a 34-7 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

– Pittsburgh picked off four passes Sunday. It took them until Week 11 last year to intercept four total passes.

– It’s only the third time since 1998 they picked off four passes in one game. But they’ve done it three times over over the last six seasons, 2017, 2020, and now 2022.

– Chase Claypool was the Steelers’ leading rusher with 36 yards. Joe Burrow ran for 47 himself.

– Pat Freiermuth had 60 catches last year. His longest reception went for 24 yards. Sunday alone, he had receptions of 26 and 31 yards. He’ll be a bigger downfield threat this season.

– Zach Gentry had a 32-yard reception on a TE screen yesterday, making it the longest reception he’s had since November 17th, 2018, when he had 41 and 42 yard grabs in a win over Indiana while in his final season at Michigan.

– Pro Football Reference’s Play Index can be a bit untrustworthy when it comes to sorting by position, but according to its tracker, Chase Claypool is the first Steelers’ WR to ever carry the ball six times in one game. Receiver run-game strong in Pittsburgh to start the year.

– Seven’s wild Sunday. Pittsburgh’s defense sacked Joe Burrow seven times. That makes a whopping seven straight seasons in which the Steelers have had a game in which they’ve sacked the opponent 7+ times. The last three instances have come against the AFC North, doing it against each rival – the Ravens and Browns last year and now the Bengals this year. Eight of the last ten instances of having 7+ sacks in a game have come against the AFC North. Most against Cleveland but still, pretty wild.

Update: (I made a small error – it’s eight years in a row the Steelers have had 7+ sacks!)

Since 2016, no other defense has more than four games with 7+ sacks (Bills, Cardinals, and Jaguars). The Steelers have done it a total of ten times. Pittsburgh’s done it in Week One alone three times, 2017 and 2018 against the Browns and yesterday against Burrow’s Bengals.

– Minkah Fitzpatrick now has three pick-sixes as a Steeler. That’s tied for fifth most in team history and matches what Carnell Lake and Troy Polamalu did in his career. Mel Blount only had two. He now only trails William Gay, Rod Woodson, Jack Butler, and Chad Scott on the team’s all-time list.

25% of Fitzpatrick’s INTs have been run back for TDs. And that doesn’t include one he had in Miami.

– Pittsburgh had a pick-six in their opener for just the third time since at least 1950. The last came by Joey Porter against the Miami Dolphins in 2006. Johnny Sample had the first versus the Dallas Texans in 1961. But Fitzpatrick is the first to do it to open a game.

He’s the first NFL player to begin a Week One game with a pick-six since Jets’ LB C.J. Mosley kicked things off in 2019 with a 17-yard pick-six off Bills’ QB Josh Allen.

– Fitzpatrick also had 14 total tackles yesterday, tying the career-high he set last year. Both of those outings have come in wins.

– Akhello Witherspoon’s eight tackles are a new high, college or pro.

– Alex Highsmith had three sacks yesterday. He had three sacks until Week 16 last year.

He’s now just the third Steeler to have three sacks in a Week One game, joining T.J. Watt (2018) and James Harrison (2008). Not bad company to be in.

– Miles Boykin and Benny Snell combined for four total solo special teams tackles yesterday. That’s impressive.

– Final one. The Steelers have now won ten openers under Mike Tomlin. The Steelers made the playoffs in eight of the previous nine instances. 2009 was the only exception of a year in which Pittsburgh won their opener and didn’t make the playoffs. So historically speaking, the Steelers will return to the playoffs this season.

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