Stat Pack: Five Numbers To Know For Week 10

With eight games in the books for the Pittsburgh Steelers, there is an ideal sample size to measure the team. As they prepare to face the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, both teams will look for a much-needed victory to turn their underwhelming season around. That is, despite coming into the season with talented rosters and high hopes, the Steelers are 2-6 and the Saints are 3-6. Teams that are desperate for a win sometimes play the hardest, especially with Mike Tomlin as head coach. Sunday’s matchup will see both teams put everything they’ve got on the field. As Tomlin stated, this is by all means a ‘put up or shut up game’. As such, here are five numbers to look for in Sunday’s game.

1. To this point in the season, the Steelers have had the hardest schedule in the NFL according to Pro Football Focus. In the remainder of the season, they have the 25th hardest schedule, which will start with the 3-6 Saints on Sunday. Given that the team has faced the likes of the Buffalo Bills, Miami Dolphins, and the undefeated Philadelphia Eagles, this is all but shocking. An easier strength of schedule moving forward gives the Steelers an opportunity to turn the season around as well as rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett to rack a few much-needed wins against easier competition.

2.5. Saints’ starting quarterback Andy Dalton, who the Steelers saw plenty of in his time with AFC North rival Cincinnati Bengals, is quietly among the best quick passers in the NFL. According to Pro Football Focus’ premium stats, Dalton is the second highest-graded passer on throws made under 2.5 seconds after the snap, only trailing Miami Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa. On those throws, Dalton has a 86.6 passing grade, throwing for 9 TD’s, 3 INT’s, a 75.7% completion rate, and a 116.6 passer rating. Dalton does not make these throws at an extraordinarily high rate, as he ranks 12th in percentage of drop backs with throws under 2.5 seconds after the snap. When he does, however, the results are more than worth it. For more context, Dalton’s passing grade on throws over 2.5 seconds after the snap decreases to 72.1, as he has 1 TD, 2 INT’s, and a bottom five 66.1 passer rating on said throws. Needless to say, the Steelers must take away his first read early and often.

11.4. The Steelers and Saints rank atop the league at a very undesirable statistic. That is, the Steelers lead the league in percentage of drives ending with an interception at 11.4%, while the Saints and Buffalo Bills are right behind them at 9.8%. The common denominator between these two teams is their playing of two different quarterbacks, as the Saints have shuffled Jameis Winston and Dalton while the Steelers have played Mitch Trubisky and Pickett. On Sunday, is may be reasonable to expect a few interceptions from both sides. However, the Steelers defense is tied for fourth in the league with 8 interceptions while the Saints rank second-to-last with only two on the year. While it is plausible for Pickett to throw an interception, this may also wind up being his first full game without one.

5.5. Another week, another stat to showcase the poor play by the Steelers offense. The Steelers have 5.5 yards per pass, which is tied with the Arizona Cardinals for last in the NFL. Assuming this number stays the same it is tied for the 8th worst among all offenses since 2010. Due to the Steelers’ lack of a running game, Pickett throws short passes between 0-9 yards from the line of scrimmage 52.7% of the time, which ranks second highest in the NFL. After a bye week where this team is presumably searching for solutions for the offense, look for Pickett’s depth of target to be a potential point of focus.

107.5. The Saints’ primary slot receiver is Tre’Quan Smith, who has outperformed Jarvis Landry, as Saints’ quarterbacks have a 107.5 passer rating when targeting him according to PFF. Meanwhile, the Steelers’ have struggled at defending slot receivers, as the team’s starting slot corner in Arthur Maulet is allowing a 118.6 passer rating when targeted in the slot, which ranks 6th worst in the NFL. Look for the Saints to target the slot early and often on Sunday to exploit this mismatch.

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