Steelers team stats: way too soon evaluation and week 3 outlook


We’re two games in! Two games! What am I, crazy? What could you possibly glean from 12.5% of a season? Well, I’ll tell you. And I’ll also concede that you’re right. I’m really jumping the gun. But I have to write something, and wondering futily if Ryan Shazier is too injury prone to ever reach his full promise just seemed kind of a depressing topic after such a great week for the Steelers. So let’s look at the stats.

Well at a glance the broad news is that the Steelers are roughly the same team they were last year. Their offense is good and their defense is bad. The difference has gotten even more extreme though. Their offense is even better, despite missing some significant players. Their defense is even worse, despite having everyone up to this point.

Just in terms of yards it looks as follows, raw stats followed by rank:

Steelers Offense

2014: 411.1 ypg – 2

2015: 458.5 ypg – 1

More from Steelers News

Steelers Passing

2014: 301.6 ypg – 2

2015: 349.5 ypg – 2

Steelers Rushing

2014: 109.5 ypg – 16

2015: 109 ypg – 19

Steelers Defense

2014: 253.3 ypg – 18

2015: 385 ypg – 26

Steelers Pass Defense

2014: 253.1 ypg – 26

2015: 289.5 ypg – 27

Steelers Run Defense

2014: 100.3 ypg – 6

2015: 95.5 ypg – 12

So there’s some good things and some bad things in here. Later I’ll make the case that it’s overall good.

First, remember last year when the Steelers offense was great? Well they’re getting 50 yards per game more. That gain is pretty much all through the air but the ground game has maintained its position. Its even better than that indicates, because this is being accomplished without Le’Veon Bell, Maurkice Pouncey, or Martavis Bryant.

This is a pretty amazing feat and a lot of the credit has to go to Ben Roethlisberger. He’s having an MVP caliber season so far. And a tip of the cap to Todd Haley. Plus, Antonio Brown is having an amazing season and players like Darrius Heyward-Bey, Cody Wallace, and DeAngelo Williams are really stepping up. The offensive line looks tremendous. Kudos all around.

Tomlin always preaches the standard is the standard but you can’t take that for granted and the depth on offense has really filled in the blanks. When the previously mentioned absent players return, Bell coming this week, the Steelers offense is going to be basically unstoppable. They will dominate opponents.

And when they do return, it will just leave the Steelers that much deeper and confident in their depth and backups. So expect 4 wr sets to be more dangerous and a Ben Tate on a week’s practice situation to be avoided.

On the other hand, we have to talk about it guys. This defense. I know some cool stuff happened last week. But, if you look at the stats, Kaepernick threw for 335 yards and 2 touchdowns and completed over 70% of his passes. He got sacked a lot and fumbled a couple times but in situations where he could get the ball beyond the line of scrimmage he had really good game statistically.

Remember how bad the defense looked last year? Well they’re giving up 30 more yards per game thus far.

There’s some good and bad news here. The good news is the Steelers defense looked a lot better in the second game. So the trajectory is pointing upward. The bad news is that while the Steelers offense is adding players, the defense seems to be subtracting them. Daniel McCullers and Ryan Shazier are out and Cortez Allen is questionable.

Sep 20, 2015; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers inside linebacker Ryan Shazier (C) celebrates his sack against the San Francisco 49ers with defensive end Stephon Tuitt (91) and outside linebacker Jarvis Jones (95) during the second quarter at Heinz Field. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On Shazier the Washington Times reporter Dale Grdnic reported his partner in line…backing, Lawrence Timmons, as saying, “We have some capable guys, and it’s the next-man-up attitude here. We’ve got Vince Williams, and we’ve got Spence. More than capable guys. He’s a special athlete, a lot of speed out there, a lot of energy. He’s going to be missed, that’s for sure. But we have capable guys come in and do the job and hold on until he gets back and gets healthy. But I just hope that he comes back fast, because we need him. He’s one of our best players right now, and we need him.”

Shazier has been the breakout star of the defense and his absence, particularly in light of the injury troubles he’s had throughout his young career, is a little worrisome. Luckily he has very capable backups in the two headed, lightning and thunder duo of Sean Spence and Vince Williams. But still, the point remains.

The reason this is such a blow, though from all reports a very temporary one, is actually the good news. The Steelers defense does seem to have reached bottom. There is reason to believe things can improve. The continued shuffling in the secondary, the athleticism of the linebackers, and the power and new found pass rushing abilities of the defensive line are all reasons for optimism.

That’s the thing about young players in the secondary and on the defense, ff they’re young and new and playing poorly it could get better. If they’re old veterans and playing poorly, it’s really only going to get worse. You can gain experience, comfort, skill, but not youth, speed, or quickness.

Let’s end on some good news, just because last week was such a great game. Here’s another insight from the first two games.

The Steelers played two good teams in their first two games with a lot to offer. They won one of the games, they lost another. Here’s something I took from those two experiences. There is one type of team that can beat the Steelers, and that’s a team that can pass very well.

The Steelers offense is so good and so dominant that it cannot be stopped. The 49ers have a good defense, the Patriots aren’t awful either. But even a handicapped Steelers team, missing three of their best players, moved the ball at will.

The rush defense, middle of the road as it is, is good enough that you can’t keep up if you’re a good running team like the 49ers. The Steelers one glaring weakness is that secondary. So you can expect every Steelers game to be a shootout or a lopsided victory. I’d be very surprised if the Steelers score less than 20 points in any game.

So all you can do is keep up and hope that when the clock runs out you scored the last touchdown. And the only way you can hope to keep up is with a dominant passing attack.

What that means for the Steelers is they have a very good chance of winning the majority of their games if they play up to their potential. It looks like the Pats game is where they left a lot of their mistakes behind. It also means that if the Steelers can shuffle around their secondary and find even a mediocre lineup or plan of attack, then they will be unstoppable.

They have Bell back, soon Bryant, if they’re in the playoff picture by the time Pouncey returns (it might actually be the playoffs by then) then it’s more than reasonable to think it will increasingly be the case that if a team punts the ball or turns it over or settles for a field goal just a handful of times, the game will already be out of reach.

We’ll test that theory on Sunday. A lot has been said of the Rams defensive line, their whole defense is pretty solid. But what I’m positing is that it doesn’t matter. Their pass offense is ranked 23rd and according to my theory that’s all you need to know. If a team’s passing offense is in the bottom half of the league they don’t stand a chance. Let’s see on Sunday.

Next: Steelers week 3: what to watch

More from Still Curtain