Where did Steelers rank in major statistical categories in 2021?

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Mandatory Credit: Jeffrey Becker-USA TODAY Sports /

The Pittsburgh Steelers earned a playoff berth, but here’s why they didn’t quite have the statistical success we would have hoped for in 2021. 

It’s hard to be upset with a team that made the playoffs this season. Despite some lackluster performances, the Pittsburgh Steelers finished with a record of 9-7-1 in Ben Roethlisberger’s final season.

While the focus is solely on the post-season (as it should be), I decided to take a look back on where Mike Tomlin’s team ranked both offensively and defensively in several key areas. Let’s just say, we hope they perform better in the playoffs than where they ultimately ranked this year.

Here’s a look at their team stats, according to Team Rankings:

The offensive side of the ball was an absolute mess this year. In the NFL’s very first 17-game schedule, Pittsburgh finished in the bottom half of the league in nearly every major offensive category this year. Their yards per play were abysmal as they ranked in the bottom four in both passing yards per attempt and rushing yards per attempt.

Defensively, things were a bit better, but this was a far cry from some of Keith Butler’s units we have seen in previous years. The Steelers are typically one of the best run-defending teams in the NFL. However, in 2021, they ranked dead last in both rushing yards per attempt allowed and rushing yards allowed per game.

Fortunately, this team was able to tighten the clamps when opposing offenses got in the red zone and they finished 5th in the NFL in red zone touchdown scoring percentage. The Steelers also had a respectable pass defense this year despite not being able to create as many takeaways as they typically do. They ranked 13th in passing yards per attempt allowed.

Steelers don’t look like a playoff team on paper

On paper, the Pittsburgh Steelers look like anything but a playoff team. Nearly any metric you want to use — whether it’s the team stats above, advanced stats, or EPA — the numbers indicate that the Steelers are roughly the 23rd-best team in the NFL.

Considering that there are only 14 teams that make it into the playoffs, it’s safe to say that Tomlin’s team is fortunate to be here. While we have had plenty of reason to doubt them all year due to their poor offensive play and wildly inconsistent defense, now is the time for the Steelers to prove doubters wrong.

Recently, Ben Roethlisberger sarcastically joked with the media during a press conference, saying, “We don’t have a chance, so let’s just go in and have fun.” Judging by how harshly NFL analysts have been speaking about the Steelers, I can see why Ben made these comments.

Roethlisberger will be the first to admit that things didn’t exactly go as planned this season. But now that Pittsburgh is in the playoffs, it’s like every team has a clean slate, and winners keep playing.

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If the Steelers are able to go on a four-game winning streak, they will be the new Super Bowl champions. However, they’ve certainly got their work cut out for them this week against the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. Let’s hope we see a new, energized Steelers team in the playoffs.