NFL Standings Ordered by Total Defense: Steelers are shockingly low entering Week 8

Steelers are low in 'total' defense, but here's why this stat can be misleading.

Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers
Pittsburgh Steelers, Steelers / Harry How/GettyImages

In the modern NFL era, there are countless stats and advanced analytics that can be used to measure how well a team is performing compared to their peers. While stats like EPA and DVOA are the next step in data collection and analysis, raw numbers (that have been around for decades) aren't going anywhere.

NFL analysts still use numbers like total offense and total defense to assess just how well a team is performing compared to the rest of the league. These titles are a bit misleading, as 'total' actually represents yards gained and/or yards allowed.

In this case, we will be looking at the total defenses (opponents' yards allowed per game) of every NFL team. Surprisingly, the Pittsburgh Steelers rank near the bottom of the list as we get set to enter Week 8 of the 2023 NFL season.

NFL Standings: Opponent Yards per Game entering Week 8

1. Cleveland 243.0
2. Baltimore 271.7
3. Atlanta 285.4
4. New Orleans 285.7
5. Dallas 288.7
6. Philadelphia 290.3
7. Kansas City 294.6
8. San Francisco 302.9
9. New England 311.3
10. Las Vegas 316.4
11. Detroit 316.9
12. Seattle 322.2
13. LA Rams 326.0
14. Buffalo 329.6
15. Minnesota 330.3
16. Green Bay 338.0
17. Tennessee 339.0
18. Chicago 339.4
19. Carolina 342.2
20. Tampa Bay 342.5
21. Miami 345.3
22. Indianapolis 351.3
23. NY Giants 351.4
24. NY Jets 351.8
25. Houston 354.0
26. Jacksonville 354.4
27. Cincinnati 355.8
28. Arizona 368.3
29. Washington 374.1
30. Pittsburgh 383.5
31. LA Chargers 406.8
32. Denver 424.7

Let me start by saying that I don't always think this is the best metric to use when trying to assess how good or bad an NFL defense might be. There are a lot of factors that go into these numbers that are not taken into account here, such as the strength of schedule and time of possession.

The Cleveland Browns are currently the best in the league in this department by a pretty wide margin -- surrendering just 243.0 yards per game to their opponents entering Week 8. They are followed by fellow AFC North rivals, the Baltimore Ravens (271.7 yards allowed per game).

Shockingly, the Pittsburgh Steelers come in near the bottom of the league at 30th in yards allowed. Mike Tomlin's defense is giving up a whopping 383.5 yards per contest -- more than 100 yards between the top teams in the league. This is where the numbers can be a bit misleading.

There aren't 29 defenses in the NFL better than Pittsburgh's right now. While they still have a few glaring holes on the defensive side of the ball, much of this yardage allowed can be attributed to having an awful offense that cannot sustain drives.

The Steelers are currently 31st in time of possession per game. They control the football for just 27:06 per contest (which is only a mere 5 seconds more per game than the dead-last Denver Broncos). In comparison, teams at the top of the league like the Eagles, Browns, and Lions each possess the ball for upwards of 33 minutes per game.


Losing the time of possession battle is almost always going to result in inflated yards allowed per game. When it comes to defensive EPA per play (Expected Points Added), the Steelers are actually the 8th-best in the league.

Take this statistic with a grain of salt, as we do have more predictive ways of measuring defensive success in the NFL. Either way, it's a bit surprising to see a T.J. Watt-led Pittsburgh Steelers defense ranked 30th in opponent yards per game. Their 'total defense' is better than the numbers suggest.

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