Category Archives: Statistics and Analysis

Steelers 2016 Third Quarter Report


via Blitzburgh

by Ivan Cole

33 seconds.

In their review of the Steelers victory over the New York Giants, Post-Gazette reporters Ed Bouchette and Gerry Dulac noted that the last 33 seconds of the Dallas game is the difference between the Steelers’ current circumstances and being 8-4 and considered in the driver’s seat for a league title.

Those 33 seconds also, less importantly, stand as the reason that Pittsburgh doesn’t have a spotless third quarter of their 2016 season. The point being made here is how seemingly small factors, rather than just the big ones, can turn a season for better or worse. Those 33 seconds, all other variables remaining constant, are the difference between anticipatory speculation concerning playoff seedings and January football and the current reality of the December Playoffs where any, and perhaps all contests carry the weight of elimination. Read more

On Second Thought: Ben’s “Rust” Issue, Part 1


John Froschauer/AP

As I write this I still haven’t watched Sunday’s game. I’m hoping I will be able to do so on my computer at home, once I get there. But from everything I’ve read so far it seems that Ben was pretty dreadful for most of the game.

Every since I’ve begun following the Steelers I’ve heard about Ben’s propensity to suck when coming back from an injury. The record would seem to support this, as the team is 2-6 when he does, and I suppose it’s possible those two games were only won by an amazing defensive effort or some such. So let’s take a look.

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Pittsburgh’s Goin’ To The Super Bowl?


AP photo

“For some context on the Steelers injuries in 2015, Pittsburgh placed 25 players on injured reserve from May 2015 through the Super Bowl. Only the Giants and Ravens had more. The Steelers recorded 124 instances where a player appeared on an injury report, which isn’t all that bad (24th league wide), but when the Steelers lost players, they lost Pro Bowlers (Maurkice Pouncey, Le’Veon Bell, etc).”

Thus reads a recent tweet by Jeremy Fowler of ESPN. (It refused to embed, or else I would have done so.)

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Rebuild vs. Reboot: Did the Steelers Do It the Hard Way?

AP photo/Mike McCarn

Part 1

Although it was stoutly denied by all parties who should know, in retrospect it seems pretty clear the Steelers went through a gradual rebuilding process that began around 2012 and may or may not be over, depending on how you look at it.

There are lots of different ways to do this, naturally. A lot of people thought the Steelers should just clean house. Clear out the older players (presumably except for Ben), take the pain in a couple of massive doses, and voila, you’re back to the Super Bowl!

The Steelers owners and coaching staff aren’t big fans of losing games, and also don’t appear to be fans of wholesale purging of players. Instead they chose the gradual road. They managed to get through the process (or most of it—I think there is a reasonable argument that the defensive backfield is the last stage in the rebuild) without ever having a losing season.

During this time we have seen several example of teams who did it differently.  We will look at what they did and how successful it was, and eventually compare the various outcomes to how the Steelers went about their own process.

The first is the Carolina Panthers, who just went to the Super Bowl. In 2010 they were the worst team in the league.

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The New, Improved Extra Point Attempt—Did It Mess With Kicker’s Heads?


If you were paying attention at all in 2015 you know what I’m talking about. As NFL writer Kevin Patra reported last May:

The NFL has been tinkering with the PAT in hopes of making it a more difficult and therefore entertaining play for spectators. The latest change might be just the first step of further adjustments in years to come.

It appears to have worked extremely well.

I confess I was pretty skeptical when they announced the change. After all, this took it from a 19-yard kick to a 32-yard kick, a distance that equates to a high degree of accuracy among NFL kickers. No biggie, right?

Well, it appears it is a biggie, because a large number of extra points were missed in the 2015 season, something that hadn’t been seen for years. But furthermore, kicker accuracy overall was down, and at least a few kickers were attributing this to the mental stress of the longer PAT.

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How Close Did the Steelers Come to a Championship, Part 2b: More on the Offense

AB goal post

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

In Part 1 I speculated upon the quarterback position for the Panthers, the Broncos and the Steelers. In Part 2a I looked at several games between two of the three teams to see how their offense fared against common opponents. In this post I will compare the one opponent all three teams played in 2015—the Indianapolis Colts.

The Colts are not the ideal team for such a comparison. After playing quite poorly for weeks, being out with an injury, and eventually being pulled and IR’d, quarterback Andrew Luck was primarily replaced by the rather veteran Matt Hasselbeck, although he too was injured at the end of the season.

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How Close Did the Steelers Come to a Championship, Part 2a: Total Offense

Pass interference or just a friendly shove? You decide...

Pass interference or just a friendly shove? You decide…

Since I began this series, former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher gave some validity to the exercise. In today’s Tribune-Review Cowher had this to say:

You have to be careful not to tinker too much some times. Sometimes it is a play here and a play there that doesn’t allow you to move forward. You sit there and go back and overanalyze and make changes that they don’t necessarily need to make. The biggest thing sometimes is to recognize where you are.

I think they are very close [to a championship.] Easily, you can sit there and say if their young running back doesn’t fumble in that game that they could’ve beaten the Denver Broncos. They were a team that nobody really wanted to play. They have a great window of time with a young nucleus. Their quarterback still has many good years ahead of [him.]

Cowher, according to writer Mark Kaboly, warned against tinkering too much, although he said the secondary needed some attention. But it seems clear Cowher thought this year’s Steelers could have very well been the AFC team in this year’s Super Bowl. So with Cowher’s blessing, whether he meant to give it or not, I’m going to continue with my speculations.

In Part 1 I addressed the quarterback position. Not surprisingly, the conclusion was the Steelers were certainly qualified to compete with the Panthers at the quarterback position, based upon how Roethlisberger had played this season. However, you can’t really take these things in a vacuum, so today I’m going to look at how the three offenses under consideration managed against other defenses.

Part of the issue is the relationship between quarterback and receivers (and for that matter, who they had), part is how much of a threat of a running game they had, and part is how proficient the opposing defense was in dealing with that type of offense. Although it is pretty much impossible to say what would happen in any given game, even with powerful computer simulations, there are some things we can look at.

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