The biggest statement that Mike Tomlin made during his Tuesday press conference about the Denver Broncos was their ability to get off of the field on 3rd downs. Tomlin said, “Their third down defense is really awesome and really that’s a part of playing good defense as they spend quite a bit of time on the sideline because they do a nice job of getting themselves off the field on third down.” When you look at the stats, you see how key it has been for them thus far.
Going into the week 8 game versus Baltimore, the Broncos defense had only allowed the opposition to convert 21 of 78 3rd down opportunities. This equated to an amazing 26.9% opposing team success rate. To add to that, Denver had only allowed 94 first downs through 6 games. In the Baltimore game, the Ravens made half time adjustments that resulted in the Ravens going 11 for 18 on 3rd downs for the day for an amazing 61% success rate. The Ravens had great success in the short passing game and running Ray Rice to the left. Also 9 of Joe Flacco\’s 20 completed passes went to either a running back or tight end.
Offensively for the Steelers, 3rd down conversions have been their strong point. Heading into the Monday night game versus Denver, the Steelers are 35 for 81 on 3rd downs for a solid success rate of 43.2%. This ranks them 9th in the league in this category. They also have been effective in the red zone as well, scoring touchdowns 54.2% of the time and coming away with points 91.6% of the time.
Defensively for the Steelers, 3rd downs have been brutal this season as they have allowed a success rate of 43.3% on 97 opponent 3rd down opportunities. To stop Denver on 3rd down, the Steelers merely need to look at last week\’s game between Denver and Baltimore, as the Ravens defense held the Broncos to 3 for 13 on third downs.
In closing, you can see how both teams have thrived on opposite sides of the 3rd down stat. The Steelers have thrived on converting them on offense, while the Broncos have lived on the defensive side of the stat. For the Steelers to win Monday night, they must continue their offensive success on 3rd downs while at the same time getting the defense off the field at a higher percentage rate.