A reader emailed me to ask about the first down woes thus far this season for the Pittsburgh Steelers on defense, so I thought I would compile the results league wide and have a look at it.
First let\’s look at the Steelers in the regular season on first down over the course of the last several years as a comparison starting point.
2011 – 200 rushing plays (3.98 average yards per rush), 201 passing plays (4.38 average yards per passing play)
2010 – 173 rushing plays (2.52 average yards per rush), 247 passing plays (5.17 average yards per passing play)
2009 – 191 rushing plays (3.71 average yards per rush), 223 passing plays (6.16 average yards per passing play)
2008 – 186 rushing plays (2.97 average yards per rush), 219 passing plays (4.66 average yards per passing play)
2007- 183 rushing plays (3.57 average yards per rush), 202 passing plays (6.38 average yards per passing play)
As you can see, the Steelers are way off the mark on their first down run average, but the 64 yard run by Darren McFadden this past Sunday in the loss to the Oakland Raiders was a first down play and it severely skews these early season stats. Unfortunately you can not remove that play from the stats, but if you did, the defense is allowing a 3.85 yards per carry on first downs. That is still a bit higher than what you want, but it is more respectable. The pass average is high too and that is one thing that certainly needs to be improved moving forward.
While the first down stats at first glance are a bit disturbing, there is still not enough data to form a conclusion that this is where the defense is failing considerably. Through the first three games the defense has failed to get off of the field in crucial third down situations and that is the main reason as to why the team is 1-2 right now. So while these stats are certainly out of line compared to previous regular seasons, it is not a factor so far as to why the team has two losses as the reader would suggest, outside of course of the long TD run by McFadden. The defense has faced two more than capable quarterbacks thus far in Peyton Manning and Carson Palmer and their failure to get pressure and stops on third down is where the breakdowns have been, especuially in the second halves of those two games. We will address that in a future post.
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