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Steelers Defensive Woes Against The Patriots Can Be Traced Back To First Downs


In the Pittsburgh Steelers 55-31 loss Sunday to the New England Patriots, the defensive woes can generally be traced back to their poor play on first down.

The Patriots offense ran 38 plays on first down for a 10.71 average per play and 15 of those plays produced 10 first downs and five touchdowns.

Per the norm, the Steelers use their base defense on first downs outside of two minutes to go in a half and they paid dearly for it. In case you are curious, on 28 of those 38 first down plays, the Steelers had their base defense on the field and on one other they used their goal-line personnel.

In total, the Steelers defense allowed 407 yards of offense and the five touchdowns on first downs during the game and Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was 13-of-20 passing on that down for 304 yards with three touchdowns.

If that wasn’t bad enough, the Steelers also had two defensive pass interference calls against them on first downs which are not counted in the 38 plays above. That gave the Patriots another 33 free yards.

For the season, the Steelers defense has no allowed an average gain of 6.39 yards on first down and that ranks them 28th in the league. They have allowed an average rushing gain on first down of 5.33 yards which is good for 30th in the league and 7.48 average yards per passing play, which is good for 22nd in the league. The defense has also only registered two sacks all season on first downs.

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About Dave Bryan

I am, I'm me. 40 something, retired and a life long Steelers fan.
  • r4kolb

    This is what you have when you constantly play your corners 10+ yards off a receiver every game on first downs. You think Brady and Belicheat didn’t see that on film. That’s been the recipe to beat us since Gannon and the Raiders lit us up in the game when they ran the ball like 5x the whole game. I’d be interested in the D they run percentage wise on first downs and if in fact that D requires the corners to play off.

  • bonairsfavoriteson

    Quit nit picking Dave, don’t you know we have the number 1 defense.?

  • SG

    I remember a few years back when they couldn’t get off the field on 3rd downs. I guess they decided, “screw it, just let them get it over with.”

  • Shea Fahr

    The loss of Foote cannot be understated. He was a tackling machine. It would be sweet if Spence could be healthy enough to start taking some reps with Williams out now with a concussion.

  • dgh57

    This pretty much explains the it all! It’s well know the Patriots like to throw the ball and we use our base defense more than we should have?!! One would think that after awhile we could figure out that Brady was going to throw on 1st down when we were in our base defense! Every time he came to the LOS and saw us in our base defense he probably audibled to a pass play, and especially when he saw it was working! What’s even worse is as the game went along we couldn’t learn from and adjust to what they were doing!

    As stated above: Per the norm, the Steelers use their base defense on 1st downs outside of 2 minutes. Our problem is we’re to predictable!!!!

  • cencalsteeler

    I thought the series early in the game where it was 2 and 25 was the momentum killer. They went from 2 and 25 to 3 and 14 to first down. That was a confidence booster for the Pats and the heads starting hanging on the Steelers D.

  • Shea Fahr

    We could not “adjust to what they were doing”…you hit it right on.

  • mem359

    This frustrated me, too.
    In theory, 3 and 14 should be a longer developing play, which gives the d-line a chance at getting to the quarterback. But Gronkowski ran straight ahead, unhindered, and Brady had an easy pass for the 1st down. I’m curious how long it took for that play, it seemed fast.

  • Chris Wilkes

    I was annoyed at seeing the base defense as much as it was out there too. But, we didn’t do a great job at stopping the run either, so not sure it would have made a huge difference. I do think Cortez should have been in the game early covering Groonkowski tho.

  • dgh57

    Yeah, you’re right in the sense that not much was working for us on defense that night. It was understandable back in the Vikings game when we used the base defense a lot to try and stop the running game with A. Peterson in there and that ended up not working for us. So game planning against Brady’s passing attack with sub package defenses probably wouldn’t of worked out for us either in that that’s just how our season has gone so far. I agree that Cortez should of been used more vs Gronk because if I remember right that’s who we used last time when we played them in 2011 and it worked very good and it’s a mystery to me as to why we didn’t play them the same way this time.

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