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.