The Pittsburgh Steelers saw one streak come to an end back on Sunday for their defense, but still retained their NFL-best in a related category. Against the Lions, the defense gave up its first points on an opening drive all season, a field goal following a big 43-yard reception to kick off the drive.
Those were the first points the Steelers had allowed on an opening drive through the first half of the season. I’m not really sure how that compares to the rest of the league, but it goes without saying that it’s almost impossible to do better.
In fact, as I wrote about previously, the team has actually been outscoring their opponents on their own opening drives. They recovered a blocked punt for a touchdown on the Browns’ opening drive, and the Chiefs sent a botched snap through the back of the end zone on theirs, so they still have a 9-3 advantage, incredibly.
But it’s been a long, long time since the Steelers have allowed their opponent to score a touchdown on their opening drive. According to Dom Rinelli—who if you’ve been following us long enough you should know by now—it was their 25th consecutive game in which they prevented an opening-drive touchdown.
He Tweeted that that is also the longest consecutive streak in the NFL. 25 games, by the way, takes us all the way back to the 2015 season. They went through all of last year without giving up a touchdown on their opponents’ opening drives. The last opening drive touchdown came courtesy of…Ryan Mallett on a pass to Chris Matthews for the Baltimore Ravens in Week 16 of that year.
Say what you will, but when you do it for an entire year and then some, that’s impressive. Sure, there will inevitably be some luck involved, no doubt, but it’s still a notable accomplishment that is worthy of being recognized for what it is.
The first several plays of a game are the most scripted. Offensive coordinators typically prepare a set list of plays that they want to run that they expect will be successful based on their opponent and the individual matchups. Generally, they should have a relatively high degree of success.
Now, I’m not about to spit out numbers that I don’t know. I don’t know if there is a statistically higher probability of teams scoring touchdowns on their opening drives than on all other drives during a game, and I don’t know if anybody has compiled such numbers. So I can’t quantify what it means, exactly.
But it does at least indicate that the Steelers more often than not are able to come into games prepared, defensively, and when that fails, they at least are able to shore things up and button down as the field grows tighter closer to the goal line.
Considering the number of backups on their schedule for the second half of the season, I’m thinking this streak might carry on a bit further. The Patriots are always the biggest risk. But it would be awfully impressive if they could go two full seasons keeping it intact.