1. The line is offensive
The fans complain about it. The playcall appears to be handcuffed by him. Troy Aikman seemed incredulous by this.
And the numbers agree: The Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line is one of the worst in the NFL. Fourteen games into the 2021 season, sample size is no longer an issue, and any early rookie jitters or inexperience should now have been alleviated. In other words, the Steelers line, at this point, is what it is. And what it is is not very good.
A sample of respected outlets looking into the analysis:
• ESPN ranks the Steelers 30th of 32 teams in the NFL for “Passing Block Success Rate” (50%) and 31st for “Running Block Winning Rate”.
• Footballoutsiders.com ranks the Steelers 31st for “adjusted line yards” in the running game. Their distribution of race blocking further shows that it is lousy in all areas: 30th in “second level yards”, 30th in “free field yards” and 20th in “jam rate”. Footballoutsiders.com’s metrics for pass blocking aren’t as detailed, but they rank the Steelers respectably in this area (12th for adjusted sack rate).
• Pro Football Focus’s ratings are a bit more subjective, but still aren’t very complementary to the Steelers’ offensive line when it comes to blocking the run (27th in the NFL). They rank the Steelers 13th among best pass blockers.
• But the fact that the best numbers you can find remain outside the top 10 probably speaks volumes about the Steelers’ offensive line this season.
Using base stats, the Steelers are 31st in the NFL in rushing yards per game (84.6), 30e in yards per stroke (3.6). and tied for 19th place for bags allowed (33).
2. KC kitchen
The Steelers have come out as important underdogs for Sunday’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs. But historically, Arrowhead Stadium has been one of their favorite places to play.
The Steelers have won 12 of their 18 games (including the playoffs) at the Kansas City venue, good for a 0.667 winning percentage that is tied for the best of any NFL team. The Steelers and Indianapolis Colts (10-5 among the Chiefs) are the only opponents to have a winning record in Kansas City. Only two other teams (the Cincinnati Bengals and the Tennessee / Houston franchise) are even .500 in road games against the Chiefs all-time.
The only teams with more KC wins than the Steelers in the Chiefs’ more than five-decade football history are the three that currently share a division with them and therefore play the Chiefs every year: the Chargers (22 wins ), the Raiders (20) and Broncos (20).
The Steelers won their last two games at Arrowhead (which this year was officially renamed “GEHA Field at Arrowhead Stadium”) – a divisional playoff game at the end of the 2016 season and again nine months later in a 2017 regular season reunion.
3. No trial and error
Najee Harris leads the NFL in at least two categories: most touches and least fumbles. It’s a remarkable combination.
The Steelers running back has 249 runs and 62 receptions in 14 games of his rookie season. Only one other top 20 player in the NFL in touchdowns hasn’t fumbled – and that player, Alvin Kamara of the New Orleans Saints, has 89 fewer touches. Harris is one of five players who have at least 150 touches (less than half his amount) that haven’t fumbled in 2021.
For Harris, it’s more or less the same. Several published reports noted that he had only one fumble in 719 hits in Alabama. This means that since high school in 69 games and 1,030 touches, Harris has groped less than 0.001% of the times he’s had the ball in a game.
4. Defensively clean
The Steelers defense has its issues, but one area it doesn’t is avoiding penalties. According to nflpenalties.com, only two teams (the Denver Broncos and the New York Giants) were penalized defensively by fewer yards than the Steelers (216 of 14 games). Only four team defenses were penalized on fewer chances than the Steelers (26).
Breaking it down by offense, no team has had more penalties accepted for defensive pass interference (three) than the Steelers.
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