Checking the Numbers: Steelers-Titans Game

Stefan Logan's opening kickoff return (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

Stefan Logan's opening kickoff return (Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press)

This past Thursday night, the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tennessee Titans matched up for what turned out to be a game with a playoff feel to it. Both teams fought hard, with the type of hitting usually reserved for Steelers-Ravens games. It wasn’t a pretty game on either side. Both had their chances and missed on some of them. In the end, the Steelers prevailed, overcoming a game where they lost the turnover battle and were outplayed badly at times. There are plenty of recaps out there reviewing the game, but here I wanted to look at this game from my own analytical perspective.

In this post, I took the box score stat from the game and compared how each team did against their season averages from the 2008 season. If it were later in the year, I would compare them against each team’s average so far in the 2009 season. But, since the previous season usually serves as the baseline for predictions going into a new year, I think that analyzing against the previous season’s numbers is perfectly acceptable. Perhaps after week 6 or 7 (maybe 8), I will begin using current season averages as the basis for comparison.

So, anyway, on to the numbers! (Box Scores taken from Yahoo! Sports and 2008 averages from Below, I have four tables.

Titans’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Titans’ 2008 Offensive Averages

The first is a comparison of Tennessee’s offensive numbers from this game with their average numbers from the 2008 season. This gives an indication as to how well the Steelers’ defense performed in this game because it shows whether the Titans’ offensive numbers were above or below their 2008 averages.

Team Statistics Steelers’ Def vs. Titans’ 2008 Avg Off
  TEN TENAvgOff % Difference
  First Downs 18 16.75 7.46%
    Passing 14 8.94 56.64%
    Rushing 2 6.75 -70.37%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 320 313.63 2.03%
    Total Plays 61 60.81 0.31%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.2 5.2 0.00%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 86 137.44 -37.43%
    Rushes 25 31.75 -21.26%
    Average Per Rush 3.4 4.3 -20.93%
  NET YARDS PASSING 234 176.19 32.81%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.5 6.1 6.56%
    Times Sacked 1 0.75 33.33%
    Had Intercepted 1 0.56 77.78%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.5 100.00%

The only area that it appears that the Steelers’ defense excelled at in this game was in rush defense. They held the Titans to 37% below their average rushing yardage from last year. However, they gave up 32% more passing yardage than the Titans averaged in 2008. I would attribute this to 2 plays on the last drive of the first half. This was the Steelers’ first drive without Troy Polamalu, and their secondary appeared confused, with Ryan Clark blowing his coverage on one play and Ike Taylor on the next.

Steelers’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Titans’ 2008 Defensive Averages

The second is a comparison of the Steelers’ offensive numbers from the game to the Titans’ defensive averages from 2008. This tells us how the Steelers offense performed compared to Titans’ defensive averages from last year.

Team Statistics Steelers’ Off vs. Titans’ 2008 Avg Def
  PIT  TENAvgDef % Difference
  First Downs 19 17.25 10.14%
    Passing 18 10.38 73.49%
    Rushing 1 5.06 -80.25%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 357 293.63 21.58%
    Total Plays 70 63.88 9.59%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.1 4.6 10.87%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 36 93.88 -61.65%
    Rushes 23 25.19 -8.68%
    Average Per Rush 1.6 3.7 -56.76%
  NET YARDS PASSING 321 199.75 60.70%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.8 5.2 30.77%
    Times Sacked 4 2.75 45.45%
    Had Intercepted 2 1.25 60.00%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.69 45.45%

Overall, you have to give the nod to Big Ben in this game, because the rushing game was virtually non-existent. The Steelers rushed for nearly 62% fewer yards than the Titans’ defense averaged allowing in 2008. But, the passing game was nearly 61% above what the Titans’ defense averaged allowing in 2008. It took some time to get going, but once it did, the Steelers’ passing attack shredded the Titans’ secondary. It probably didn’t hurt that the Steelers OL only allowed 1 of their 4 sacks after the half.

Steelers’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Steelers‘ 2008 Offensive Averages

The third table compares the Steelers’ offensive output in this game against their average offensive output from 2008. So, it gives an indication as to how the Titans’ defense performed against the Steelers’ 2008 offensive averages.

Team Statistics Titans’ Def vs. Steelers’ 2008 Avg Off
  PIT  PIT AvgOff % Difference
  First Downs 19 18.13 4.83%
    Passing 18 11.19 60.89%
    Rushing 1 5.81 -82.80%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 357 311.94 14.45%
    Total Plays 70 63.44 10.34%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.1 4.9 4.08%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 36 105.63 -65.92%
    Rushes 23 28.75 -20.00%
    Average Per Rush 1.6 3.7 -56.76%
  NET YARDS PASSING 321 206.31 55.59%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.8 5.9 15.25%
    Times Sacked 4 3.06 30.61%
    Had Intercepted 2 0.94 113.33%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.63 60.00%

This table just further highlights how successful the Titans were at stopping the Steelers’ running game. They held it to 66% below the 2008 average. Every Steelers rushing number in this game was below the Steelers’ 2008 average, which, as we know was already well below average anyway. Again, though, they couldn’t stop Ben, especially when it counted. The Steelers passed for nearly 56% more yards than their 2008 averages.

Titans’ Offensive Boxscore vs. Steelers‘ 2008 Defensive Averages

The fourth table compares the Titans’ offensive output with the Steelers’ average defensive numbers from 2008. So, this give an indication as to how the Titans’ offense performed against the Steelers’ defense.

Team Statistics Titans’ Off vs. Steelers’ 2008 Avg Def
  TEN PIT AvgDef % Difference
  First Downs 18 15 20.00%
    Passing 14 9.31 50.34%
    Rushing 2 4.56 -56.16%
  TOTAL NET YARDS 320 237.19 34.91%
    Total Plays 61 60.88 0.21%
    Average Gain Per Play 5.2 3.9 33.33%
  NET YARDS RUSHING 86 80.25 7.17%
    Rushes 25 24.38 2.56%
    Average Per Rush 3.4 3.3 3.03%
  NET YARDS PASSING 234 156.94 49.10%
    Yards Per Pass Play 6.5 4.3 51.16%
    Times Sacked 1 3.19 -68.63%
    Had Intercepted 1 1.25 -20.00%
    Fumbles Lost 1 0.56 77.78%

One would have to say that the Titans’ offense played the Steelers’ defense quite well. They gained more yards in both passing (49%) and rushing (7%) than the Steelers’ defense averaged allowing in 2008. It will be interesting to see if the Steelers’ defense has dropped off some this year, or do the Titans just match up well offensively against the Steelers?

Overall, while this game was a defensive struggle, which was expected from these two teams, it was the offenses that eventually outperformed against their averages from last year, both against their own averages and against their opposing defenses’ averages.

Let me know your thoughts.


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3 Responses to “Checking the Numbers: Steelers-Titans Game”

  1. weeg Says:

    cmon now its the first game. u would expect that..go steelers

  2. Fred Says:

    Thanks for what imo is a very astute and unique analysis. Granted, it was only the first game but the numbers did support what the game was all about. I’d be curious to see a similar analysis for the Steeler’s future games.

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