Pittsburgh Steelers Defense No Match for Top Quarterbacks

Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

The Pittsburgh Steelers loss to the Oakland Raiders Sunday was one of the biggest upsets in the NFL this year. After all, going into the game the Steelers were 7-4-1 and the Raiders were 2-10. However, the upset came as no surprise to those who have been following the Steelers closely.

Against top quarterbacks this year, the Steelers are 3-4. Playing against quarterbacks rated below that, they’ve been 4-1-1. The only top quarterbacks the Steelers have beaten are Matt Ryan of the Atlanta Falcons, who is ranked fifth with a 108.3 passer rating, Ryan Fitzpatrick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, who is ranked 10th with a 100.4 passer rating and Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers, who is ranked 16th with a 97 passer rating.

Top Quarterbacks Are Torching the Pittsburgh Steelers Defense

Pittsburgh lost to Patrick Mahomes, who is ranked third with a 115.2 rating, Phillip Rivers, who is ranked fourth with a 114.5 rating, and Derek Carr, who is ranked 15th with a 97.2 passer rating. Carr completed 25 of 24 passes for 322 yards and two touchdowns in the Raiders win over Pittsburgh.

The Steelers also lost to Joe Flacco, who is ranked 28th with a passer rating of 84.2. But Flacco had a passer rating of 100 when he beat the Steelers in the fourth game of the year.

The Steelers did lose to Case Keenum of the Denver Broncos, who ranks 27th with a passer rating of 84.3. They tied Tyrod Taylor of the Cleveland Browns in the opener, but he hasn’t thrown enough passes to qualify for the passer ratings.

Pittsburgh beat Flacco, Andy Dalton of the Cincinnati Bengals, who is ranked 23rd with a passer rating of 89.6, Baker Mayfield of the Browns who is ranked 21st with a passer rating of 93.4 and Blake Bortles of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who is ranked 29th with a passer rating of 81.9.

Trouble Looms With Tom Brady, Drew Brees

It all bodes ill for the Steelers who play Tom Brady and the 9-4 New England Patriots this Sunday and Drew Brees and the 11-2 New Orleans Saints the following weekend. They close out the season with a game at home against the Bengals.

Brady is ranked 14th with a passer rating of 98.2. Brees is ranked first with a passer rating of 120.8. Brady has thrown 23 touchdowns and eight interceptions while Brees had tossed 31 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.

The Pittsburgh Steelers Fare Poorly Against Winning Teams

Overall, the Steelers are 1-3 against teams with winning records with their only win coming against the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens. Their losses have been to the Ravens, the 11-2 Kansas City Chiefs, and the 9-3 Los Angeles Chargers.

Against teams with a losing record, the Steelers are 6-2-1. Their only losses to teams with losing records have been to the 6-7 Broncos and 3-10 Raiders. Their wins against teams with losing records have been to the 6-7 Panthers, 5-8 Bucs, 5-8 Bengals, 4-9 Falcons, and 4-9 Jaguars.

New England Has Pittsburgh’s Number

In addition to beating a team with a winning record Sunday, the Steelers will have to try and reverse the spell Brady and New England Coach Bill Belichick have cast over them. With Brady and Belichick, the Patriots have won 11 of their 14 meetings with the Steelers, including a 27-24 victory last December at Heinz Field. That was the game where Steelers tight end Jesse James caught a touchdown pass in the end zone only to drop it when he hit the ground. The rules were changed in the off-season to make similar catches legal. After that play, Roethlisberger then threw an interception to give the Patriots the win.

The last time the Steelers beat the Patriots was October 30, 2011, when Pittsburgh prevailed 25-17. Brady completed 24 of 35 passes for 198 yards. Roethlisberger connected on 36 of 50 passes for 365 yards. Both threw for two touchdowns.

Brady’s Numbers Are Down From Last Season

It’s worth noting Brady isn’t playing as well this season as he did last year when he threw 32 touchdowns and eight interceptions while ranking third with a 102.8 passer rating.

Meanwhile, Ben Roethlisberger‘s passer rating this year is 97.4 up slightly from 93.4 last year. But he’s thrown the ball much more this year, attempting 546 passes in 13 games. Last year he threw 561 passes all year. He threw 28 touchdown passes and 14 interceptions last year. This year he’s already thrown 28 touchdown passes and 13 interceptions.

Statistics Even for Pats, Steelers

Overall, the Steelers are scoring 28.2 points per game, which is fourth in the league. The Patriots are averaging 28 points per game, which is seventh. The Steelers have the edge in the passing game, averaging 319 yards per game, which is second in the league. The Patriots are averaging 272, which is seventh.

The Patriots, though, have the edge on the ground, averaging 118 yards per game, which is the 16th highest in the league. The Steelers are only averaging 89 yards on the ground, which is 29th in the league.

Defensively, the Patriots are giving up an average of 22.5 points per game, which is the 12th lowest in the league. The Steelers are giving up an average of 23.5 points per game, which is 16th.

The Patriots are giving up an average of 259 passing yards per game, which is ranked 23rd. The Steelers are yielding an average of 233 passing yards per game, which is ranked 12th. Pittsburgh is also better against the run, giving up only 96.9 yards per game on the ground, which is ranked sixth. The Patriots are ranked tenth, giving up an average of 113 yards.

New England Has the Edge in Interceptions

New England, however, has 14 interceptions to the Steelers six picks. The Patriots are ranked fifth while the Steelers are tied with three other teams for 28th. New England has seven fumble recoveries while the Steelers have six.

The Patriots are tied for 10th in turnover differential at six with the Kansas City Chiefs. The Steelers are tied for 27th at minus eight in turnover differential.

The Steelers lead the NFL with 45 sacks while the Patriots are ranked 29th with 24 sacks. Both teams are tied for third, giving up only 18 sacks per game.

Must-Win Game for the Steelers

There’s no doubt that the Steelers must win this game as they lead Baltimore by only half a game. They also only have a half-game lead over wild card contenders Indianapolis, Miami and Tennessee, who are all 7-6. Denver is also still in the picture at 6-7.

The Steelers control their own destiny but that’s only if they win all three of their remaining games. If they win two of the games, they still might have a chance to win their division or a wild card slot. But if they lose to New England and New Orleans, then chances are pretty good they’ll be out of the playoff picture altogether. That would be a stunning outcome given that the Steelers started out the season at 7-2-1.

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