Running the Numbers: Stats on Steelers
At DallasCowboys.com, I broke down the evolution of the Steelers with some numbers.
5.1: Net-YPA allowed by Steelers’ pass defense.
So how have the Steelers kept themselves alive for yet another playoff berth despite an offense that has been mediocre up until this point? Like usual, it’s the defense. The Steelers have the league’s second-most efficient passing defense, due in large part to their secondary.
91: Targets at cornerback Keenan Lewis.
Only two cornerbacks in the NFL have been targeted more than Lewis, but the big, physical defensive back has excelled this year. Lewis has allowed only 5.62 YPA and a 74.9 passer rating in 2012. With cornerback Ike Taylor out, Cortez Allen has also been thrust into the starting lineup. The 5.84 YPA and 80.0 passer rating he’s yielded are right on par with Lewis.
If there’s a weak spot in Pittsburgh’s secondary, it’s nickel corner Curtis Brown. In limited action, Brown has allowed a 75.0 completion percentage, 9.67 YPA, and a passer rating of 132.6. Look for the Cowboys to utilize three-receiver sets, whether they want to run or pass, to get Brown on the field.
7: Defensive interceptions.
The only knock on Pittsburgh’s secondary is that they haven’t been able to force turnovers; their seven interceptions rank them 31st in the NFL, ahead of only Dallas. Like the ’Boys, the Steelers haven’t gotten the same amount of pressure they’re accustomed to generating. As I’ve shown in the past, pressure is strongly correlated with takeaways, so the interceptions will come for both teams as the pass-rush improves.
To recognize just how poorly the Steelers’ rush has been in 2012, consider that their 6.0 percent sack rate ranks just 18th in the league and they’ve pressured the quarterback fewer than three-quarters as many times as Dallas.