Analyzing the Steelers preseason win over Buccaneers, by the numbers
The Pittsburgh Steelers had their first contest in preparation for the 2023 season by coming away from Tampa with a 27–17 victory over the Buccaneers in Week 1 of the preseason. Although there was plenty to take away from the game on a positive note, there is still even more to dissect and improve on moving forward across all units that took the field.
So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers preseason win over the Bucs.
Although the number usually highlighted in the first spot is the turnover differential, the zero that canceled out both teams turnovers isn’t as meaningful in the preseason. The Steelers turned the ball over twice in the game with a Mitch Trubisky interception on a slightly underthrown deep shot to Cody White that hit off the receiver before it was intercepted. The other Steelers turnover came right after they escaped a fumble recovery that was overturned on replay only to have fourth string quarterback Tanner Morgan throw an interception. But on the bright side, the Steelers had two takeaways of their own with a Trenton Thompson interception and Rodney Williams forcing a fumble on a punt which was recovered by Dez Fitzpatrick and put the Steelers in victory formation.
Although I was hoping to see the Steelers keep it to five penalties or less in their first preseason game, they finished the game with 6 for 46 yards. That number looks even better compared to the Buccaneers 12 penalties for 127 yards on the other side of the field.
One of the big points when it comes to the Steelers improvements in 2023 is being able to put up more points than last season. By scoring 27 points in their preseason opener, the Steelers had a higher total than 15 other 17 regular season games last year. While it is still the preseason, seeing the offense, particularly the top unit, be able to put points on the board is cause for encouragement.
As I outlined last week on my Steelers Stat Geek podcast, I was more concerned about how many points the Steelers surrendered early in the game compared to late. Only giving up 7 points through the third quarter of the game, particularly from a unit that had many starters not playing and others only getting the first drive, it was exactly what I wanted to see.
I had a goal of the Steelers maintaining a 40% third down conversion for the game. Unfortunately, they were only at 33% as they converted 4 of 12 third down opportunities. But it was also a tale of two halves with the Steelers. In the first half, they converted 4 of 6 third downs but failed to convert any of their 6 third down attempts in the second half.
When it came to the Steelers rushing attack, it was once again a tale of two halves. The Steelers failed to reach 4.0 yards per carry (YPC) for the game as they ultimately finished with 3.5 YPC. But during the first half, the Steelers rushed for 74 yards on 11 attempts which came to 6.7 yards per carry but only had 18 yards on 15 attempts in the second half for a 1.2 YPC.
Steelers had a solid showing when I came to rushing the passer as they finished the game with four sacks. One of the sacks which was credited to Quincy Roche was simply when the quarterback went out of bounds without gaining any yards. As for the other three sacks, Nick Kwiatkoski got into the action first with a sack followed by two from Nick Herbig where he shared one of them with DeMarvin Leal. The first unit on the defense did not get any sacks mainly because Tampa Bay ran the ball on every down their first drive.
10 for 83
The Steelers first offensive unit took care of business and moved the ball 83 yards on 10 plays and scored a touchdown on their opening possession. The Steelers converted two third downs on the drive with the first being an 11-yard gain to Diontae Johnson on a 3rd and 10 and the other being the 33-yard touchdown pass to George Pickens on 3rd and 8.
After the Steelers had a touchdown from outside the red zone to start the game, they had a touchdown from the other side of midfield when Mason Rudolph hit Calvin Austin on a 67-yard catch and run for a touchdown. Not only did it highlight Austins speed, but it showed an element of the Steelers offense that was missing in 2022.
I usually highlight the final number has been whether or not the Steelers managed to put a game in the win column. While the Steelers did add one preseason win to the record, what’s more important is being one game down and being that much closer to the start of the 2023 regular season.
So there are some numbers to help put the Steelers Week 1 preseason win in perspective. The Steelers’ first units did not get a lot of playing time, but took care of business in the time they had.
So what numbers from Friday night’s preseason game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.