Analyzing the Steelers Week 2 win over the Browns, by the numbers
The Pittsburgh Steelers were under the lights for Monday Night Football in Week 2 of the 2023 NFL season. Although the offense sputtered apart from one big play, the defense created their own splash and led the Steelers to the 26-22 victory over the Cleveland Browns.
So without further ado, here are some of the numbers involved in the Steelers Week 2 win over the Browns.
Although the Steelers unfortunately had two turnovers in the game, their four takeaways on the night gave them the ultimate edge in the turnover margin. With one interception and three fumble recoveries, the Steelers defense turned their opportunities into some big splash plays.
Last week it took the Steelers more than 29 minutes into the game before they saw their first points. This week, the Steelers were on the scoreboard 0:09 into the game. And what made things even better was it was the defense coming up with the big play on the first play as Minkah Fitzpatrick deflected the pass and Alex Highsmith pulled it in and returned it to give the Steelers an early seven-point lead.
But the early interception was not all that the Steelers defense had to contribute. In the fourth quarter it was once again Alex Highsmith, this time getting the strip sack, which T.J. Watt returned for a touchdown. Taking into account the extra point from each score by Chris Boswell, the Steelers defense accounted for 14 of the Steelers 26 points scored on the night.
Although the offers continue to struggle, as will be outlined with even more numbers, they were able to pull off their own splash play where on a 1st & 10 from their own 29-yard line Kenny Pickett connected with George Pickens running deep across the middle of the field. Pickens did the rest as he took it to the end zone for a 71-yard touchdown. It was the longest Steelers touchdown since Week 2 of the 2020 season when Ben Roethlisberger connected with Chase Claypool for an 84-yard score.
The Steelers once again got after Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson. On the night, the Steelers had six quarterback sacks. The sacks were spread evenly with 1.0 each going to Alex Highsmith T.J. Watt, Larry Ogunjobi, DeMarvin Leal, Markus Golden, and Elijah Riley. In the two matchups where the Steelers faced the Cleveland Browns with Deshaun Watson as the quarterback, the Steelers now have 13 sacks.
0 vs. 3
Although there were some great highlights from the game, particularly from the defense, there are still some pretty bad warts with the current Steelers team. One thing in particular is their slow offensive starts in both games this year. Through the first quarter of each of their two games in 2023, the Steelers offense has yet to achieve a first down but has managed to turn the ball over three times.
Although the Steelers defense had some great splash plays, they struggled to stop the run throughout the night. In total, the Browns had 198 rushing yards on 35 carries for a 5.7 YPC. Even after Nick Chubb left the game with a serious and gruesome injury having already racked up 64 yards on 10 carries, Jerome Ford stepped in and had 106 rushing yards on 16 carries with a 69-yard long. Too many times the Steelers seemed to have the Browns rusher stopped for no or minimal gain only to let them escape and gain significant yards.
Although the Steelers offense did something they struggled to do last year and scored from outside the red zone, they also need to score from within the red zone as well. Not only did the Steelers offense not have any touchdowns in the red zone, they failed to run a single snap inside of the Browns 20-yard line. Officially on the night, the Steelers were 0/0 in red zone efficiency while the Browns went to 2/3 with 67% efficiency.
This number baffles me in a big way. With Diontae Johnson on the Reserve/Injured List and missing at least four games for the Steelers, one position group that might be good for a young quarterback to lean in the absence of a reliable receiver on would be getting the ball to one of the tight ends. But on the night, there was only one pass thrown to a Steelers tight end. Other than a tight end screen to Pat Freiermuth which went for 2 yards, the tight ends were ignored in the Steelers passing game as neither Darnell Washington nor Connor Heyward were targeted.
A win is a win is a win. It was ugly. It took two scores from the defense. But it was a win, and an AFC North divisional win as well. Take the win, learn from it, and be better next week.
So there are some numbers to help put the Steelers Week 2 win in perspective. Even though it was a victory, there are still plenty of concerns that need addressed moving forward.
So what numbers from Monday’ night’s game stand out to you? Please leave your thoughts in the comments below.