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Eagles offense vs. Steelers defense preview by the numbers

New York Jets v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Joe Sargent/Getty Images

As I broke down the Eagles offense stats in-depth last week, I won’t be looking at the Eagles tendencies here so this article will be a little shorter than usual. If you want to read that piece, you can find it here!

Steelers Tendencies

The 2-4-5 Personnel looks unusual but it’s essentially a 4-2-5 front as their EDGE defenders are viewed as linebackers rather than pure defensive ends.

The 3-4-4 % is quite high because the Steelers are one of the teams who do match 12 personnel with ‘base’ personnel (4 DBs) the majority of the time.

This chart will get the Eagles and Jeff Stoutland in particular excited. The Steelers live to play a lightbox and rarely stack the box. If the Eagles want to run the football, they are going to get changes!

I think the Eagles will like the look of this too. The Steelers are a man coverage defense which I think the Eagles would prefer to play due to Hurts mobility and the talent they have at receiver. The Steelers also do not blitz a great deal and this is good as we know the Eagles have struggled to handle the blitz at times this year.

Basic Stats

I can’t believe the Steelers defensive numbers are this bad but here we are! The EPA numbers suggest that the yardage totals are slightly harsh, but still, this is a huge mismatch. The Steelers are good at taking the ball away however I still expect a Mike Tomlin team to be coached well. The Eagles may want to go back to throwing the football a lot as the passing yards per game and yards per pass attempt numbers favor the Eagles hugely.

Key Matchups

When To Run?

The Steelers defense is pretty predictable when looking at the numbers. When an offense goes 12 personnel, the Steelers will go to base personnel as mentioned above and they are therefore hard to run on. Against 12 personnel, the Steelers have given up 113 yards on 30 carries (3.7 yards per carry) and only 1 TD.

However, against 11 personnel, the Steelers prefer to play a light box and this is when teams can have success. Against 11 personnel, the Steelers have allowed 585 yards on 134 carries (4.4 yards per carry). This is the game to spread the defense out and run the ball and not go heavy too often as the defense will try and stop the run.

QB Runs

Sometimes, football is easy to understand. As I mentioned earlier when looking at the tendencies, the Steelers play a high % of man coverage and also a lightbox. When you play teams who play a lot of man coverage, we know that mobile quarterbacks can have success scrambling because defenders have their backs turned to the quarterback.

The Steelers have given up the most yards in the league on quarterback scrambles this year (129 yards on 16 carries). The Eagles rank 4th in quarterback scramble yards this year, with 139 yards on 20 carries. I am sure the Steelers will keep an eye on Hurts scrambling, but if they continue to play a lot of man coverage, I expect Hurts to have a few chances to escape the pocket and get some yards on the ground.

3rd Down

I think this is the type of game the Eagles can get aggressive on early downs and still feel confident they can convert some 3rd downs if necessary. The Steelers 3rd down pass defense has been really poor due to an inability to rush the quarterback. How about this for a stat... the Steelers have faced the most 3rd down pass attempts this season (73) and have given up the most yards (659 - the next highest is 563!) as well as 6 TDs. That is an average of 9 yards per attempt on 3rd down.

Despite facing the highest amount of attempts in the league, they rank 31st in terms of pressures on 3rd down with only 24 total pressures and they have 5 sacks which ranks 20th. It seems difficult to be that bad in terms of total pressures when you have faced the highest amount of 3rd down pass attempts in the league! The Eagles should feel confident that they can throw on the Steelers and should not be afraid of being aggressive in this game.

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