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Eagles defense vs. Steelers offense preview by the numbers

Pittsburgh Steelers v Miami Dolphins Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images

As I broke down the Eagles defense 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 Steelers personnel is pretty predictable. They play 11 personnel and when they go 12 personnel, you can expect a run or play-action. Here’s the Steelers standard personnel, which only consists of 11 and 12.

And here is what the Steelers do when they go 12 personnel. You can see a huge change in play-action and RPO numbers when they go 12 personnel. More on this later…

In terms of style, the Steelers are a no-huddle shotgun-based offense that uses a lot of RPOs.

They are a zone-run team who will run it into a stacked box if necessary. They want to run the ball early and often. I was surprised to see the screen numbers so low considering they don’t have a great drop-back passing game. They use a lot of designed rollouts too, and this is not just a Trubisky thing, as they have continued to do this since starting Kenny Pickett.

Basic Stats

The Steelers offense is brutal. The only thing they do well is get rid of the ball without being sacked consistently. Except for that, the numbers are just terrible. Ranking dead last in yards per play and 2nd to last in points per game is all you really need to know. I still think Kenny Pickett is a better quarterback than Mitchell Trubisky but the Eagles defense should be confident whoever they face. As a Najee Harris fantasy owner who has watched the Steelers offense quite closely, the offensive line is horrible at creating rushing lanes and the Eagles defense should feel confident they can stop this rushing attack. However, Harris is a talented player and will make some people miss.

Key Matchups

12 Personnel Run Game

As mentioned earlier, the Steelers like to run the ball from 12 personnel. The Steelers are 40-128 at 3.2 yards per carry. I will be interested to see if the Steelers keep doing this on Sunday, because the Eagles have been really good against 12 personnel runs as they normally counter with 5-man fronts and this includes Jordan Davis! Against 11 personnel runs, the Eagles are giving up 5.3 yards per carry. Against 12 personnel, the Eagles are giving up 4.3 yards per carry.

12 Personnel Play-Action

So, why do the Steelers keep using 12 personnel if the run game suffers when they use it? As I mentioned with their tendencies earlier, they like to use play-action from 12 personnel and this is by far their most effective way of throwing the ball. With play-action from 12 personnel, the Steelers are 15/18 (83%) for 159 yards (8.8 yards per attempt). Compared to how bad the normal dropback passing game has been, expect the Steelers to run some play-action out of 12 personnel this Sunday.

The good news? Guess what team has 2 interceptions (most in the league) against play-action from 12 personnel… the Eagles! And they are only giving up 53% of passes so they are not getting caught out by this look so far this season.

Careful When Blitzing

The Steelers passing attack has been horrible this year. However, they are actually OK against the blitz. Against 3/4 man rushes, the Steelers offense is 133/207 (64%) for 1248 yards (6 yards per attempt) with 2 TDs and 9(!) INTs. That’s pretty rough.

Weirdly though, against the blitz, they have played quite well. Against 5+ rushers, the Steelers are 32/48 (66%) for 320 yards (6.6 yards per attempt) with 3 TDs and 0 INTs.

This does not mean the Eagles should not blitz at all, I just think they need to careful and consider if it is the best way to attack this Steelers offense.

Overall, all the stats point to a dominant Eagles defensive performance this Sunday. So I am sure nothing can go wrong…

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