The Steelers were blown out 38-3 by the BIlls and continue to struggle to crack their way into the win column yet again. Struggles for the team are far-ranging and wide, but what can the stats tell us about the smaller and bigger pictures of the team? Are there any positives for the team coming out of the blowout loss? Here are a few stats that tell the story of Pittsburgh’s season, including Najee Harris, and the week up to this point.
Najee Harris Continues to Struggle
This has become one of the more unpleasant surprises for Pittsburgh this season. Najee Harris was supposed to be a young superstar and the rock of a Steelers offense that could rely upon its group of weapons. To this point, that simply has not happened enough. Harris’ elite lateral agility is not there, he has struggled in pass pro, and is largely a nonfactor in the receiving game. It all culminated with his performance against the Bills, where he only averaged 1.8 yards per carry and got 20 yards on 11 carries.
However, the real that pops is Harris’ rushing yards over expectation. That stat is designed to level the playing field and mitigate the offensive line’s impact, and isolate a running back’s performance. On Sunday, Harris clocked in at -24 rushing yards over expectation, the worst of the week behind only Cam Akers according to Next Gen Stats.
For the season? Harris is now up to -72 rushing yards over expectation. That is the worst mark in the NFL. Could it be the nagging foot injury harming Harris even though he says he is 100 percent? It could be that way. But the overall point is he is struggling at this point.
Jaylen Warren has been the better running back and a far more efficient running back. Whether that means Harris needs to take time of to get healthy or simply see a reduced workload remains to be seen. But he is not getting it done on the football field yet.
Where’s the Pressure?
T.J. Watt getting injured was always going to throw a wrench in Pittsburgh’s plans. But did it have to be this bad? The answer to that is no, as the Steelers only registered one quarterback hit on Josh Allen according to Pro Football Focus. Not only that, but as a team, they only pressure Allen six times. There were only two pressures from the defensive line, and those were both from Montravius Adams.
Cam Heyward, Alex Highsmith, Malik Reed, and everyone else were shut out of the pressures department. They now rank 28th in the NFL in pressure rate per Sports Info Solutions. Needless to say, Pittsburgh’s injured secondary could not hold up with the front seven not producing enough pressure on Allen.
Kenny Pickett’s first start was not all that mildly surprising. He was thrown to the wolves, and so there were both good and bad things at each juncture for the Pitt product. However, for a young player in his position, he was really great on third downs. In a small sample size, Pickett’s EPA per play on third downs is 0.87, the highest mark in the NFL at this point. It still remains as only a very small sample, but that is a great stat for Pickett to build off to this point.
Not only that, but Pickett is a crisp 9 of 12 when blitzed. He has been able to find his hot routes and connect with his guys, including for one big-time throw according to PFF. Not only that, but Pickett is 9 of 11 for 85 on play action. That has been a strength for Pickett to this point and stands to be a blueprint for the Steelers to use in the future.