Steelers Defense Elite vs Younger Quarterbacks

September 17, 2022
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The Pittsburgh Steelers just escaped with a win on Sunday against an AFC North foe, the Cincinnati Bengals. They forced 5 turnovers in the outing, Joe Burrow being the cause of all 5 of those. How does Pittsburgh defense truly stack up against these younger generation Quarterbacks?

This week the Pittsburgh Steelers will host the New England Patriots in an AFC showdown at Acrisure Stadium. The Steelers will have their defense put to the test by yet another young up and coming quarterback. It got me thinking, how does Pittsburgh really fare against these young quarterbacks? Is it a disadvantage to play them or should our eyes light up every time we see a young quarterback on the schedule? When you look at the upcoming schedule for the Steelers it will show you that 6 of the 9 upcoming games  have the potential to showcase  Quarterbacks at the age of 26 or younger barring any injuries or setbacks

Steelers Primed For Domination

The Steelers have always had a tough time with the older and experienced quarterbacks, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers to name a few that have a winning record against Pittsburgh. However, in recent years the AFC North has been bombarded with young talent at the quarterback position with the likes of Joe Burrow, Lamar Jackson, Baker Mayfield, and even the new Cleveland quarterback, Deshaun Watson is still youthful. One eye popping statistic that all of these quarterbacks have in common is a .500 or lower record against the Pittsburgh Steelers. If the Quarterbacks in the AFC North have been so lackluster, how has the rest of the leagues young Quarterbacks fared against Pittsburgh?

I am starting my research from the 2019 season and the reason being is one name, Minkah Fitzpatrick. In 2018 the Steelers had an average to an above average defense, but ranked 29th in creating turnovers. When Minkah Fitzpatrick was traded to Pittsburgh from Miami, the defense completely woke up and created a ton of headaches for opposing quarterbacks by jumping from 29th in creating turnovers in 2018 to a league leading 1st the following season. For that statistic alone, beginning  our research in 2019 is justifiable and would accurately represent the defense that the Steelers have today.

Numbers Never Lie

With the Pittsburgh Steelers defense being as good as it has been in recent years, Quarterbacks that are younger than 26 have done a better job than some might come to believe since 2019. Although they have a losing record, they did better than I initially expected going 12-for-30 which is just at 40%. Patrick Mahomes, Josh Allen, and Joe Burrow nearly make up for half of these wins with 6 between the three of them.

Then a lightbulb went off in my head, Well, Mac Jones is coming to Pittsburgh to play at Acrisure stadium this weekend, how have these Quarterbacks competed while playing in Pittsburgh? This is where it becomes interesting. You start to see how effective this defense can be when it has home field advantage behind them, since 2019 Quarterbacks at the age of 26 or under have a 33.3% win percentage while playing at the Steelers going 4-for-12 in that span.

Yes, winning and losing matter however, it does not tell the whole story. So lets single out the quarterbacks for a second. Passer Rating, Yards Per Game, Points Per Game all matter. Opposing passer ratings when playing against these younger quarterbacks came to an average rating of 82.9 which would be considered above average for a defense, with the average sitting at 89.58 since 2019. If opposing passer rating is above average what about opposing total yards per game?

It tells quite the same story, Opposing quarterbacks under the age of 26 are putting up a total yards per game average of 320. If we plugged that into a chart 320 total opposing yards per game would put Pittsburgh at the 5th best team in the league since 2019. Everything is starting to line up, opposing points per game is very similar to the yards. The Steelers give up 21.3 points per game to quarterbacks under 26 which would rank 6th in the league since 2019!

If you thought it couldn’t get any better than those statistics, think again. It only gets better when these quarterbacks go on the road to Pittsburgh. Quarterbacks at 26 or younger have a quarterback passer rating of 78.86 while playing in Pittsburgh, the yards per game take decline as well at 296.41 compared to 320. Last but not least we hit the trifecta! Opposing points per game also diminish when the Steelers play at home with it dipping 1.5 points per game to 19.8.

Steelers defense goal line stand (Photo by Nick Wass/AP Photo)

The Conclusion

Alright, enough of the statistics and numbers. I am not naïve, I understand teams have injuries, different player personnel, different coaching staff. Winning football games does not only come down to how good a quarterback is against a defense. The Steelers offense must put points on the board as well, but it can’t be denied that Mike Tomlin and the Pittsburgh coaching staff get these men ready for any Quarterback during every scouting week. Keep in mind these are averages every team has their good days and bad days.

The Steelers took a huge hit this week losing TJ Watt for a few weeks, lucky for Pittsburgh they have a few upcoming games that they can capitalize on against younger quarterback competition. Over time these quarterbacks can and some will get use to these complex NFL defenses, lets just hope for Pittsburgh’s sake it is later rather than sooner. These statistics are something to keep in mind when the Steelers are competing against these young players under center over the next few weeks.