Steelers improve play on third downs offensively and defensively

October 12, 2018

During the previous week’s loss to the Baltimore Ravens, it was the Pittsburgh Steelers’ poor play on third downs that made a large portion of the difference.

Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons, the Steelers flipped the third-down script. It helped win them a game.

The Steelers’ offense followed a 2-for-12 performance in a 26-14 defeat to Baltimore by going 9-for-12 in Sunday’s 41-17 victory against Atlanta. The defense was also better, holding the Falcons to six third-down conversions in 14 tries after the Ravens had gone 8-for-17.

“We call that the money down,” linebacker L.J. Fort said of third downs, “so you’ve got to get off the field, got to make a play, make a turnover. And I think we did a good job with that today.”

Facing a team that was one of the best offenses in the NFL over the season’s first month (29 points and 411 yards per game coming in), the Steelers held the Falcons to season lows in points and yards. They forced Matt Ryan into three three-and-outs and held Atlanta to 2-for-7 on third downs in the second half.

“I think we just wanted to stop the run early and it made them have longer down and distances to try to get especially on third down,” linebacker T.J. Watt said.

Offensively, the Steelers matched or exceeded their third-down conversions from each of the past three games by the end of the first quarter Sunday. The Steelers had as many third-down conversions over the game’s first 4 ½ minutes as it had all of the previous week’s game.

Included in the Steelers’ success were four conversions in five tries on third-and-1 - all James Conner runs - as well as conversions on third down with 10 and 13 yards to go.

Three of the offense’s four touchdowns came on third downs.

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