Now that the Pittsburgh Steelers 2023 season is in the rear view, I wanted to look at third and short deep shots across the NFL. I chose third and four or less and explosive air yards (20 or more) as the parameters. Offenses seemingly have done this more often in today’s NFL, often with the mindset that defenses would play to the chains. The goal is to see how often, and how successful teams were this season in the situation.
First, here are teams third and short deep shot attempts:
Right away we see the Pittsburgh Steelers tied for the most third and short deep shots in the 2023 regular season, with Houston and Carolina at nine attempts. This adds context to what I expected, with Pittsburgh landing high in terms of quantity compared to their peers across the league.
Let’s add more context, with team’s average yards to go and average yards gained and for fun I darkened the playoff team’s logos:
In the situation, the Steelers averaged 2.67 yards to go, which tied for 20th-least. Their average yards gained came in at 17.44, which ranked eighth league-wide. So, when Pittsburgh took third and short deep shots, it was in short yardage scenarios and fared very well in their yardage gained across the NFL.
Next, average air yards and yards after catch:
Pittsburgh lands below average with 24.78 AAY which ranked 25th, while their 14.75 YAC was the NFL’s fifth-best. So, they didn’t sling it downfield compared to many other squads, and we see the overall improvement in YAC for the Steelers in 2023 also applied here. The highlight by far was a connection from QB Mason Rudolph to WR George Pickens in Week 16, a 66-yarder with 41 YAC that also resulted in a touchdown.
Now let’s look at conversion rates and expected points added (EPA):
Landing above average in each, the Steelers were 44-percent on conversions (4-of-9) ranking 11th, and their 0.57 EPA was eighth-best in the league. QB Kenny Pickett went 3-for-4 on such attempts for 91 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions. Mitch Trubisky had one attempt that was incomplete, and Rudolph went 1-for-3, the completion on the aforementioned 66-yard touchdown and no interceptions.
While this is a low number of plays and lacked correlation to playoff success, some interesting findings, and excited to see how this shakes out for Pittsburgh and around the NFL in the 2024 season.
To close, here’s a rankings view:
Thanks for reading and let me know your thoughts in the comments!