Over the last few weeks, the Pittsburgh Steelers have gotten off to fast starts. After scoring first in just one of their first five games, the Steelers have done so in three of their last four outings, which were also three Steeler victories. It’s been a talking point for Mike Tomlin and it seems to be catching on with the team, at least a little bit.
Kenny Pickett, at least, has made it a focus, as he shared in an interview today provided by the team.
“I think it’s big to start fast,” Pickett noted. “We started fast at home, and we want to definitely try and do that on the road. It’s just a great way to start the game and kind of have a forward step that makes that first punch. We want to continue to do that.”
Kenny Pickett himself hasn’t necessarily looked better due to the strong starts, as our own Alex Kozora has written about in depth. However, it’s been huge for this team in recent years to take control of the game early.
It’s tough to overstate just how much better this team is at playing with a lead. Since the start of the calendar year of 2022, the Steelers have played 28 games. They’ve scored first in 13 of them and won all 13. Their record when they don’t score first? Just 4-11.
Now, it naturally makes sense that a team would be more likely to win when they score first, but to see a discrepancy to that extent over a decent sample size is jarring. This team has struggled when they metaphorically get stuck behind the chains (and also when they literally get stuck behind the chains, but that’s a discussion for a different article).
I think it also changes the way the defense plays when they can play with a lead instead of from behind. Over that same span, when the opponent scores first, the Steelers let up 22.9 points per game and generate 1.47 turnovers per game. When the Steelers score first, they let up just 16.2 points per game and generate 1.85 turnovers.
Falling behind early forces the defense to not do what they do best, which is play aggressively and try to generate big plays. While the offense has shown the ability to come back late in games, it’s never by more than a touchdown. This defense knows that even a 10-0 early deficit is a near-certain defeat for this team, and has to play accordingly.
For every NFL team, it’s important to get off to a good start, but it’s felt especially crucial for the Steelers over the past few seasons. Let’s see if they can keep up the early-game momentum they have generated over the past few weeks.