Quarterback performance under pressure is obviously a key component to playing the position. The goal of this article is to look at how Pittsburgh’s revamped room fared in these situations last season, along with 2023 Steelers. I will also include data from when quarterbacks were kept clean from Pro Football Focus (PFF) for comparative context.

Here are the results of quarterbacks with a minimum of 100 dropbacks under pressure during the regular season:

Right away, we see that none of the quarterbacks in our sights had stellar under pressure grades, or when kept clean, in comparison to the 33 qualifying quarterbacks. Russell Wilson had the best marks of this group, landing just above the mean in each regard.

Wilson’s 52.1 under pressure passing grade ranked 15th, so a bit above average as the chart indicates. In terms of quantity, he had 218 under pressure dropbacks (tenth-most), accounting for 41.1-percent of his total dropbacks (eighth-most). So, he worked under duress quite often, important context to his slightly above average under pressure grade.

Diving deeper, Wilson had 150 under pressure pass attempts (T-12th), completing 83 of them (ninth), a 55.3 completion rate (fourth), for 1,007 passing yards (tenth). 6.7 yards per attempt, 23 scrambles, and 61 first downs each ranked seventh as well. While many factors go into under pressure performance, these marks already look stronger than the overall grade on the visual.

Then, Wilson topped the ranks in under pressure touchdowns (13), adjusted completion percentage (72.7), and quarterback rating (99.5). Along with those impressive feats were only two interceptions (T-fifth least), tying for the second most big time throws under pressure (14), for an 8.6 big time throw rate (fourth).

Now for some bad news. Though Wilson’s interception numbers under pressure were low, there were 11 turnover-worthy plays (T-tenth most), at 4.7-percent (18th). This unfortunate fact was largely due to coughing up the football, with an abysmal 20.1 fumble grade (second-worst).

He was sacked a whopping 45 times (fourth-most), with a 3.86 second time to throw when under pressure (fifth-longest) a large factor. Genuinely concerning, and here’s to hoping that can improve with Pittsburgh in 2024, who have invested heavily in their offensive line in recent years.

Now for Justin Fields. He was below the mean in both kept clean (80.0) and under pressure (48.9) grades, ranking 20th and 21st. Fields faced the highest 48.8 under pressure dropback rate, meaning he faced the tough situation more than any other QB last year, which is extremely important information as we take in the rest of his stats.

As you’d expect, that made for a high 223 dropbacks (seventh-most among qualifiers), along with 12th in attempts (150) and 13th in completions (72). There were some encouraging elements of his play, highlighted by the second-highest scramble total (30), tying for seventh in passing touchdowns (eight) and adjusted completion rate (67.9), and ninth in first downs (56) rounded out his top ten marks.

Other above average ranks included: three interceptions (12th-least), 72.8 QB rating (13th), eight big time throws (14th), 4.3 turnover-worthy play rate (15th), and a 5.1 big time throw rate (16th).

Where Fields was at, or below average was: ten turnover-worthy plays (T-18th), 767 passing yards (19th), and a 48.0 completion rate (21st). His lowest marks were yards per attempt (28th), fumble grade (28th), sacks (29th), and time to throw (30th), with most of those in the bottom five among his peers.

Unfortunately, some similar issues with Wilson and Fields, namely time to throw, sacks, and fumbles in pressure situations. Pittsburgh’s investments in the offensive trenches will hopefully set the new quarterback room up for more ideal situations, and optimistically maximize the passing stats in 2024 as well.

The other side of the coin is a clear change from Kenny Pickett’s 2023 season with the Steelers. Highlighted by taking care of the football, but lacked the higher upside Wilson and Fields had, particularly as scramblers, along with several stronger passing metrics.

Speaking of which, here are two tables of all the stats I researched, including Pickett’s marks for added context:

As we can see, Pickett fared best while under pressure was turnover-worthy plays, interceptions, and sacks, with top three ranks in each. Short list, with the vast majority of the data below average or worse. Things were better for him in kept clean situations, as expected, but we can see that Wilson largely led the three quarterbacks in that data. That’s encouraging.

When stacking Wilson and Fields’ under pressure numbers up, we see a notable shift in Pittsburgh’s additions for 2024, refreshingly in my opinion. Taking on a higher risk in the turnover department with the overhauled quarterback room, but hopefully reaping the rewards with more high-end plays that the Steelers offense has needed for several years. Here’s to hoping that’s a common storyline of the 2024 Pittsburgh Steelers offense.


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