Friday, December 07, 2007

House of cards...

Until the Patriots beat Dallas and Indy, the comment was, "who have they really beat so far?"

It was almost the mantra of New England's critics.

Now the Steelers are supposed to give the Patriots a run for their money. They have the number one defense in the league. Number one against the pass, number one against the run.

Like the Eagles and the Ravens, they play a physical brand of football - they want to push the opponents around at the line of scrimmage, and make receivers pay after the catch.

Unlike the Ravens and the Eagles, they play a zone blitzing scheme, because their corners are not great cover corners, but are good in space. If they play up on the line and try to get physical with the Pats receivers and whiff, then you're talking about a lot of targets running free for Tom Brady all day. But that's not really what I want to address.

What I want to address is, who have the Steelers forged their defensive ranking against?

They have wins against only two winning teams - the Browns and the Seahawks. The Seahawks only have a winning record because they play in the doormat division, the NFC West. The pass-happy Browns gave the Steelers everything they could handle - even with ineffective play from their quarterback.

Of the twelve games, only four opponents, the Browns, Cardinals, Seahawks, and Bengals have an offense in the top half of the league - fourth, ninth, twelfth, and seventh respectively. Of the ten total opponents, five are ranked 25th or worse in total offense. The average offensive ranking of the Steelers opponents through to this weekend's game? 18.8...in other words, the Steelers have pretty much made their reputation against losing teams with an average of the 19th ranked offenses in the league.

All three of the Steelers losses have come on the road - Cardinals (9th in offense), Broncos (19th), and Jets (24th). Their sole road win was against the Browns (now ranked fourth) in the season opener when the Browns had Charlie Frye at quarterback. They nearly dropped the rematch at Heinz Field.

The Patriots offense has already faced five of the defenses in the top half of the league, including the third ranked Colts D. New England has beaten those teams by an average of 19.2 points - including the three-point games against Indy and Philadelphia (12th overall). Overall, the average ranking of the 11 defenses faced by the Pats is 18.7, only marginally better than the 18.8 for offenses faced by Pittsburgh.

One of the big differences, however, is that of the teams Pittsburgh faced, only the Seahawks and Browns are close to locks for the playoffs. The Cardinals and Bills are fighting for wild card positioning. The Pats have cut their offensive teeth against the division leading Chargers, Colts, and Cowboys as well as wild card hopefuls Cleveland and Washington.

What does all of this mean?

Absolutely jack, if the teams don't come out and play the way they need to. However, if the rest of the season is any indication, the Steelers have had trouble coming out and playing the way they need to when on the road.

1 comment:

Mainecatwoman said...

All this yack about the Steelers ripping the Pats slays me. Willie Parker has been no great shakes th elast few games, and they're an effing horrible road team.

Pats 31, Steelers 24