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RuthlessBurgher
07-02-2009, 10:00 PM
This is from his N.Y. Times football blog, but he also does regular work for ESPN.com, breaking down players by the numbers. I really like that William Gay allowed a league best 3.4 whenever the opposing QB threw his way. That can explain why Gay was still getting regular playing time when McFadden returned from injury, and why they were not willing to invest singificant to keep BMac beyond last season since Gay was playing so well in his stead.

http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/the-2009-steelers-strangely-underrated-champions/


June 29, 2009, 7:16 am
The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions
By KC Joyner

The Football Scientist, KC Joyner, is a Fifth Down contributor. Lab results from “Scientific Football 2009,” to be published in August, are now available for those who order the book now.

I did a radio interview last week with Greg DePalma of Pro Football Central, and one of the topics was which team should be considered the favorite to win the Super Bowl. It didn’t surprise me that the Patriots were on top of the Las Vegas odds to be crowned Super Bowl XLIV champions, but a recent study I did on the defending champion Steelers has me wondering why they aren’t being thought of as having the inside track to repeat.

Let me enumerate the reasons:

Big Ben should have a much better season. Roethlisberger always has some kind of injury woes (as he frequently reminds us with his repetitive wincing, grimacing and other exaggerated motions he uses to showcase his pains), but the shoulder he separated in Week 1 against Houston last year limited his performance all year long. A healthy Roethlisberger should mean a return to his 2007 form, which was the best of his career and included a passer rating that was over 20 points better than his 2008 total (104.1 versus 80.1).

The Steeler defense. Everyone knows how good this unit is, but here’s a point I want to make: As it stands now, who do you think would win between a Tom Brady-led Patriots offense and the Pittsburgh defense? I know it is entirely possible (and maybe even likely) that Brady will be back to his old self by season’s end, but many recent top-line QBs coming off serious injuries haven’t made it back to their previous performance levels until a couple of seasons later. As it stands today, I’d take this D in that battle hands down, and until I see Brady back at full strength, I see this a significant edge for the Steelers.

Improved running game. Pittsburgh’s running game was affected last year by injuries to starting running back Willie Parker (out for five games), starting left tackle Marvel Smith (played in only five games) and starting right guard Kendall Simmons (played in only four games). A healthy Parker combined with a healthy O-line that gets a better chance to jell than last year’s group should yield a much higher rush yards per game than the 105.6 this team put up last year (a total that ranked 23rd in the league).

The secondary. Pittsburgh did lose Bryant McFadden in free agency, but his replacement, William Gay, more than held his own last year with a superb 3.4 YPA (lowest in the league). The Steelers also had to juggle their CBs for most of 2008 and, as is the case with the O-line, if this unit stays healthy, it could play even better than it did last year.

Schedule. Pittsburgh has a first-place schedule that includes such opponents as Tennessee, San Diego and Miami, to go along with two tough divisional games against Baltimore. But check out their potentially easy games – Cincinnati (twice), Detroit, Denver, Kansas City and Oakland. I know this is the NFL and no game is a gimme, but it would be a complete shock if Pittsburgh didn’t go at least 5-1 against that caliber of competition.

Now contrast that schedule with those of the two other AFC conference favorites:
New England – hard games: Atlanta, Baltimore, Tennessee, Miami (twice), Indianapolis, New Orleans and Carolina. Easy games: Denver, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville.
Tennessee – hard games: Pittsburgh, Indianapolis (twice), New England, Arizona, Miami and San Diego. Easy games: Jacksonville (twice), St. Louis, Seattle.

I know a lot of this schedule analysis is subjective (is Jacksonville really an easy opponent?), but now matter how I slice it, Pittsburgh comes out with more easy opponents and fewer hard opponents than either of the other two AFC powerhouses.

I have to admit that before I did the Steelers tape breakdown, I was of the mind-set that San Diego was the conference favorite and New England was a close second. l’ll be fair and say that I reserve the right to change my mind after doing the Chargers breakdown (which should come in the next couple of weeks), but as it stands right now, these five factors have me saying that Pittsburgh is the odds-on favorite to win the AFC.

(You can follow KC Joyner on Facebook at http://tinyurl.com/ckavry or on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kcjoynertfs).

BradshawsHairdresser
07-03-2009, 12:20 AM
This Joyner is obviously one of the greatest football analysts in the country. . .

. . .unless he makes the Chargers the favorite after he does his review of them.

Discipline of Steel
07-03-2009, 07:42 AM
This Joyner is obviously one of the greatest football analysts in the HISTORY OF FOOTBALL. . .

. . .unless he makes the Chargers the favorite after he does his review of them.

Fixed that for you... :D

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
07-03-2009, 09:41 AM
Of course we are going to like this analysis simply because it is promoting our team, however, each of these points are backed up with solid reasoning.

Unlike the "Brady is back so NE is a lock" crowd, this guy goes more in depth. Even if you look at possible negatives, it does not outweigh the many reasons for improvement. We won the SB last year with a team with many flaws. Much of those issues should be improved now so anyone trying to unseat the champs will have to beat a better team than the one that won SB XLIII.

Oviedo
07-04-2009, 09:36 AM
Of course we are going to like this analysis simply because it is promoting our team, however, each of these points are backed up with solid reasoning.

Unlike the "Brady is back so NE is a lock" crowd, this guy goes more in depth. Even if you look at possible negatives, it does not outweigh the many reasons for improvement. We won the SB last year with a team with many flaws. Much of those issues should be improved now so anyone trying to unseat the champs will have to beat a better team than the one that won SB XLIII.

It will be enjoyable to watch Brady lead the Pats to a 9-7 record this year and hear the pundits make excuses for his performance.