Since the 70's, Steeler football has been equated by a dominating ground game and an equally dominant run defense. Now in 2010, we hear a lot of people clamoring for a return of the ground game after a poor 2009 season. In short, people want to see a return to the days of smash-mouth football.
However, the league now is very different than what it was in the 70's.
In 2009, the top ten teams in rushing yards had a combined winning percentage of .544. Teams that ranked in the top 10 in passing yards, however, had a combined winning percentage of .706! This includes the Superbowl-winning Saints, by the way.
I also looked at efficiency (YPA). The teams that ran the most efficiently had a combined win percentage of .512. The most efficient passing teams achieved a .694 percentage (again including the Saints). The difference was even more profound this time. To be fair, the Saints also ranked in the top-ten in both rushing categories. But if you look it up, the best passing teams in history tend to be more successful in wins and trophies than the best rushing teams.
HOWEVER, when one looks at defense,
The teams that surrendered the fewest rushing yards had a winning percentage of .619. The ones that surrendered the fewest passing yards achieved only .456. Way lower.
For efficiency, they were roughly the same. The ones that allowed the fewest yards per rush attempt combined for .575. For passing, the teams combined for .600. (The Saints weren't in the top 10 for any category here).
Now, I know there are other factors at work here - the level of competition and the other side of the ball. For example, the Buccaneers had a good pass defense, but their offense was incredibly inept. Plus, these stats are from just one season. However, the numbers are eye-opening, and it makes one wonder how important running the ball is these days - and whether or not the Steelers should return to "Steeler football".