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Old 06-29-2009, 07:51 AM   #1
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Default The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions
By KC Joyner
http://fifthdown.blogs.nytimes.com/2...ted-champions/

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).
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:02 AM   #2
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

I like this guy's way of thinking and he makes a lot of very viable points. The Steelers are going to have high expectations placed upon them this season for obvious reasons and whether they can live up to those expectations remains to be seen, but if I'm a betting person (and I am), I'd have to say they stand the best chance of any other team in the AFC of repeating as champs.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:08 AM   #3
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

I like the way the author thinks as well. I think I'll drop over to Vegas and put down a little cash. I will be very happy if the rest of the NFL continues to underestimate us as the idiot talking heads do.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:17 AM   #4
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

Nice read that. I have to say that I think he hits on a lot of great points here. I actually feel like Brady will come out with something to prove. I think he'll light it up the first half of the season, but I have questions as to whether or not his body can sustain it all season. I think we have an excellent chance or repeating if 1.) our defense plays at the same high level as last year, and 2.) our offense simply improves in a few areas. We need to simply run the ball better and that will translate into less pressure on Ben from the pass rush stand point. It should also improve our red zone scoring effeciency, which sucked last season from a short TD perspective.
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Old 06-29-2009, 08:19 AM   #5
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

He makes it sound good on paper, but we have to go into each game with a posoitve attitude.

I know the easy games are not going to be a give me and we can't overlook any of them. We need to play the best Steler football that we can and win another superbowl.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:01 AM   #6
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

mesaSteelerThe 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

Quote:
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).
Great read Mesa.
Id like to add to this point though... and people do seem to forget everything was against us.. therefore the ground game weakened last year.

FWP gets injured... misses game time.
Mendenhall is out.
M Smith and K Simmons both out.
New Center, in Hartwig, new Guards in Kemo and D Stappleton.

this is pretty much a brand new O-line!!! with two guys that had never started... one that had a mediocre previous year in carolina.. and two tackles that werent showing consistency... (oh yea Throw into the mix the fact that the Steelers had THE toughest schedule in the NFL last year... and maybe one of the toughest in league history given opossing teams previous records)

Steelers played allot of TOP NOTCH defenses!!!! and ppl blame the Oline for everything sometimes?? give the dudes a brake... when it mattered the most.. .they STUCK TOGETHER and protected ben with their lives! ( cough cough... GW SB DRIVE ... cough)

OUR OLINE WILL DO JUST FINE THIS YEAR.... they are more confident... more comfortable with each other... and the schedule is one of the easiest in the league.

FWP is healthy... Mendenhall is set... and the ground game WILL BE BACK TO OLDSCHOOL STEELER FOOTBALL
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:31 AM   #7
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

Obviously, the memo was missed. Last season did not count because Marsha was hurt. Therefore the Steelers' championship has an asterisk thus making the Cheatriots a favorite yet again.
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Old 06-29-2009, 10:48 AM   #8
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

The Patsies win another preseason Super Bowl on paper. Woo Hoo !!!!!! Who gives a crap what the prognosticators say. We are the champeens until someone knocks us off our perch. Patsies, you can kiss my .........
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Old 06-29-2009, 11:12 AM   #9
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

Quote:
Originally Posted by SteelKid212 View Post
mesaSteelerThe 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions



Great read Mesa.
Id like to add to this point though... and people do seem to forget everything was against us.. therefore the ground game weakened last year.

FWP gets injured... misses game time.
Mendenhall is out.
M Smith and K Simmons both out.
New Center, in Hartwig, new Guards in Kemo and D Stappleton.

this is pretty much a brand new O-line!!! with two guys that had never started... one that had a mediocre previous year in carolina.. and two tackles that werent showing consistency... (oh yea Throw into the mix the fact that the Steelers had THE toughest schedule in the NFL last year... and maybe one of the toughest in league history given opossing teams previous records)

Steelers played allot of TOP NOTCH defenses!!!! and ppl blame the Oline for everything sometimes?? give the dudes a brake... when it mattered the most.. .they STUCK TOGETHER and protected ben with their lives! ( cough cough... GW SB DRIVE ... cough)

OUR OLINE WILL DO JUST FINE THIS YEAR.... they are more confident... more comfortable with each other... and the schedule is one of the easiest in the league.

FWP is healthy... Mendenhall is set... and the ground game WILL BE BACK TO OLDSCHOOL STEELER FOOTBALL
I agree. I believe the O-line will be a ton better this year. Experience is key and they all got some last year. If they can stay healthy, I believe the O-line will be just fine
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Old 06-29-2009, 12:12 PM   #10
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Default Re: The 2009 Steelers: Strangely Underrated Champions

We just gotta keep laying those blocks one at a time and improve on the structure that we have already made...................
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