AFC Playoffs: How the Pittsburgh Steelers Win It All, No Matter Who They Play

Bryan HollisterAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2009

After careful consideration, a bit of a hunch, and confirmation through diligent research, I have discovered what the Steelers need to do in order to bring home the Lombardi Trophy for an NFL-record sixth time.

No, it's not as simple as "score more than the other teams", either. This deals with more than mere points.

I'm sure that thought occurred to—and mildly amused—all you Steelers haters out there, particularly those of the cute little purple bird variety. But we Steelers fans are not quite as simple-minded as you would like to believe.

No, this comes down to something a bit more obscure. This is not just about points, although you do have to outscore your opponent to win the game (shout-out to Donovan McNabb here). This is about something that I would bet few have considered for any length of time.

I know: You're dying to hear just what it is I have come up with now.

Yardage. Not total yardage, but the correct combination of both passing and rushing yardage that, more often than not, results in a Steelers victory.

Allow me to elucidate.

Going all the way back to 2004, when a young rookie out of the Mid American Conference took the helm of the Pittsburgh Steelers offense and ran off a rookie record of 16 straight regular season victories, the Steelers have followed a distinct pattern in their wins and losses. It all comes down to how balanced their offensive production is.

When the Steelers rushing attack comes in under 100 total yards, their win-loss record is an abysmal 10-18—or 35 percent—regardless of how many yards Big Ben racks up through the air.

Roethlisberger threw for a career-high 433 yards in Week Nine of the 2006 season, and they lost with only 96 yards rushing.


When their passing attack eclipses 200 yards per game, they show slight improvement with a record of 34-13, or 72 percent. Not top of the class, but at least it's a passing score.

On the flip side of the coin, if the Steelers rush for more than 100 yards in a game, their record jumps all the way up to 54-5, a 91 percent win ratio. In Big Ben's rookie year, they eclipsed 100 yards in 15 of 16 games, and won every contest. In fact, they reached 120 or more yards in 13 games, and were at or near 200 yards in five of them.

Wait, it gets better. And this is the big one you've no doubt been waiting for.

When the Pittsburgh Steelers have reached 200 or more yards passing and 100 or more yards rushing, they have won 25 of 27 games. Just a smidgen under 93 percent. 

For those of you struggling with the math, that means they only lost two of those contests.

With 100 or more rushing yards in a game, it's a pretty good bet that the Steelers emerge the victors. But if they can manage both, they are all but guaranteed a win.

I will throw the Ravens a small bone here. Of the 10 contests between Pittsburgh and Baltimore since 2004, the Ravens have held the Steelers under 100 yards on the ground eight times, and they have won six of them, including Roethlisberger's 433-yard effort in 2006.

Pittsburgh is 2-0 in the games where they managed to crack the century mark, though.

I'm not saying the Steelers will have an easy go of pulling off this feat against Baltimore. In fact, considering the history between these two teams, they'll be lucky to combine for 100 yards on the ground.

But the pattern is clearly there: 200 plus 100 equals a win for the Steelers, no matter how you slice it.

Are you listening, Ray Lewis?