The Pittsburgh Steelers' Defense Didn't Get Them to the Super Bowl

Ray JagCorrespondent IFebruary 22, 2009

I have read many articles written here in BR and have also read the comments regarding Ben Roethlisberger not being a major part in the Steelers’ success.

Many have commented stating that any average QB could win given the Steelers’ defense.  Well that got me to start thinking.  Yes, Steelers’ fans do think.  Especially when coming to the defense of our beloved team.

I know what I am about to write will be greatly debated.  That is my intent.  I hope we continue to debate our sports heroes and the teams we love dearly.  We still live in a free country, and I am allowed to say that some teams are lousy, some are great, and the Steelers are the greatest!  Just kidding.  Wanted to get Steelers haters stirred up.

Now back to the question that any ordinary QB given the Steelers’ steel curtain could bring in a Super Bowl to their beloved city. 

The seasons I used for statistical purposes were from 1998 to 2007.  I figured that a ten year span in the NFL, especially the last 10, would be a good segment to compile my research. Time doesn’t allow me to do every year in the modern Super Bowl era.

I didn’t use the 2008 season for the simple reason that this was the season that the argument was being made that the Steelers’ defense took them there and the offense had nothing, or very little, to do with getting them there.

I went over the last 10 years of the NFL’s seasons and pulled the top five defenses every year and noticed that it wasn’t even a given that if you had a top five defense you would even make the playoffs! 

Yes you heard me correctly.  Just because you have a top five defense does not guarantee a playoff spot!  Of the top five defenses, 36 percent of the time the team didn’t even make it into the playoffs.  Right there the fallacy that a great defense guarantees a playoff birth has been debunked.

You take the top five defenses for 10 years and you have a total of 50 great defenses.  Of these, 18 teams didn’t even make the playoffs, let alone make it to the Super Bowl!  In this time frame, only three top-five defenses won the Super Bowl. That is a six percent success rate. 

They are the 2005 Steelers, 2002 Buccaneers, and the 2000 Ravens.

For example, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers made the top five in defenses a total of seven times.  Of these seasons that they had these tough defenses, three times they didn’t make it to the playoffs.

In 2002 they beat Oakland 48-21 with a defense that only allowed 12.2 points per game.  Oakland had the No. 1 offense and had the No. 11 defense.

The Baltimore Raven’s made it five times and missed the playoffs twice.

Get this, the 2006 Oakland Raiders had the number three defense, number one in passing defense, yet had a dismal 2-14 record.  They had a truly horrendous offense and were -23 in takeaways.  This was a major contributing factor to the record they had but their defense was way above average.

Many who attack Ben Roethlisberger make claims that any QB can win with a great defense and that is absolutely not true.  NFL records prove this to be a fallacy.

You need a well rounded team because it is a team sport.  Great players with a team attitude will cause average players around them to play even better, but great players with a self-centered, egotistical attitude cause teams to play below their ability.

Look at Dallas this year.

Many comments on the BR just bragged about how Kurt Warner would take over the Super Bowl this year and Ben would do what he did in his first Super Bowl. During this period of compiling data I was surprised to find facts about Kurt’s win that amazed me.

The 1999 Ram’s offense was number one and did what Pittsburgh’s defense does to our offense, it out shines them. The 1999 Ram’s had the No. 6 defense in the league.  Not too shabby. What is even more impressive was that they had the No. 4 defense in points per game; they only average 15.1 points against them, very respectable.

Now in the Super Bowl they were going against the No. 17 ranked defense of the Titans. Making things worse was that the Titans were only 225th in passing defense.

You would think that this would add up to a huge blow out.  It didn’t.  The Ram’s only won by seven points.  Not a blow out by any means.

My point isn’t to diminish Kurt Warner’s win, it is to bring to light that they had a very well rounded and balanced team.

My point is that just because you have a great defense does not mean it is automatic that you will even make the playoffs.  Your offense has a lot to do with whether you can win enough games to even make it into the playoffs.

Defenses are vital, but they aren’t everything.  You still need to put up enough points for the win column.

Here are some examples over the last ten years of some great defenses that didn’t even make the playoffs:

2006-    #2- Jacksonville, 8-8

#3- Oakland, 2-14

2004-    #2- Buffalo, 9-7 (Drew Bledsoe was the QB)

#3- Washington, 6-10

2003-    #2- Buffalo, 7-9 (Drew Bledsoe was the QB)

2002-    #2- Carolina, 7-9, (Rodney Peete)

#3- Miami, 9-7

1999-    #2- Baltimore, 8-8

1998- #1- San Diego, 5-11

            #2- Tampa Bay, 8-8 (Trent Dilfer)

I believe that enough has been said that even a great defense doesn’t mean even a playoff birth without an offense that can generate the wins to get you there.

Yes, they keep you in games and the 2008 Ravens are a testimony that even defenses can put a lot of points on the scoreboard. But you also need an offense that is good enough to put wins in the column.

This brings me to the point I wanted to make. Pittsburgh’s offense may not be flashy.  Ben may not pile up the stats. But to say that any QB could have taken the 2008 Steelers to the Super Bowl is just a ridiculous statement. There are too many variables that come in to play in any given game, let alone an entire season to make this statement.

Ben and our offense have been overshadowed by an awesome defense. This doesn’t mean that we would have made the Super Bowl without them. The fact is that we wouldn’t have made it without them!

The above mentioned defenses all had offenses that couldn’t cut the mustard.  Some even had Super Bowl winning QBs on their offenses yet still didn’t even make the playoffs!

If Myth busters did a segment on the idea that a great defense is an automatic into the playoffs, let alone the Super Bowl, would be “Busted.”


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