As a Steelers fan I've been slightly annoyed by claims that the team's Super Bowl victory is somehow less impressive because their slate of postseason opponents was weak. I'm not here to argue that it wasnt.
The 2008 Steelers postseason opponents cumulative regular season winning percentage was 0.583, which is by far the lowest in the Super Bowl era (the next lowest was 0.611 by the 1983 Washington Redskins). Those are the facts, but they shouldn't diminish what the Steelers accomplished. A team can only play the opponents they are given.
To get the numbers above, I researched the schedules of all 43 Super Bowl winners and in the process I discovered some other interesting facts. Though the 2008 Steelers had the "easiest" postseason schedule in the Super Bowl era, they had the second hardest regular season schedule (based on 2008 records) of any Super Bowl winning team.
The cumulative winning percentage of Pittsburgh's opponents was .520, a record surpassed only by the 1979 Steelers at .527. That's right. The Steelers have faced the two most difficult regular season schedules ever by Super Bowl champions.
So, while the 2008 Steelers may not have faced the most difficult collection of postseason foes, they certainly paid their dues on the way to the playoffs.
Some other interesting facts I learned while crunching these numbers:
- The 1999 "Greatest Show on Turf" Rams faced an absurdly easy schedule on their way to the postseason. The cumulative winning percentage of their opponents was .363 which makes it the third easiest schedule ever faced by Super Bowl Champ.
A deeper look further illustrates the point: the Rams only faced one team the entire season that ended with a record over .500, on the other hand they played eleven games against teams that ended with a record below .500
- The 1972 Dolphins, the NFL's only undefeated Super Bowl Champ, faced the second easiest regular season schedule on their way to the playoffs (.357). They faced only two teams who ended over .500 and nine teams who ended under .500.
- The easiest regular season schedule ever faced by a Super Bowl Champ belongs to the 1970 Colts. The cumulative winning percentage of their opponents was .352, they faced three teams who ended over .500 and eleven teams who ended under .500.
- As mentioned above, the Steelers had the two hardest regular season schedules. The 2007 Giants had the third most difficult regular season schedule at .516 (they also had fourth most difficult postseason schedule by a Super Bowl winner)
- Of the 43 Superbowl Champs, only nine ever faced a regular season schedule of .500 or better. Those include the previously mentioned Steelers and Giants as well as the 1988 49ers, 1980 Raiders, 1991 Redskins, 1996 Packers, 1990 Giants, and the 2006 Colts.
- Four Super Bowl Champs faced regular season schedules below .400 including the Rams, Dolphins, and Colts mentioned above. The other team was the 1971 Cowboys.
- The five teams who faced the overall toughest road to the championship, regular season AND playoffs, were (in order) the 2007 Giants, 2005 Steelers, 2006 Colts, 1980 Raiders, and 2004 Patriots.