All the talk was about how the New England Patriots coming off a perfect regular season, and the talk was about the Patriots being able to repeat that feat. Who could blame them? The Patriots sported the easiest schedule in the NFL.
The Steelers, on the other hand, had the hardest schedule. Not just of the year, but the hardest schedule in nearly 30 years. There is no way the Steelers would be good enough to make it to Tampa Bay for Super Bowl XLIII.
After the first weekend of the NFL season, all of the talk started to change. Tom Brady went down to a torn ACL, and the race to Tampa was on for the rest of the teams in the NFL.
But still, the schedule was so hard, the Steelers would need a minor miracle to make it to the Super Bowl.
Maybe God is a Steelers fan, maybe the stars were aligned just right, or maybe, just maybe, the 2008 Steelers were destined.
The Steelers defense went on to be one of the most dominant defenses in recent history. All of those teams that made up the hardest schedule in 30 years, started falling. The Chargers, then the Cowboys, the Ravens...TWICE.
The Steelers pound their way through the playoffs. The Chargers again, and the Ravens for the third time.
After defeating the Arizona Cardinals, the Steelers were again Super Bowl Champions.
There is no goal to achieve in the NFL better than winning the Super Bowl, none. Dan Marino said he would trade every record he had to win just one Super Bowl.
So, at 6-2, with a game against the Bengals Sunday, how can I talk about this team being better? Simple, they are!
Comparing the defense to last years, is the hardest to do. Last year's Steelers were so dominant, people compared it to the Steelers of the 70's. And THAT was an amazing defense.
The 2008 Steelers finished the season with the top overall ranked defense, allowing only 3,795 yards, 382 yards less than the second place Ravens. They allowed 157 passing yards per game, and only 80 rushing yards per game.
This year, the defense is allowing 214 passing yards per game, and 70 rushing yards per game. The 2009 Steelers are allowing more yards per game, but four of those games were played without Troy Polamalu. And if you don't think that counts, look at the yardage in the games he missed.
Chicago - 275 yards, 231 passing.
Cincinnati - 273 yards, 173 passing.
San Diego - 497 yards, 320 passing.
Other than the Bengals, the Steelers gave up WAY more passing yards, in those games, way over their average. The Steelers rushing yards against didn't change, but the passing yards were up.
The biggest difference is the offense. The 2008 version was the 22nd-ranked offense in the league. They were ranked 17th passing with 3,301 yards, and rushed for 1,690 yards, which was good enough for 23rd.
This year's Steelers are ranked seventh overall, with 2,134 passing yards which is ranked seventh, and 922 yards rushing, which is ranked 15th.
At their current pace, the Steelers will pass for 4,264 yards, which is 963 yards more through the air, and 1,844 rushing yards, which is 154 more rushing yards than last year. This is not only an improvement of 1,107, it is dominating on the other side of the ball.
Last year, there were many games that the Steelers won that were attributed directly to the defense, and the defense deserved it. But no longer does the defense have to do it alone.
Ben Roethlisberger has improved his completion percentage from 59.9%, to 70.6%, and his QB rating from 80.1, to 104.1.
Rashard Mendenhall is averaging 5.7 yards per carry this year, to Willie Parker's 3.8 of last year.
And as for points, the 2008 team scored 347 points while this years team has scored 195, and is on pace to score 390. That is averaging over four points a game.
So, though the defense may not be as great as the defense of 2008, the offense is considerably better, in all phases of the game.