Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Jan 2009

ESPN INSIDER: Dominant Defense Sets Steelers Apart

Ned Macey takes a look at the differences between the 2005 and 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers. In total DVOA, the difference is almost zero, but underneath the surface a lot of specific strengths and weaknesses have changed.

Posted by: Ned Macey on 27 Jan 2009

2 comments, Last at 27 Jan 2009, 7:09pm by troycapitated polamalizer

Comments

1
by drobviousso :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 5:24pm

I don't have Insider, but it made me wonder about what was said. I took a look at, specifically, the change in DVOA vs the pass, which is obviously the area of largest improveemnt. Having watched or listed to every game this year and in 05, my feeling is that the whole secondary is playing much better, including LB in pass coverage.

Turns out, the improvements are Other WR (-10 to -40 DVOA) TE (-6 to -14, not huge) and RB (+21 to -26). They have actually gotten a touch worse with vs #1 (-13 to -10) and stayed about the same vs #2 (-5.7 to -6.7), but I would guess both of those are small enough that they could be attributed to noise (and maybe TE too?)

The conventional wisdom among Steeler fans that I've read is that 1)Woodly, Harrison, and especially Timmons are better at covering the flats and 2)Tomlin is a better secondary coach than anyone who was around 3 years ago (Even *gasp* Dick LeBeau, who knows a thing or two about covering a WR).

These numbers seem to align that conventional wisdom without confirming it. Hope left for Tenn after 05, and I'm not sure his replacement has been any better or worse. Gay was drafted last year. He seems to be playing better in the nickel than we've seen in the past, and I don't know any way to tell how much of that is Tomlin's influence.

2
by troycapitated p... :: Tue, 01/27/2009 - 7:09pm

Not an Insider, either. As far as Hope vs. Clark, I believe Ed Bouchette, who covers the Steelers for the local paper, said Clark is better, in his opinion, than Hope was, at least through 2005. Hope has gone on to make the Pro Bowl the last 2 seasons, I believe, so it may be that any improvement may have been a wash, if his play has gone up. For myself, I thought he was underrated at the time, and hoped we'd hold on to him.

I think the fact that Bryant McFadden finally beat out Deshea Townsend for the starting corner spot, though Deshea got it back for a while due to injury, has helped because, as well as Deshea still plays, at this point, he's better suited to be a nickle guy. William Gay's improvement further improves sets with extra DB's.

I think it all starts up front with the improved ability to get pressure while often rushing only 4-5. In some previous seasons, as good as the defense was, we had to send 5 or more to generate any pressure. It seems to me that this season, we have been able to get pressure with fewer people, which helps to improve the coverage in the secondary.