Pittsburgh Steelers Predicted to Improve by Football Outsiders


A few weeks ago, Football Outsiders released their Football Outsiders Almanac 2014. This year’s version of their annual National Football League season preview book takes a comprehensive look at the Pittsburgh Steelers and the rest of NFL. It contains a look at last season for each team and uses data and trends over the past five years to make predictions for the upcoming season.

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The Steelers chapter was written by Scott Kacsmar, assistant editor of the site and a Pittsburgh resident. Usually, the book contains a lot of interesting information that is fun to read, but this year’s Pittsburgh chapter just seemed like a long recap of all the shortcomings we all know about already. Questionable coaching staff, bad offensive line, wasted draft picks, etc., etc., etc. I’ve only read one other chapter so far, which was the New York Giants chapter (they are predicted to be battling for the best defense and worst offense titles in 2014), so I’m sure there is plenty of entertaining information that I haven’t gotten to yet.

One interesting thing that is included in the Steelers chapter is how close their losses have been over the past decade. Since 2004, the year Ben Roethlisberger was drafted (coincidence?), the Steelers have the second lowest margin of defeat (-8.5 points average) behind only the San Diego Chargers (-7.7), who also got themselves a franchise quarterback (Philip Rivers) in that same draft. The Steelers are the only team to out-gain their opponents in yardage in their defeats (+5.0 yard average).

Jul 26, 2014; Latrobe, PA, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (7) participates in drills during training camp at Saint Vincent College. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

They failed on a fourth quarter comeback or game-winning drive (having possession of the ball in the fourth quarter or overtime when the score is tied or within a one score difference) in 47 of their 59 losses (79.7%) At first look this seems like a lot of failure, but if you think about it, it’s crazy that they were close enough to still be in the game in 47 of their 59 losses over the span of a decade. That leaves only twelve games over ten years that the Steelers didn’t have a chance to win in the fourth quarter.

The Football Outsiders do one million simulations of the upcoming season with a complicated set of data and then take the average wins for a team to predict how many wins it will earn in the coming season. In the past five years, the Steelers end of season win total has been within one win of the Almanac’s prediction. In 2014, the Steelers are predicted to have 9.0 wins, slightly above the Cincinnati Bengals (8.8) and first in the AFC North. I have been telling everybody that will listen that they will have 10 wins and make the playoffs this season, so with the one win cushion there is a good chance I could be right. Even if nine is the number, it puts the team back above .500 and is a step in the right direction.

If you are into advanced statistics or just want another different look at what happened last year and what is expected to happen this year the Football Outsiders Almanac is worth a look. I have purchased it for the past four years and have never been disappointed. You can purchase it here in PDF format or print if you are interested.