Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Season in Review: Passing Yards Allowed

In the January 20, 2008 issue of Pro Football Weekly (PFW) the editors begin the process of getting us all ready for the NFL draft by providing a brief look at what they perceive to be each team's biggest needs. According to PFW the Steelers require "a blue-chip cornerback, a factor that becomes apparent against top competition. Safety could also be a position that needs bolstering if [free safety] Anthony Smith can't bounce back from a forgettable second NFL season."

It's hard to argue with those assessments -- and it's one that we've heard and read from other sources -- so we thought we'd go ahead and take a look at the net passing yards (i.e. gross passing yards minus yards lost via sacks -- we believe it provides a more holistic perspective on pass defense, at least compared to gross passing yards allowed) allowed by the Steelers in period 2000-2007, and then compare that with the rest of the National Football League.

First, as always, here are the number of passing yards the Steelers have surrendered the last eight seasons:


The lowest total in the past eight seasons? That isn't at all what we expected. Moreover, the Steelers surrendered the third fewest passing yards in the NFL this season (only Tampa Bay and Indianapolis gave up fewer) -- that after a 2006 season in which twenty teams gave up fewer net passing yards. Indeed, other than being torched by Tom Brady (399 yards) the Steelers did not give up 250 net passing yards in any single game this past season. So despite the lack of a blue-chip cornerback, and Anthony Smith's struggles, the Steelers' pass defense showed marked improvement this past season.

As for how the Steelers most recent eight seasons measure up to the competition, here's a look (click on the image for a closer look):

Relative to the other teams in the NFL it appears that pass defense is something of a Steelers strength -- no matter what any of us fans, or the experts, might think.

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