Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Owners Terminate CBA

The NFL Owners have announced that they have opted to cancel the collective bargaining agreement (CBA) with the player's union.

In a statement the league insists that
"[e]ven without another agreement, NFL football will be played without threat of interruption for at least the next three seasons. The 2008 and 2009 seasons will be played with a salary cap. If there is no new agreement before the 2010 season, that season will be played without a salary cap under rules that also limit the free agency rights of the players. If not extended, the agreement would expire at the end of the 2010 league year."
Meanwhile, in this week's installment of his "100 Words,"(released 5/19) the head of the National Football League Player's Association, Gene Upshaw, signals that this news has been expected for some time, and as a result is anticlimactic:
"The NFL owners will hold their spring meeting in Atlanta this week. One of the issues surely to be discussed is the timing of the early termination notice of the CBA. We should expect a notice to be given to us following this meeting. The notice will have no material effect on the players. It only means the CBA will end after the 2010 season unless an extension is negotiated. With all the talk about early termination, it will be good to get this issue behind us since all the owners have done since signing the 2006 agreement is complain."
One thing to remember, vis-a-vis the uncapped season of 2010, is that Mr. Upshaw has been adamant that the players would not play in an uncapped year -- the obvious point being that the players would strike rather than play.

Labels: , ,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Recycled Fanatic:
Season in Review: Rushing Yards

Our friends at Football Outsiders have argued that teams do not win games because they run, but run because they are winning. It's an interesting argument, one that deserves some consideration. However there is no denying that the Steelers' identity is wrapped up in its ability to run the football. Given that there is a general perception that the Steelers' offensive line had a sub-par season in 2007 (a perception that Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic shares), it's useful to look at the rushing yards accumulated by the team this season, and compare it to both the team's own performance over the last eight seasons, and the league average over that same period.

First, here's how the numbers look for the Steelers' ground attack from 2000-2007 (inclusive):

Net Rushing Yards2,2272,7742,1201,4882,4642,2231,9922,168

Looking at the ups-and-downs of the rushing performance over the course of a number of years seemingly supports the view that teams that are winning rush, versus rushing teams winning. The 2000, 2003, and 2006 seasons were less than stellar for the Steelers -- i.e. they played from behind in more than a few games -- and the running game had to be set aside. The one exception is 2004, which was Ben Roethlisberger's rookie season (as all of you no doubt recall Mr. Roethlisberger was pressed into duty after Tommy Maddox was injured at the beginning of the season). In that year the Steelers ran the ball in order to limit their young QBs exposure (the number of rushing plays that season -- 618 -- was the highest of any season in the last eight).

But of course the purpose of our post is to compare the 2007 season to others that preceded it, and while this season's rushing total represents an increase of nearly ten percent over last season (though it must be pointed out that the number of carries increased by a nearly identical percentage, and the average gain per carry -- 4.2 -- is identical to last season) it is the second lowest rushing total in a winning season during this eight year period (Note: In our humble opinions a .500 record is not a winning one, so the 1,992 rushing yards in 2006 are judged to have been gained in a losing season).

As for how the Steelers compare to the competition, here's a look (click on the picture for a larger image):

As expected, the Steelers are an above average rushing team, though just barely in 2006 and the general trend is toward a more average rushing attack. The 2007 season represents a slight upward tick, but just marginally. The question to be pondered is this: Given the investment that the team has made in its quarterback and wide receivers (i.e. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes) is the team moving towards a spread style of offense? And if so, what will the effect be on the types of offensive linemen who are brought onto the team?

All coaches talk about wanting to play physical football, and emphasize the need to run effectively. However, as Mike Tomlin showed when he arrived as head coach, and kept Dick LeBeau and the 3-4 defense (rather than installing his Cover Two), the talent sometimes dictates the system. Given that the offensive talent is in the skill positions it could be that the Steelers' offense may be undergoing a transformation, meaning that 2008 will be an important and interesting season.


Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Keeping the Internet Green:
Pittsburgh Steelers Fanatic Recycles

NOTE: In the interest of killing time until there is new football action over which to wring our hands, we've decided to re-publish our season-ending series of statistical snapshots of the Steelers' 2007 season.

As if watching the Steelers go down to defeat on Saturday wasn't difficult enough, in-and-of itself, there is the issue of creating informative, compelling material for you our reader (not a typo -- you, singular, our reader).

So we've decided to take a few days (or weeks, if we can stretch it out that long) to look at the 2007 performance of the Pittsburgh Steelers in a few statistical categories, relative to the other teams in the league. And to spice it up a little bit we've decided to actually go back a ways and take a look at how "things" are trending over the last eight NFL seasons (i.e. 2000-2008 inclusive). We begin with points scored. Here are the total points that the Steelers have scored during each season in that period:

Season 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007
Points 321 352 390 300 372 389 353 393

It is good to see that, despite the slippage in 2006, the generally trend is a positive one. However, as always, we ask the question what do these numbers mean? To provide some context we have calculated the league average over the same period and provide a graph to illustrate just how the Steelers compare to the other teams in the league (click on the picture to get a larger view):

It appears that while the Steelers are obviously scoring above the league averages they are not immune from fluctuations in scoring from season-to-season. Additionally, while the Steelers have exceeded the league average in all but two seasons, they are one of nine teams not to have scored at least 400 points in at least one of the eight seasons at which we are looking (the other teams are Baltimore, Buffalo, Carolina, Detroit, Houston -- they came into the league in 2002, and are not included in the seasonal averages prior to that season -- Miami, New York Jets, Tampa Bay, and Washington. Something that strikes us about this list is that at least three of the teams -- Baltimore, Tampa Bay, and Washington -- have had head coaches during that period who were known for their offensive prowess).

One final note, the 2000 season featured Kordell Stewart at starting quarterback (11 TDs, 8 INTs), and saw Kent Graham get some playing time as well (1 TD, 1 INT). Meanwhile, the 2003 season featured Tommy Maddox as the starting quarterback (18 TDs/17 INTs) and went 6-10 on the season, and at one point lost five consecutive games.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Rating the Drafts

Unsure of how well the Steelers drafted? Confused by all the grades that the draft "experts" -- most of whom didn't come close to accurately predicting which players would go where -- are handing out?

Well, Vince Verhei at Football Outsiders has come up with a terrific assessment of the assessors.

The Steelers come up looking very good in this article, so please enjoy!

Labels: ,