Hey BTSC, here is my latest post over at Checking the Numbers. I hoped to give a better understanding why so many Steelers fans could want a new OC after having a 4000 yard passer, two 1000 yard WRs, and a 1000 yard rusher.
About a week ago, the esteemed maryrose wrote an excellent post summarizing the Pittsburgh Steelers' issues from this season. Overall, I agree with his assessments, but there is one area where we don't see it the same. While he did point out the short yardage and goalline deficiencies in the Steelers offense, he is willing to give Arians credit for improving the offensive output this season by over 1000 and 21 points. Maryrose asks how Steelers fans can be so hard on Arians after a season with a 4000 yard passer, two 1000 yard receivers, and a 1000 yard rusher. At the same time, we seem to be willing to give Lebeau a pass for the defensive struggles. He has a good point there, but I think there are very legitimate reasons for that.First, let's quickly address Lebeau and the defensive issues. Why give him a pass? I believe that his history of great defenses, including the top defense in the league each of the last two years, gives him credibility. The defensive problems this year can be largely explained by all of the injuries as well as the loss of a couple starters from last years defense. The bottom line, though, is that Lebeau's track record gives him the benefit of the doubt. He's proven himself time and time again. This season looks more like an aberration. Not to mention that the defense still finished 5th in the league in yards allowed. So, I'm fully confident that with another year of experience for some of the younger guys, this defense will improve under Lebeau.
With that said, let's turn our attention to Arians. He has a track record of inconsistency. Some games (or some drives), his offenses have looked unstoppable. There have been plays and drives that were just beautiful to watch. Then, there have been the wasted redzone opportunities. How many times have we seen quick passes from about the 4 yard line that were thrown into the middle of the field? In that situation, there are always many defenders in the area. I can't remember a single time when that play resulted in a TD, but it often looked like the Steelers were lucky that it wasn't an interception. As many Steelers fans have stated, the reason Arians should go is that he hasn't shown a good feel for play calling. He calls too many empty sets in 3rd and short, for example. He wastes good drives with poor redzone play calling. This year, there were several games where the 4th quarter collapses were as much the offense's fault as the defenses. Whether they didn't bury the team when they were clearly dominating earlier in the game, or they didn't score any points (or in some cases, even gain a first down) in the 4th quarter, the offense clearly contributed to many of the losses.
With that lengthy introduction, my purpose in this post is to review all of the NFL teams in history who had a 4000 yard passer and see where this Steelers team ranked in terms of points scored. In fact, I looked at a few other things as well, but I will get into those very soon. I actually first looked at teams with a QB of over 4300 yards passing since Ben had just over 4300 yards this season. As usual, I pulled my data from Pro-Football-Reference.com.
Using their Player Season Finder, I pulled the individual seasons that a QB had over 4300 yards and 4000 yards respectively. Both were sorted by passing TDs scored. Of players who have passed for 4300 yards, Ben ranked tied for 31st (with 4 other players) out of 41, with 26 TD passes. So, of course, a 4300 yard passing season is nothing to sneeze at, but this season ranked in bottom 25% of such seasons in terms of passing TDs. I then looked at his season against 4000 yard passers. He tied for 55th (with 8 other players) out of 84. Again, in the bottom 3rd of that group. Again, a 4300+ yard passing season is a great accomplishment, but among such seasons, this one was well below average.
That leads me to the next point. The real issue is not so much how many TD passes Ben threw. The issue how many points this "explosive" offense scored. For each season represented, I looked up and recorded how many points they scored for the season. Among teams with a 4300 yard passer, this offense ranked 35th out of 41 in points scored. When we include all 4000 yard passers, the team ranks 67th out of 84 teams.
In addition to points scored, I recorded team ranks in points scored and yards gained. The reason I did this is that I believe that the Steelers offense wasted too many opportunities, which I believe is reflected in the fact that their offensive ranking in points is 5 places lower than their yardage ranking. For each team, I calculated the difference in their respective offensive rankings by subtracting the points ranking from the yards ranking. The resulting difference is, I believe, an indicator of wasted offensive opportunities to score points. The two tables below show the results.
4300 Yard Passers
|Rk||Player||Year||Age||Tm||Yds Rk-Pts Rk||Pts Rk||Yds Rk|
4000 Yard Passers
|Rk||Player||Year||Age||Tm||Yds Rk-Pts Rk||Pts Rk||Yds Rk|
In both cases, we see that the Steelers offense ranked among the bottom in terms of points ranking not living up to the yardage ranking.
I am sure that some will again question how you can complain about an offense with a 4000 yard passer, two 1000 yard WRs, and a 1000 yard rusher. But, to me, these numbers make it clear that this offense had the potential to score a lot more points, and the main reason that they didn't was Bruce Arians' inability to develop a solid redzone strategy. Referring back to the discussion of track record above, this fits Arians' track record. I see no real reason for hope that he will fix his own shortcomings next year because he hasn't yet. Obviously, this is a moot point now, as Arians has been retained, but I wanted to show that there is some legitimate basis for making a change at this time. This offense is loaded with talent, and the lack of coherent play-calling appears to be the main thing holding them back from being a truly explosive offense.
Footnote: I know I did not include the table for the data wrt to the offensive points scored data. If you just have to see it, click here: QBs With 4000+, 4300+ passing yards.