I've been mostly MIA this season, but I stick my head in every now and then. I did an article a while back on how the Steelers rank in Football Outsiders' DVOA metric and I thought this would be a good opportunity to check back in and see how the Steelers compare to the rest of the league. For those that don't know, DVOA is a statistic that attempts to compare how well a team does on a play-by-play basis compared to the rest of the league. It's not a perfect metric, but in my experience it has generally been able to accurately characterize how good a team is better than traditional stats. It does that by taking game circumstances into account and giving more weight to traits that have shown to be fairly stable over time (e.g. yards per play) vs. traits that tend to be fluky (e.g. defensive interceptions). Anyways, on to the numbers.
Steelers DVOA rankings
Overall: 2nd. The great and glorious New England is first, of course. It's pretty interesting though that we are very close to them in overall DVOA (38.2% vs. 35.2%) while there's a lot more separation between us and the 3rd ranked Eagles (25.1%).
Offense: 9th. This might come as a surprise to some, since we're currently 19th in total yards and haven't scored very much recently, but if you watch this offense, there's definitely a feeling that we can move the ball. The game against Cinci was a good illustration of this. Our offense put up a grand total of 6 points, but moved the ball, changed field position, and killed the clock, which were highly successful outcomes given the game circumstances. That 6 point performance raised our DVOA ranking from 13th to 9th.
Breaking down the numbers further, we have the 3rd (!) most efficient passing game behind God and Phillip Rivers, and the 23rd ranked running game. Impressive considering Ben missed 4 weeks and the OL is shot to shit. Our running game has consistently decreased in efficiency as the year has worn on. This is an aside, but I believe penalties aren't weighted much in DVOA because they generally aren't consistent over time. With this OL, holding penalties probably will be consistent over the remainder of the season, so it's possible DVOA is painting a slightly rosy picture.
Another interesting tidbit is that our offense's "variance" or consistency, is 22nd in the league, which seems about right.
Defense: 1st. Rushing defense: 1st. Pasing defense: 4th. With how much I've heard about our "23rd ranked pass defense" this might be as surprising as the offense, but it's not if you watch the games. This is a very good defense. The top passing defenses are NYG, SD, and GB.
Here's how our defense stacks up against some of the best defenses in the last couple years (if you're wondering, I made everything positive for clarity):
2008 Steelers: 26.9%
2008 Ravens: 24.5%
2006 Ravens: 23.6%
2009 Giants: 23.4%
2008 Eagles: 20.3%
2006 Bears: 19.7%
2010 Steelers: 19.1%
Our run defense's DVOA of 32.7% is the best since the 2000 Ravens (40.6%).
Another note about New England: Their offense's current DVOA is 48.7%, our defense's DVOA is 19.1%. These numbers don't account for matchups, but the take home message there is that their offense is better than our defense. As we talked about in the NE thread the other day, we need our offense to show up and take advantage of their defense if we're going to beat them in the playoffs.
Special Teams: 8th. It's good to see our return game and coverage units be a strength this year, even though we're on our 2nd K and P.
Playoff Odds: According to their odds, we have about a 90% chance of both winning our division and getting a bye week. The Colts have a 41% chance of making the playoffs.