Steelers might as well sign Terrell Owens we are already suffering from the bigger TEAM OBLITERATOR: TURNOVERS! Terrell Owens is a TEAM OBLITERATOR because he may infect your locker room with his cancer BUT I argue that we have the equivalent of full blown aids: NEGATIVE TURNOVER MARGINS. In previous posts I have outlined how lucky we were against the Colts because with a -2 turnover margin on the road we had about a 2.03% chance of winning that game (27 times in the last 1,328 games this happened). But I want to go deeper here because it is my contention that the Steelers could be behind the curve on this NFL trend.
We all know it is a passing league as new records are being set every week even by rookies like Cam Newton. And many have commented that the tackling is very bad with few exceptions across the league. And when I think about the last two Super Bowl Champions I get the impression that their defenses are not stifling but more opportunistic. And they are more interested in stripping the ball than tackling for tackling sake. Green Bay was more of a pick-six team but New Orleans clearly was looking to strip the ball and create turnovers than to tackle.
And this is the great equalizer because even with a bad defense if you can force your opponent into a -2 turnover margin you will win about 95% of those games regardless of whether you are at home or on the road. Then go a step further, what is the easiest way to get turnovers? In a passing league you put pressure on the QB to force bad throws or botched handoffs. Didn’t Baltimore do this to us and the Jets this year? Then after thinking about it I go back to the Ravens playoff win we had last year, clearly they should have won that game because Suggs and Ngata were causing big problems for Ben. But if I remember correctly it was turnovers that helped us get back into that Ravens playoff win, I think we had 2 and Ravens had 3 turnovers. Again, you see that turnovers are closely tied to winning or losing, just take a look at the graphs I created:
The NUMBERS NEVER LIE! As you see above, about 80% (exact 10 yr avg is 80.8%) of the games played in the last ten years have some sort of turnover margin (i.e. both teams don't have same TO amount). And of the games with a +TO margin 79.5% were won by the positive side while only 20.5% were won by those teams with a -TO margin. That is irrespective of home field advantage and it only means you need one more TO than your opponent to have about a 1 in 5 chance of winning. Now take a look at the Steelers data in the graphs below. We have a slightly higher (27% vs.19.2% NFL avg) percentage of our games that have a zero TO while 38% of our games we have a +TO and in 35% we have a -TO margin.
Now when you dig a little deeper you see that we outperform the league averages across the board, we beat the league winning average 11.5 points (91% vs. NFL 79.5%) and we win 26% of games with a -TO margin (vs. the 20.5% NFL avg.). This makes sense because over the last five years we have been one of the best NFL teams. This is the reason we lost 2 of 3 road games (we had -TO disadvantage in all 3 games) and were lucky to win in Indy. Now you can argue that the one TO we had against Houston came late in the game but if it wasn't for dumb Houston penalties we would have had at least two additional TOs. Bottom line: You can't win consistently if you are turning it over more than your opponent.
And I am beginning to believe that O-Lines may become even more important with this prolific passing and strip defense. It could be that it is just weird things are happening in the NFL because of the lockout but it also may be a trend. I know the Titans beat the Ravens on their home field. Funny though, I could have told you Ravens would lose if you told me the TO margin before the game. Ravens had 3 TO and Titans 1, so the Ravens had a -2 TO margin on the road and you know the % of games you win: 2.03%. Titans also have an excellent O-Line which makes it much harder for the Ravens to create a +TO margin if you can't fluster the QB.
If New England can get back to the Super Bowl with their lousy defense but low turnover offense then I believe I could have something here. Without a decent to good O-Line your Defense cannot create enough turnovers for your team to win consistently. And maybe management will start to see this as Ben has been on his ass too much already. Maybe you cannot survive without a good O-Line in today’s NFL? Any thoughts?