Buried at the end of Jason Cole's article about how the lockout may be the reason Manning ends his games started streak is the following statement:
Want to know why so many teams with good quarterbacks now challenge the Pittsburgh Steelers with three- and four-receiver attacks? It’s because of the success Manning started to have against them after years spent figuring out Pittsburgh’s version of the 3-4.
I read that and my head exploded.
I then spent all of five minutes on PFR and found the information I needed to send him a nasty reply (I did send one).
Manning has played the Steelers four times in his career. Yep, four times. Once in 2002, twice in 2005, and again in 2008.
In 2002 Manning threw for 304 yards, but also three interceptions in his first experience facing our defense. Three years later he would do better, getting his first win against us in a game where he completed all of 15 passes. He then lost in the playoffs to us, in a game that would look worse for him if Troy's INT hadn't been wrongly overturned by one of the dumbest calls in NFL history. (catch ball, stand up, take five steps, drop ball = Incomplete pass) and then drove the field on a stunned defense. If the INT had stood his stats would have been laughable at that point.
In 2008 Peyton would have his best game against us, settling for short passes (40 attempts for 240 yards) but throwing three TD's and zero INT's.
But I digress, the real debate is that Peyton spread out the Steelers and inspired copycats to do the same. After facing the Steelers and losing in 2002, Peyton "studied" our defense and in 2005 had two games to show the world the secrets to beating our defense. In those two games he completed a total of 37 passes, let's break down the receivers of those throws:
Reggie Wayne: 12
Dallas Clark: 6
Brian Fletcher: 5
Brandon Stokely: 2
Brian Fletcher was a TE, you should know the others. That means his #1 and #2 receivers caught 19 passes, his TE's caught 11, RB 5 and receiver depth accounted for 2 receptions. His first game vs. the Steelers, before he figured us out, he threw 4 passes to receiver depth.
Forgive me if I'm wrong here, but the strategy for attacking the Steelers by spreading them out usually involves third and fourth WR's attacking our depth at corner, not dumping the ball to Edgerrin James and looking for mismatches vs. Dallas Clark.
Compare if you will to the NE game of 2002, where the ball was evenly spread out among three receivers, Branch with 6 receptions, Patten with 4 and Brown with 6.
It is sheer stupidity and lack of doing even rudimentary research that leads to the conclusion that Manning is the reason teams spread out the Steelers. Brady is a much more reasonable argument, and you can argue that it happened before either of them came into the league.