Now I don't believe it's as misleading as it was in 2011 where in 8 of 16 games played, the Steelers defense got to feast on the likes of Tarvaris Jackson, Curtis Painter, Blaine Gabbert, Kevin Kolb, Tyler Palko, Kellen Clemens and then Colt McCoy and Seneca Wallace when they played the Cleveland Browns. You can say the team can only play the teams that are on their schedule, Peyton Manning getting hurt last year forced Painter into a starting role and the same goes for Tyler Palko, who made the 2011 version of Matt Cassel look quite good by comparison, but that's the way it goes for both sides who wanted to either hold the team's #1 rank in YPG as the end all to it being great or to say it was at least a bit flawed. I argued this point ad nauseam and looking at 2012, I think you can do sort of the same thing.
As I said above, I don't believe the #1 ranking in YPG was as misleading this year and I will admit that given everything which went against them throughout the season, they held up pretty well, especially at the very end. Their performance against Cincinnati was as fine a performance as they've had since 2010, but with that said, here is why their ranking is a bit flawed. Week 1 against Denver, the offense finishes off a drive early in the 4th quarter to give the team a 20-19 lead. However, right after they took the lead, the Broncos offense went on a 10 play, 80 yard touchdown drive in four minutes and 17 seconds which gave them a lead they'd never relinquish. For good measure, after the Steeler offense went three and out, Denver's offense again went on a 12 play, 51 yard drive which took another 4:50 off the clock and resulted in three more points. Then Big Ben threw the pick to Tracy Porter and that was that. Week 3 against Oakland; they had a 31-21 going into the 4th quarter. The first Oakland drive for points in the fourth actually began late in the third and it ended in an 11 play, 80 yard drive which resulted in a touchdown and a lead cut down to three. Again after a 3 and out by the offense, the Raider offense went on a 9 play, 50 yard drive in 4:15 to score the game tying field goal. Then to cap it off, the defense allowed the Oakland offense with just 1:43 on the clock to drive 49 yards on a drive which started on their own 25 yard line. Janikowski was set up for a game winning field goal and that was that.
Fast forward to Week 6 in Tennessee against the Titans. The Steelers take the lead 23-16 with 8:18 to go in the game, but again, the defense can't hold down the fort. The Tennessee offense goes 80 yards in 11 plays in 3:59 to tie it. Twice the team had a chance to get off the field on 3rd down, but on one play, a 35 yard completion to Kendall Wright was allowed and a defensive holding in the red zone also kept the drive alive. Then with 49 seconds to go, they get beat deep over the middle by Jared Cook when the Titans were at midfield and that set up Rob Bironas for the game winning attempt, which he nailed. Of course part of the blame goes to Mike Tomlin as well for the last three points for letting Suisham attempt a 54 yard field goal which he left short. I'll grant you the Dallas game where they had a 24-17 lead and Antonio Brown's muffed punt set the Cowboys up on the Steeler 44 which turned that entire game around, but sometimes you have to be able to rely on the defense when an offensive player makes a mistake. They were unable to hold the fort down as DeMarco Murray ran it in from 3 yards out to tie the game. Dallas eventually won in OT thanks to Roethlisberger's poorly thrown interception. Don't even get me started on the Charger game where the team failed to show up. However, I will point out the Chargers not only won the game on turnovers being forced into points, but also due to being able to sustain three super long drives. Granted they may have only gotten 10 points out of those super long drives, but those drives chewed up 22 minutes and 13 seconds worth of game clock. Tough to win games when as the defense, you're letting the opposing offense stay on the field for that long.
Being ranked number one in YPG is great and all, but it doesn't really tell the whole story of the last two years by a long shot. You're very welcome to disagree with me if you wish, but I think everything above speaks for itself. I expect there will be a lot of disagreement with me on this topic. Let the hating begin!!!