Magic Number of sum of passes completed and rushing attempts fits Steelers 2012 season

Rich Schultz

Stats are a big part of the game of football. Some are more telling than others. National Football Post's article Tuesday on the "Magic Number," the sum of passes completed and rushing attempts, aligns very closely with the Steelers' 2012 season.

Joe Fortenbaugh of the National Football Post gives some insight into the analytical mind of Browns general manager Michael Lombardi in his most recent feature story.

Lombardi, the founder of the National Football Post, was hired this year by Cleveland, and was working for NFL Network before that. His column in NFP was a must-read for a few years before moving on. It's really unfortunate he's with Cleveland now.

He always dropped pearls of wisdom like the one Fortenbaugh writes about Tuesday.

Lombardi's theory is a team that can come to a sum of 50 or more in rushing attempts and pass completions will win the game at a much higher level than when they don't.

The Steelers in 2012 are nearly perfect examples of this. What's more interesting, though, is their ability to hit that mark showed a steep dropoff after the injury of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.

Let's call it the Magic Number, as Fortenbaugh does.

Week Opponent Rush/Pass Opp 50+? Result
1 Denver 48 46 N L
2 Jets 52 32 Y W
3 Oakland 56 45 Y L
5 Philadelphia 52 43 Y W
6 Tennessee 46 47 N L
7 Cincinnati 56 35 Y W
8 Washington 51 37 Y W
9 Giants 56 32 Y W
10 Chiefs 45 46 N W
11 Ravens 45 43 N L
12 Browns 40 51 N L
13 Ravens 51 37 Y W
14 San Diego 39 57 N L
15 Dallas 41 51 N L
16 Cincinnati 45 38 N L
17 Cleveland 43 48 N W

The Steelers got off to a slow start but fought to a respectable 5-3 mark after their first eight games. In those eight games, they hit the Magic Number six times, winning five of them. The one time they hit it and lost was when they had 56 (incidentally, the highest amount for the year) against Oakland.

Timely turnovers and a defense that dominated the first half but couldn't stop water from running downhill in the second half cost them the game. Oakland had a combined 45.

Roethlisberger was injured early in the second half of the Steelers' ninth game of the year, against the Kansas City Chiefs. From that game on, the Steelers averaged 43.6, reaching the Magic Number just one time - in a Week 13 win over the Baltimore Ravens.

Their 5-3 start turned into a 3-5 finish. The Steelers averaged 52.1 over the first eight games, and 43.6 over the last eight games. They hit 56 three, in the loss to the Raiders and in wins over the Bengals in Week 7 and the Giants in Week 9, the team's third straight win, and third straight game of reaching the Magic Number.

Defensively, they averaged 43, allowing the Magic Number to be reached just three times - a season-high 57 against San Diego in one of the worst home losses of the Mike Tomlin Era, Week 12 against the Browns (51) and Week 15 against the Cowboys (51).

Turnovers could fairly be named the keys of those losses. The defense was on the field for an extended period of time in those games, and eventually broke down.


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