This is perhaps a touch brazen considering we've got the resurgent Dallas Cowboys coming to town. But I think I'm already convinced. The Pittsburgh Steelers are the team to beat in the 2008 version of the American Football Conference. I actually think the NFC is the tougher conference this year, but that's a topic for another day. But in the AFC, I don't see a team that we shouldn't beat come playoff time.
It pretty much comes down to this to me. In a year where there are no dominant teams, the question for me becomes then: 'which team does their best thing BETTER than other team's best thing?' In other words, which team of the AFC contenders (Tennessee, Indianapolis, New York Jets, Miami, Baltimore, Denver, New England) has the most dominant attribute. Well, I'd say that Indianapolis has the best QB, and that goes a loooong way. But their offense has been inconsistent at best, and largely disappointing more realistically. Tennessee certainly sports an impressive defense, but they went on that nice winning streak at 100% full strength injury wise. They're not nearly as deep as Pittsburgh. The other teams? Meh.
One might ask, well what differentiates Pittsburgh's defense from that of Baltimore or Tennessee? Those defenses are fantastic, no doubt. Ours is better though. Let's take a look at some of the numbers.
|Team||Pts/Game (rank)||Passing Y/G||Rushing Y/G||Total Y/G||Sacks||Turnovers Forced|
|Pittsburgh||14.2 (1st)||166.8 (1st)||71.2 (1st)||238 (1st)||42 (1st)||20 (t-13th)
|Tennessee||14.6 (2nd)||184 (4th)||97.2 (12th)
||281 (5th)||34 (6th)||25 (2nd)|
|Baltimore||15.8 (3rd)||175 (2nd)||78.2 (3rd)||253 (2nd)||26 (9th)||23 (t-4th)|
It's absolutely remarkable how good the defense has been. Don't get me wrong - we're still going to have to evolve and improve on offense and avoid any sort of meltdowns by our offensive line or by Big Ben. But if things keep trending like they have on offense - which is in the right direction - then I think it's reasonable to say that we're the team to beat in this conference. Now, that could look like a foolish statement come next Sunday. The Cowboys are coming to town and they sport a pretty nifty offense that's beginning to gel again now that Tony Romo has returned from injury. We'll see what happens, but regardless, they're not in the AFC. In our conference, I see fewer teams that have the offense that also have the type of defense to give us fits.
Anyway, unlike last year when the Pats simply outclassed the league for the first 19 weeks, and unlike recent years before that when the Colts offense was just that much better than everybody else's, I see no standout team. I see a bunch of teams with certain flaws and strong assets. Of those teams, I think the Steelers sport the most impressive strength in the league on either side of the ball.
And it happens to be one that is thought of as one that 'wins championships.'
I can't wait to find out if I'm correct.