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Football Outsiders Evaluation of Pittsburgh Steelers Through First Four Weeks of 2009 NFL Season

I'm not going to spend an inordinate amount of time going over what Football Outsider's metrics are and why they are worth at least examinig critically by all fans of football. I don't think their evaluations are perfect by any means, but I do think they are more useful than merely looking at traditional numbers like yards per game and quarterback rating - at least most of the time. Brose around their site if you never have before and make your own conclusions. Some of it's a bit cryptic in how they come up with their data, but basically the premise is they watch all the film and determine how players and teams are producing in certain situations compared to how the rest of the league has/would/might fare in similar situations.

After the jump, some updates about the Steelers performance through four weeks - both on an individual level and by offensive, defensive and special teams units.

  1. Ben Roethlisberger is - in the most simplest of terms - valued as the 2nd most valuable quarterback in the NFL through four weeks. First would be Peyton Manning. 3,4,5 would be Brees, Brady and the other Manning. Nice company to keep and not a trend that I see dissipating any time soon. Our quarterback's that good, and it's undeniably one of the most important strengths any team can have.  

  2. Somewhat interestingly, Heath Miller is not rates as favorably by FO's metrics. He comes in at just 18th and 24th in their two most notable metrics. A great example of why I don't necessarily agree with every last element of their evaluation system. Miller's catch rate is 89%. Only Daniel Graham has a better % (90%) than Miller, but he's only had 10 passes thrown his way compared to 27 for Heath. Keep it up #83!

  3.  Football Outsiders LOVES our wide receivers so far - and rightfully so. Hines Ward and Santonio Holmes are valued extremely high. I very much enjoyed BadMaafala's post about Santonio Holmes and his importance to the Steelers offense - I just am not sure I agreed that he'd been off the mark so far to start this season. Holmes and Ward have been very good, and when you throw in Mike Wallace, who's also rated favorably by FO's metrics, we're talking about one helluva dangerous trio of wideouts.

  4.  Offensively, we're doing a ton of things right, particularly in the passing game. After last weekend's solid performance running the ball, the running game is even beginning to catch up a bit. Funny how things can change from one year to the next so drastically without major personnel overhauls. Still early, but I don't see this trend continuing. 

  5. Defensively? Not so hot. Especially against the pass. The Steelers are ranked 28th defending the pass through 4 weeks. The good news is the Steelers are still stout against the run, and should get a bit more lucky moving forward forcing turnovers.

Like I said, take of these numbers what you will. And of course, it's important to remember we're dealing with just four weeks of data. Nevertheless, some intriguing trends are starting to emerge. Most notably and impressively, we may be looking at a Steelers offense that is more capable, diverse and efficient than any Steelers offense in recent history. Let's hope so.