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Why are NFL fans so obsessed with points?

The object of the game in the NFL Is to win, and there is more than one way to do it.

NFL: DEC 26 Giants at Eagles Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There are a lot of statistics involved with football. Some of the basics such as yardage, turnovers, time of possession, penalties, or a number of team statistics. Then there are more precise statistics such as tackles, sacks, quarterback hits, passes defensed, and a plethora of others. While these statistics are interesting to look at, they are not what ultimately determines the success of an NFL team.

Following every game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, I write an article that I refer to as “By the Numbers” because that is the final three words of the article title regardless of if the Steelers win or lose. It looks at the numbers from each game and helps to paint a picture of things the Steelers did well and things they did not. The number I end on every time is either a one or zero. I save it for last because it is the most important number of them all. It’s the amount the number in the win column increases. The Steelers either add to their win total or they don’t. All the other numbers do paint a picture, but the win versus the loss is all that matters.

Ultimately, what does it take to win a football game? That also comes down to a number which is if a team scored more points in their opponent when the clock hits zero in the final quarter. It does not matter if the score is 99–98 or 3–2. One team will win at one team will lose based on having more points scored than their opponents.

So this means that scoring points is the most important thing above them all, right? Not necessarily. As my grandfather used to say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat.

Now that I’ve painted such a morbid picture in your mind (I don’t know if that’s just the country saying or if everyone is familiar with it), being able to score more points than your opponent doesn’t mean that you have to score a lot of points. Does it help to score a lot of points? It absolutely can help, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that it does. Teams can score 40 points a game, but if they continually give up 45 points a game they are not going to win.

With the Kansas City Chiefs winning Super Bowl LVII, I’ve heard a lot of fans around the NFL, and of course it’s more Steelers fans because that’s who I am in tune with more than other teams, that live under the impression that their team has to be able to score “X” amount of points in order to beat the Chiefs. But do they really have to?

Simply because the final score of the Super Bowl was 38–35 does not mean this is how every game has to play out in order for teams to win any game or the Super Bowl. In over half the Kansas City Chiefs games this regular season, nine of them to be exact, they did not reach 28 points scored. Even in the playoffs, the Super Bowl was the only game in which they scored over 28 points. Thinking that “you’ve got a score 30 to win” isn’t actually true. The Chiefs played plenty of games this season where they didn’t score 30 points and still won. After all, they are the team that everyone is gunning for and that fans are comparing their team to at this time, so they’re the ones I’m looking at as well.

I get that Steelers fans are concerned about their teams ability to score points. I’m concerned as well. But in the second half of the 2022 season, the Steelers figured out a recipe for winning games without having to score 30 points. In fact, the only game they scored 30 points they lost. It’s not the style of game they want to get involved with based on their roster.

The bottom line is the Pittsburgh Steelers held their opponent to 20 points or less in 12 games this season. That’s right, 12 games. Unfortunately the Steelers did not win all of those games as they went 9-3. But they are also a team that focuses on not getting into a shoot out because they’re not built to be successful in that way.

Why is this the type of game The Steelers are looking to avoid? Look at some of the statistics the Steelers excelled at in 2022, particularly in the second half of their season:

Time of possession
Third down conversions
Points surrendered
Rushing attempts
Drives defended

I’m sure I’m missing some, but this being where the Steelers were succeeding, this is a recipe for low-scoring games. The Steelers did a decent job of controlling the ball and not putting their defense on the field to have to constantly get stops. It’s what allowed the Steelers to win games 13–10 and 16–13.

Yes, it would be nice to have an offense that with less than two minutes to go can press it down the field and get the score they need in order to win. It would be even better to know that a team only needed 0:13 to take a kickoff and be able to kick a field goal. While the Steelers aren’t there on the second example, they pulled off two victories late in the season where they needed the score of the end of the game and got it. And they did so without having to put up 30 points.

Scoring points is not a bad thing. The more points a team can score the more they can overcome a mistake such as a “pick six” or a big splash play of that nature. A defensive score means a lot more in a 17–14 game than it does in a 38–35 game. It’s something that is a lot more difficult to overcome. But it’s not impossible, and it’s even better to not give up such type of plays.

The Pittsburgh Steelers finish their 2022 season on a high note. They were definitely a team on the rise and not one just scraping along to get to the end of the season. There should be a lot of reason for hope that the Steelers can continue to improve for 2023. Whether or not the team is ready to compete for a Super Bowl is a whole different question. But to do so, being able to score 30 points every game is not the standard of what it takes.