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ESPN puts Steelers in "skeptical" category when it comes to advanced analytics

Some teams cherish advanced statistics, others blow it off completely. The Steelers are considered closer to the latter option, but there are a few reasons to think that's shifting.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Some teams don't know their DYAR from their NEP.

Others may take a glance at live win probabilities before or after a game.

Consider the Steelers firmly planted in the Skeptics category.

That comes from ESPN, who, as part of their Great Analytics Rankings, broke down the propensity of all 132 teams in major leagues in the U.S. and Canada to use what they describe simply as "analytics."

Within the NFL, the Steelers rest in the "Skeptical" group, in which they share a place with 11 other teams, more than one-third of the league. ESPN's Kevin Seifert put together the NFL piece of the feature, noting a possible divide between Steelers president Art Rooney II and his key staff members, general manager Kevin Colbert and head coach Mike Tomlin.

On a quiet and experimental level, the Steelers have also begun to develop statistical information that could be useful for player acquisition and game management. But it is not believed that the team's football leaders, general manager Kevin Colbert and coach Mike Tomlin, have embraced the concept.

We suggested last year the 2014 Steelers draft class was assembled with a modicum of advanced data, particularly one tied with athleticism. The statistics compiled for the 2014 rookies vastly outweighed the same statistics for those of the 2013 class, with the notable exceptions of Le'Veon Bell and Shamarko Thomas.

The lack of athleticism among the Steelers' roster, particularly on defense, was noticeable, even to viewers who don't know what non-adjusted total VOA is. The fact the Steelers selected so many players who graded out so well in a particular stat isn't evidence of a decision to use a new kind of advanced analysis, but it seems like an amazing coincidence if it wasn't considered.

It could be a coincidence the team's MVP, Bell, scored well in that stat based on his pre-draft measurables. It could also be a coincidence the team's Rookie of the Year, wide receiver Martavis Bryant, scored highly as well. If it is a coincidence, fans hope it continues to happen.

The general point is to illustrate the value of information, with or without a team's heavy dependence on it.

The ESPN report is interesting in the sense there are successful and unsuccessful franchises in sports that both use advanced analytics as part of their game preparation and roster assembly. Ironically, there is no stat to depict which stat is the best, but it comes down to perception. A wise team gathers as much information as it needs to render a decision.