The Steelers & The Passer Rating Differential Stat

If you missed the recent article by Kerry J. Byrne of Cold Hard Football Facts on Sports Illustrated this week, you missed a great article on the passer rating differential stat. Basically, the stat subtracts an opponents passer rating from its own passer rating to get the differential of the two. While I admit that the passer rating stat is overrated to a degree, the differential stat, that uses passer ratings, certainly does pass the mustard in regards to winning as Byrne easily points out.

Here are the differential stats of all 32 teams from the 2010 regular season and you can see the Green Bay Packers were on top for the regular season with a 31.7 differential, while the Steelers finished 4th with a 21.47 differential. Another great look at these stats from 2010 shows that 10 of the 13 teams that finished with a positive differential ended up making the playoffs. The New York Jets just missed being in the positive numbers and the Seattle Seahawks were the abnormality with a 29th ranked -17.65 differential. They made the playoffs with a 7-9 record and surprisingly beat the Saints in the first round of the playoffs. You likely will not see that happen again for some time with a differential number that bad.

I wanted to look at the differential in relation to the Steelers on a week to week basis, to see for sure how the differential related to wins. You can see in the table below, the Steelers won every game that they had a positive differential in and lost 4 of the 5 games in which they had a negative differential number. The lone win was against the Baltimore Ravens in week 13. Not an earth shattering revelation here, but does give the stat more validity.


10 of the 11 games in which the Steelers had an offensive passing rating of 81.6 or more resulted in a win, with the one loss coming against the New England Patriots as Ben Roethlisberger compiled a 97.9 rating late in the blowout loss. This is where the passer rating has holes in it as the Patriots were never threatened in the game and allowed Roethlisberger some garbage stats. This is such a small set of numbers though and it makes it hard to use 81.6 as a benchmark rating number to win with. I have more stats compiled that will enable me to look at a magic rating passer rating number league wide to better use as a predictor for winning games. I should have that together for a future post as I plan on breaking down every game played last year like I did the Steelers from last season.

Moving forward, I wanted to end by posting the Steelers opponents for 2011 and list their defensive passer rating for reference moving forward as you will see in the next table. It gives a quick glance at how teams did last year and will let you see the teams that should attempt to fix their secondary or pass rush during the upcoming free agency. For example, the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers and Colts all had a defensive passer rating over 90 and better be making some strong moves in free agency to solve this or hope their offenses can score some points once again. The Kansas City Chiefs and Ravens are on the other end of the scale as the toughest pass defenses the Steelers will face based on theses 2010 stats.

1PIT @ BAL76.4
2SEA @ PIT89.7
3PIT @ IND91.7
4PIT @ HOU100.5
5TEN @ PIT86.4
6JAC @ PIT98.5
7PIT @ ARI83.5
8NE @ PIT81.2
9BAL @ PIT76.4
10PIT @ CIN85.2
12PIT @ KC78.1
13CIN @ PIT85.2
14CLE @ PIT84.8
15PIT @ SF90
16STL @ PIT80.4
17PIT @ CLE84.8

Quite a few variables can of course change from one season to the next, but these numbers will be fun to look at once free agency runs its course to see if teams have properly addressed their needs along with the positions they addressed during the draft.

Like I mentioned earlier, this is not an earth shattering find, but it is a better way to use the old traditional passer rating to give it some depth and validity and I will be digging deeper into this prior to the season as I suppose CHFF will be as well.

  • Bob M.

    As a Colts fan, I wish the Colts would try to address their poor opponent’s passer rating thru free agency, but they seem bent on “we love our defense, defense is overrated anyways, we just need a brand new offensive line and running back so we are more balanced offensively”. As you saw in the SB, having a balanced attack doesn’t guarantee you anything because the Packers were totally imbalanced most of the night. And i don’t say that to throw stones as a rival. It’s the same for the year before with Brees shredding the Colts secondary. I think its clear anymore so much of football is about how well you pass and how well you defend the pass. I just want to shake my head every stinkin’ time a fellow Colts fan laments that the offense doesn’t run the ball enough. I you want to be the Houston Texans? they were awfully balanced in 2010!

  • Bob M.

    No coincidence your Steelers have the most SBs ever and arguably as a team have had more dominant defenses than any other franchise..other than maybe the Vikings from 1970-exit of Tony Dungy. Granted, you guys only won your rings when you had a franchise qb to go with the defense as opposed to Neil O’Donnell or Kordell Stewart.