History Says Steelers Defensive ANY/A Is Too High To Win Super Bowl

Being as the Pittsburgh Steelers enter their Week 8 bye in sole possession of first place in the AFC North division, it’s easy to reason that they still have a good shot at not only making the playoffs, but winning their seventh Lombardi trophy as well. After all, the team should exit their bye week the healthiest they’ve been all season. With that said, history tells us that the 2016 Steelers team has no shot at winning the Super Bowl this year based solely on how their defense has played against the pass in their first 7 regular season games.

As many of you know, I am a huge fan of the ANY/A (adjusted net yards per passing attempt) stat as not only have I studied the workings of it for several years now, I have also researched the history of it for some time now. In my latest research of the history related to defensive ANY/A stat after seven games played by all NFL teams in any one season dating back to 1982, I found a statistical trend that’s very hard to ignore.

First, let me inform you that the Steelers defensive ANY/A number after their first 7 games of 2016 season is a very lofty 7.12, so keep that number in the front of your mind as we move forward.

Now for the history related to team’s defensive ANY/A stats after 7 games played in a single season dating back to 1982.

Below you will see a table of defensive passing stats of the 136 teams that made the final four dating back to 1982 and they are sorted by the lowest ANY/A to the highest.

As you can see, only four times since 1982 has a team with a defensive ANY/A of 7.00 or more after their first 7 games played in any regular season made the final four and only two of those teams went on to play in the Super Bowl. Both of those teams, the 2014 Seattle Seahawks and the 2008 Arizona Cardinals, wound up on the wrong side of confetti.

In short, should the Steelers go on to win the Super Bowl this season, they would become the first team to do so with a defensive ANY/A stat of 6.09 greater after the first 7 weeks of the season dating back to 1982. That would be one hell of an accomplishment being as we’re dealing with 34 years of statistical data.

The four times that the Steelers have made it to the Super Bowl since 1982, their defensive ANY/A stat after their first 7 games of each of those seasons was 5.33 or lower. Additionally, the average defensive ANY/A stat of the last 34 Super Bowl champions after the first 7 weeks of the regular season is 4.27 and only 9 times has a team won a Super Bowl with a defensive ANY/a greater than 5.00 after their first 7 games dating back to 1982.

Can the Steelers break this long trend this season? We’ll have to wait and see. That defense of theirs better start playing a LOT better following the team’s bye week.

Defensive ANY/A Passing Stats For Final Four Teams (1982-2015)

TmYearGCmpAttCmp%NYdsTDIntSkSkYdsRateANY/ARESULT
MIA198278216051.37487151817044.21.20SB Loser
GNB1996712224749.41227520148038.31.64SB Winner
TAM2002713126150.211483132113647.52.21SB Winner
WAS1991712123252.211164142315048.92.22SB Winner
NYG1990712621259.41113414127853.82.51SB Winner
DAL199471082254810745122314549.82.56Final 4
CLE198779921745.6107061314110472.62Final 4
NYJ1982710821250.911086131715253.22.81Final 4
BUF1993712824252.91426617169151.33.03SB Loser
JAX1999711922253.610737102616761.83.08Final 4
DEN2015715224362.61203592919569.63.30SB Winner
DEN1987710319453.11146613129155.33.31SB Loser
CHI2006712922258.11133492116163.93.33SB Loser
NOR2009713726751.31567616179853.33.40SB Winner
MIA1984713524954.2136951217131593.49SB Loser
CLE19897961964911328121916558.63.50Final 4
STL1999713225352.2135251116105583.56SB Winner
SFO1997710621549.3113610112115462.43.56Final 4
SEA2013714124158.513346112316666.13.63SB Winner
IND2009715325360.512613720142683.68SB Loser
WAS1986713724057.113178112418967.83.72Final 4
CAR2015717330257.31602712209964.53.73SB Loser
CHI1988711123746.81263692320159.53.76Final 4
PIT2008714623761.611516625197753.82SB Winner
BAL2000713923559.11415412146061.93.84SB Winner
SFO1983712921859.213208122720869.93.84Final 4
CHI1985713125351.8160010162819561.63.84SB Winner
DEN1989713323157.614336131811663.23.89SB Loser
DAL1982712023251.7136771127218643.91Final 4
PIT2001711820557.61086772716772.73.93Final 4
NYG1986711622451.81239582316163.83.96SB Winner
BAL2011711922852.21219572517065.53.97Final 4
SFO1988712922856.6129912122217171.74.00SB Winner
CHI19847741724311036102118956.64.01Final 4
MIN1998714626355.51542913199865.14.03Final 4
PIT1984711921355.913879141712064.84.07Final 4
NWE2003715028153.41657311179959.94.10SB Winner
NWE2007713622660.212759101916373.64.10SB Loser
NYJ200971282375412704785163.64.22Final 4
PHI2002713322459.41259572312171.74.23Final 4
PHI2001712822856.11160652113872.24.24Final 4
PIT1994711020154.71214792113268.54.27Final 4
SFO1984713124553.514757111710864.44.27SB Winner
WAS1987713225252.41471793023868.44.28SB Winner
NYJ1998713224354.31379791611567.14.30Final 4
RAI1983711922353.412177629240734.31SB Winner
CHI2010716226461.4151249118269.24.32Final 4
BAL2008711221352.61247891612067.64.38Final 4
DEN1986714826456.11516992926674.14.41SB Loser
PIT2005715024461.51483592215072.74.43SB Winner
GNB2010714725058.814998102215472.64.44SB Winner
GNB1995714025854.312831161813474.74.47Final 4
CAR1996712923355.41293762617773.84.49Final 4
PIT2004712723254.71355782011469.84.50Final 4
GNB1997713124553.5136888148068.54.51SB Loser
TAM1999711922253.61211652315171.94.51Final 4
DEN19977119205581194872213276.24.58SB Winner
MIN1987712321158.31183971611176.64.62Final 4
PHI2004717227861.91575772511576.94.62SB Loser
ARI2015715525361.315661012127373.54.63Final 4
DEN1991711121551.614285101811263.34.63Final 4
DAL1993713922661.51246761410277.54.65SB Winner
CIN1988713024253.71460891915770.24.66SB Loser
BUF1992713622560.4150910131612873.54.66SB Loser
NWE1985710821550.21369792114466.74.68SB Loser
DAL1992711621853.21183642116773.84.70SB Winner
SFO1993714526355.11404961610373.84.71Final 4
STL2001715123364.814101092212781.84.73SB Loser
MIA1992715226457.61559991713173.94.75Final 4
GNB2014714424359.315049101688744.76Final 4
PIT201071812666817026102011579.14.80SB Loser
DAL1995713823858148510101812775.14.82SB Winner
BUF1991713323257.3134156107871.74.84SB Loser
PHI2008712722656.21385982314575.64.84Final 4
SFO2012712421856.9121465117073.64.84SB Loser
IND2003713721264.6129688149480.14.85Final 4
NYG2007713724057.114421182716478.94.88SB Winner
BUF1990711320754.61248871613574.24.90SB Loser
BUF1988713722361.415177102315776.34.91Final 4
ATL2012714022562.2151871019115764.95Final 4
SFO1994714924660.61475981511278.14.96SB Winner
RAI1990711419458.81222662218978.84.96Final 4
NWE2006714023360.11531481812573.24.98Final 4
SFO2013713724555.91536991711273.65.00Final 4
DEN199871382425714829727204795.01SB Winner
NWE2013714025355.31579781812372.35.01Final 4
SDG1994717526366.51558862314885.25.06SB Loser
NYG2000715326258.4165910101612375.95.07SB Loser
WAS1982711921754.81382872218576.75.13SB Winner
NYG2011714323760.31576782620579.55.16SB Winner
NWE2004713223556.21502671812573.85.17SB Winner
SEA2005712522156.61318952314280.95.22SB Loser
SFO1992715325460.2171211112112678.85.23Final 4
SFO1989713224454.11527981310373.65.24SB Winner
JAX199671262255613851071510178.15.29Final 4
SFO2011716227758.517901092114078.35.32Final 4
SDG2007715724663.8169010111610180.55.32Final 4
TEN1999714726156.3158111718114795.33SB Loser
PIT1995713322459.414901091711679.65.33SB Loser
PIT1997714926656174512102011677.35.37Final 4
KAN1993714124058.81464751610779.45.39Final 4
SFO1990713425353161511818111765.44Final 4
NWE201571722736317691182618485.65.45Final 4
NOR2006713422858.8129312419116875.48Final 4
NWE2014714022961.1145611718120855.51SB Winner
OAK20007157266591648128115880.55.52Final 4
IND2014713023156.315018621122795.52Final 4
PHI2003716727061.91614951269835.56Final 4
CLE1986712720362.61287961292855.57Final 4
CAR2005714525457.11628107159779.65.62Final 4
OAK2002715324163.516451410189087.15.69SB Loser
MIN20007158268591587831510682.85.70Final 4
IND2006712519065.81173105117090.75.71SB Winner
NYJ2010712124848.815301051510075.25.72Final 4
DEN2005715927857.216849586279.25.73Final 4
SEA1983713923060.4174117142116386.25.78Final 4
GNB2007714024457.415861061810182.15.79Final 4
DET199171292086213398596484.75.87Final 4
NWE1996714925358.9179299139779.35.89SB Loser
ATL2004715823068.71606552015389.45.92Final 4
NWE2001713121560.9148276138782.55.93SB Winner
MIN2009714923463.716421062515190.66.07Final 4
BAL2012715725262.3180067128881.66.08SB Winner
CAR2003714423561.3160295178486.96.18SB Loser
MIA1985711621853.21585871210377.56.22Final 4
IND1995715425161.4167794125687.36.38Final 4
WAS1983713323855.9193815112519887.86.63SB Loser
STL1985711520356.71330175106295.56.78Final 4
ATL1998714524459.417531351711092.66.85SB Loser
DEN2013717328959.922391491913589.46.86SB Loser
RAM1989715724663.81874117138391.56.87Final 4
NWE2011719028566.72262129159392.96.99SB Loser
SEA20147154230671586123106799.87.05SB Loser
PIT2016718227466.419848382893.27.12???????
TEN2002714322364.116431751686103.97.36Final 4
NWE20127169260652030167157299.27.40Final 4
ARI2008714020867.3156014319114108.17.51SB Loser

  • CodeNameJerk

    Extenuating circumstances

  • JB Burgess

    I’ve been saying this ever since game 1 last season and definitely after the Boykin fiasco. Butler and Lake have to swept out of the Burgh. If you like, one day after the season ends. The Colbert/Tomlin marriage as far as defense, needs to be annulled.

  • JT Craig

    Is anyone ready for the Bye week to be over already? After two losses in a row and a week to stew on it all I hear is “Doom and Gloom”

  • RickM

    I respect the interesting research and understand the well-established trend (i.e. a 7.12 average after 7 games historically won’t allow you to win a ring). Exceptions can happen though as the Cardinals and Seahawks proved in 2008 and 2014. Both,as you say, made the SB with a rating over 7.00 after 7 games and both teams almost won.

    I firmly believe that if the Steelers ever get healthy and can enter the playoffs with a healthy Ben, AB, Coates, Green, Rogers and Bell, they can offset a higher than preferred ANY/A. The return of Dupree and the maturing of the secondary may also lower our ANY/A by season’s end.

  • PaeperCup

    Alright, we will be a groundbreaking team.

  • Jacob

    As long as everyone stays healthy, I think the defense will improve as the year goes along. Hopefully Burns hasn’t hit his rookie ceiling.

  • Sri N

    Dave – did you account for the fact that the equation was recently changed? Previously it was 10 yards per pass td it is now 20. When comparing historically that may cause a discrepancy. Also looking at the components of this equation:

    (pass yards + 20*(pass TD) – 45*(interceptions thrown) – sack yards)/(passing attempts + sacks)

    Its easy to see why the Steelers rank lowly (it puts a heavy emphasis on sacks and interceptions thrown). Simple way to improve this stat for the Steelers – get more picks and sack the QB more.

  • Addison

    This is the year Colberts need to be working the phones like a central north side prositute to move up and get Myles Garrett.

  • When the season got underway, it seemed we were destined to go all the way, but now with all these injuries and our defense continuing to skip every week like a dull needle on an old scratched record, at this point, it seems as if we’ll be lucky to win 9 games. Come to think of it, 9 wins may be stretching it just a bit. The way it looked on paper, I was pretty sure we’d win at least 11 games. Even with Martavis Bryant out for the season and Bell suspended for the first three games, I still thought we’d be able to get the job done. Thanks in large part to DeAngelo Williams who’s now also nursing a bad knee. Too many injuries on both sides of the ball. Sure looks dismal right now. My only hope at this point is that we can get back on a winning track.

    Once again other teams are starting to show that the defensive schemes we use from week to week are easily figured out. With the types of defensive schemes we use, we need great players in the secondary and at the OLB positions. I know we have injuries there, and James Harrison has yet to show that he can still be an explosive player when it comes to getting to the QB. I’m still hoping he’ll turn the corner (literally). He’s the oldest player out there, yet he’s STILL OUT THERE every week. He remains healthy while some of these younger guys can’t even last a whole game. Go figure.

    I was excited about Artie Burns. Although I wasn’t all that sure he’d be seeing that much playing time, I had high hopes that he would be able to become the type of shutdown CB we so desperately need. I was brought to a point of pure disappointment when I noticed Burns seemed to be scared to make tackles on some of the New England’s larger offensive players. I wasn’t too excited about Sean Davis after watching him on tape before the season started, but I still thought he had potential.

    I know it’s still early in the season as it is in both and Burns’ and Davis’ careers, and the only bright side to look forward to is the fact that these two guys are just starting out. So for their sake and the sake of the team and all of Steelers Nation, they need to mature quickly or they will miss their opportunity of going to a super bowl at a young age. The same goes for Martavis Bryant and Le’Veon Bell. Big Ben won’t be around too much longer. When Ben retires, it’ll be back to us looking like the 1980s Steelers all over again.

  • Both Colbert and Tomlin are very good at what they do, although at times, Tomlin’s clock management renders me bewildered.

  • Brian Miller

    Thanks for the article which just confirms the obvious…when your defense plays consistently lIke ass, you won’t win the SB.

  • gentry_gee

    This core group of coaches and players will never contend for the SB again. The magic is gone. It is a stale operation. New insight and new blood is needed. Arrows are pointing down not up. The defense is a horrendous mess of epic proportions. The offense is wildly inconsistent. They struggle to methodically march down the field. It’s feast or famine. They’re identity is weak as well. This is a soft, finesse team on offense which doesn’t understand that high percentage ball control football is the way to go to protect their Achilles heel, the pathetic defense. In the end, the sooner they part ways with Tomlin, the better. He’s carried it as far as he can.

  • Alan Tman

    Dave the defense will play better and better the closer it gets to the playoffs. The sameway it did last year. THE OFFENSE has to be consistent , especially if we go on the road. Ben since the beginning of 2013 62 TDs 20 Ints at home and 32 TDs and 25 Ints on the road.

  • SteelerMike

    Good article. Not what fans like myself want to hear this season with this defense. But, good article nonetheless. Mike Tomlin’s defense is getting worse, not better and that’s really depressing.

  • David Paul

    If the D doesn’t start getting sacks and turnovers, no chance at a ring. There have been defenses that gave up a lot of yards and won Super Bowls, but they made up for it in other ways. This is the least disruptive defense I can remember in Pittsburgh since the dark 1980’s.

  • David Paul

    You know why the D improved as they marched toward the playoffs? Because they played guys like AJ McCarron, Matt Hasslebeck, Johnny Manziel, Austin Davis, Brock Osweiler, and Ryan Mallett. The last two even had success against them. The last two competent QBs they faced – Derek Carr and Russ Wilson – put up 880 yards passing and 74 points.

    This team was overrated all offseason because they beat up a bunch of scrub QBs and got handed a playoff win. If the Jets don’t choke in week 17, we don’t even get to the playoffs.

  • Alan Tman

    Big Ben, Bell, AB, Pouncey, DeCastro, and Gilbert are the money players on the offense. Heyward is alone on the defensive side of the ball. To much is given much is required. The resources are allotted on the offensive side of the football. I expect more from them especially consistency. The defense should play with a lead until it grows up, like our defense from 2000 to 2010 held teams to minimum points so Ben made a couple plays. No one badmouthed the offense then. We’re spoiled defensive fans.

  • A Football Fan

    The Quality Man
    The Steelers DB Coaches inherited a ranking of 26th in 2013; could not improve it in 2014 they Fell to 29th; then to 30th in 2015. and Statically are headed for rock bottom in 2016.
    They don’t have any chance at the Super Bowl. They will never make the playoffs again with these DB Coaching schemes, Terrible Training Methods and lack of Front Office’s action to restart with DB Coaches who have experience fielding non Steelers trained DB’s who can support at least a top 16 Ranked Pass Defense. Loyalty does not improve performance experienced Ranked coaching will

  • SteelerFanInIL

    I think you are giving Butler and Lake far too much credit for having control over the defense. The Tampa 2 defense being played on the field is all Tomlin’s doing. How does Butler learn from Lebeau and make a defense like this? He doesn’t, because it is not his. Would not be surprised if he gets out of town and finds a job with another team and puts together a good, solid defense for another head coach that has a clue.

  • JB Burgess

    Uh, no. Clock management and in game decisions. He’s lacking, big time.

  • Um…….yes.