Sunday, August 30, 2009

Why the Steelers Preseason Record Matters

Every year coming into the preseason we get preached to that "the preseason doesn't matter" and "winning in the preseason doesn't mean anything." In some cases, for instance the Detroit Lions who went 4-0 last year in the preseason, this might be true. But the Pittsburgh Steelers are a bit of a different animal. In fact, over the last 10 years, preseason records are a direct indicator of how they will finish the season.


Pre Reg Div Result
2008 3-1 12-4 Champs SB XLIII Champs
2007 4-1 10-6 Champs Lost Wild Card
2006 0-4 8-8
missed playoffs
2005 3-1 11-5
SB XL Champs
2004 2-2 15-1 Champs Lost AFC Championship
2003 1-3 6-10
missed playoffs
2002 2-2 10-5-1 Champs Lost Divisional
2001 3-1 13-3 Champs Lost AFC Championship
2000 3-2 9-7
missed playoffs
1999 1-3 6-10
missed playoffs


As you can see, every preseason in which the Steelers had at least a .500 record (won 2 games) they went on to have a winning record in the regular season. The 3 years where we had losing records in the preseason (1999, 2003, 2006) we went on to not have winning records (either 6-10 or 8-8) in the regular season.

Only in 2000 did we have a winning preseason record and fail to make the playoffs. Since the NFL went to the 8-division format in 2002, only once have the Steelers won 2 or more preseason games and not won the AFC North. That was in 2005. And they won the Super Bowl that year.

Obviously, from year-to-year, the team changes...so why the prevailing trend? Our best explanation is that in the preseason, the bulk of the playing time is taken up by reserves, generally second and 3rd stringers. While this might not mean much, as they're playing against other backups, the fact that one team's reserves can have more success would indicate that their reserves are "better." Since no NFL team makes it through the season without injuries to their starting units, having capable, talented reserves that can step in and play at a similar level means you will be able to continue the success you were having in the regular season. In addition, since many teams now run "rotations" at certain positions, particularly D-line, having talented reserves also means that the production does not decrease when a starter is taken out of the game for a rest. In conclusion, Steelers teams that have been deep have had more success in the preseason (and regular season), and Steelers teams with depth issues have struggled both in the preseason, and in the regular season.

With the Steelers crushing defeat of the Bills on Saturday night, they are now 2-1 in the preseason with only one game to go. We're not getting ahead of ourselves here, but based on history, this is a very good sign.

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