Thursday, September 20, 2012

Goin' West: Steelers Records Outside the Eastern Time Zone

Going on the road in the NFL is never easy. Last season, there was a marked difference between the Steelers play on the road (where they averaged just 16.4 points per game and were 5-4, including a road playoff loss in Denver. By contrast, the Steelers were 7-1 at home and averaged 25 points per game. At home, they averaged just 10 points against per game, while on the road they gave up 19.6. All in all, there was an 18-point swing between home games and road games. Looking back over the last 5 years, from 2007-2001 (conveniently, the "Mike Tomlin era"), the Steelers actually have the 4th best road record in the league at 24-16, a .600 winning percentage away from home. For reference, New England is the top team (28-12) followed by the Giants (26-14) and Eagles (24-15-1) with the Steelers, Saints, and Colts sitting at 24-16.

However, when you dig a little deeper into the data, there is one stat that jumps out. From 2007 to 2011 the Steelers are 5-8 outside of the Eastern Time Zone. To take an even more pessimistic view, you can add in the Steelers two playoff games played outside of EST, which were both losses (Super Bowl XL loss to Green Bay in Dallas and last year's defeat in Denver), which brings their record to 5-10 over that time span. If we include their Week 1 loss to Denver this year, that means the Steelers are 5-11 in all games outside the Eastern Time Zone since 2007.

Here's a brief summary:
2007: 1-2 outside of EST: Lost to Arizona 21-14, Lost to Denver 31-28, Beat St. Louis 41-24
2008: 0-1 outside of EST: Lost to Tennessee 31-14
2009: 1-2 outside of EST: Lost to Chicago 17-14, Beat Denver 28-10, Lost to Kansas City 23-20
2010: 1-2 outside of EST: Beat Tennessee 19-11, Lost to New Orleans 20-10, Lost Super Bowl XL to Green Bay 31-25
2011: 2-3 outside of EST: Lost to Houston 17-10, Beat Arizona 32-20, Beat Kansas City 13-9, Lost to San Francisco 20-3, Lost Wild Card Game to Denver 29-23
2012: 0-1 outside of EST: Lost to Denver 31-19

Looking at both the regular season and playoffs from 2007 to present, the Steelers and Packers are tied with the second best record in the NFL (61-29, .678 winning percentage), trailing only the New England Patriots (69-21, .767 winning percentage). For a team that has won 67.8% of their games, the 5-11 record outside of the Eastern Time Zone (.313 winning percentage) is certainly a data point worth noting. If you look at the Steelers other splits, the record outside of Eastern Time is even more striking.

  • The Steelers are 25-19 overall in road/neutral games (.568) but only 5-11 (.313) outside of EST. This means the Steelers are 20-8 (.714) in road games in the Eastern Time Zone. That includes their two Super Bowls (XLIII vs Arizona in Tampa and XLV vs Green Bay in Dallas).
  • At home, the Steelers are 36-10 (.783). 
  • On the whole, the Steelers are 46-18 (.718) in the Eastern Time Zone while having a lowly .313 winning percentage when they have to adjust their watches. 

Looking back, some of the games they lost were to good teams, including the Houston and San Francisco losses last year. However, in 2007 when the Steelers went 10-6, they lost to two mediocre teams: Arizona (8-8) and Denver (7-9). In 2009, they dropped another game to a mediocre team (Chicago was 7-9) and lost to a downright awful team (Kansas City was 4-12). The 2011 playoff loss was also to a mediocre team.

What does this mean moving forward? In addition to the season opener against Denver, the Steelers have to leave the friendly confines of the Eastern Time Zone three more times, including this week when they travel to Oakland. In addition to this trip, they have a Week 6 Thursday Night game in Nashville against the Titans and return to the Jerry Dome to take on the Cowboys in Week 15. I'm not ready to throw in the towel on these games, but the Steelers record outside the Eastern Time Zone is certainly something to keep an eye on as we move forward.

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