No Longer On Top?
Coming into the season the Patriots and Steelers were seen as hands down legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but after week 13 they are both in a battle just to get into the playoffs. Have the Steelers’ and Patriots’ dynasties ended? Can we no longer call them “elite?”
At 7-5 overall and 1-5 on the road this season, the Patriots do not look to have their usual swagger and aura surrounding them as in years past. Tom Brady and the offense look to have things looking pretty much normal, but the defense is what has let them down time and time again this season. The once bend but don’t break, get the stops when you need them defense of old has lost some key veterans like Teddy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and others that had a nack for key plays in big moments. The Patriots defense is ranked 11th in total yards per game allowing 322 yards. They also rank 14th in pass defense allowing 214 yards per game and 15th in rush defense allowing 108 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. The most surprising stat is that the usually opportunistic Patriot defense is only towards the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of takeaways with 22. If the Patriots can’t find a way to develop their young defense and have them playing in true form on a consistent basis then we might be witnessing the end of Bill Belichick’s and the Patriots’ dynasty and thus their “elite” stature.
The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers have dropped 4 straight, the latest loss coming courtesy of the now 4-8 Raiders and a touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds remaining in the game. The Steelers seemed to have lost their killer instinct and have had a huge amount of trouble putting teams away and holding onto the lead, especially in the 4th quarter. The 6-6 Steelers are in danger of missing the playoffs after winning 2 Super Bowls in the last 4 seasons. The Steelers have struggled within their own division, compiling a 1-4 record against division foes with their only win coming against the horrendous Browns. The Steelers offense hasn’t been the problem as they rank in the top half in every major offensive statistical category, rather it has been the struggles in the defensive secondary. The Steelers pass defense ranks 17th in the NFL allowing 220 passing yards per game. They have also allowed 15 passing touchdowns already this season and have only 8 interceptions. This comes in contrary to last years Super Bowl winning team that was ranked 1st in passing defense, gave up only 12 touchdowns through the air the entire season, and had 20 interceptions. The Steelers have to win their last 4 games in order to potentially put themselves in the playoff picture, but the first thing they have to attend to is finding a way to get that nasty, confident attitude back. If they can find their swagger then they have a chance, but for now they look to be just another average team, and their “intimidation factor” is rapidly dwindling week after week.