While it’s obvious that NFL teams need solid quarterback play in order to compete for a championship year in and year out, the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers both proved this year that a solid defense is also vital.
While many of you may scoff at the Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt that I track over the course of the season, it’s worth pointing out that the Panthers (4.46) and Broncos (4.71) finished the regular season ranked first and second respectively in defensive ANY/A. Over the course of the last 21 NFL seasons, only two teams have managed to make it to the Super Bowl with a defensive ANY/A greater than 5.94 and the Panthers and Broncos are both well under that number.
Another defensive stat that’s worth pointing out is the fact that the Broncos and Panthers finished the regular season ranked first and second respectively in yards per play allowed and yards allowed per pass play.
So what does this all mean for the Pittsburgh Steelers as they look forward to the 2016 season?
While the Steelers defense finished the 2015 season ranked third overall in sacks, they still need to improve when it comes to providing more consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Sack totals are great, but consistent pressure is even better and especially when you only need to send 4 or less defensive players to achieve it. That’s where the Steelers failed in 2015. They hit the opposing quarterback a total of 96 times in 2015 and exactly half of those were on sacks. in a future post, we will look at all of their sacks achieved during the regular season as it relates to both time and numbers sent to achieve them all. It should serve as an interesting study.
Additionally, the Steelers 6.96 yards per pass play allowed in 2015 has to come down as well in 2015 as that number is far too high.