The Steelers, Point Differential and Winning

I’m about to drop some incredible knowledge on you, so hold onto your hats and get ready for this: It’s important for a team to score more points than its opponent.

Boom. Knowledge is power.

During Thursday’s preview Podcast for the Steelers-Browns game, JJ talked about how important it would be for the Steelers to not only beat Cleveland, but to also win big because championship caliber teams don’t just beat the teams they should beat, they blow them out. Football Outsiders has written about this in the past with its “guts” and “stomps” analysis (A “gut” being a close win against a good team, and a “stomp” being a blowout win against a bad team) that shows how teams with more “stomps” than “guts” in a given season have a better chance of winning the Super Bowl than teams that don’t.

Here’s how FO defines guts and stomps:

STOMP: A win by at least 14 points over a team that will finish the year below .500.
GUT: A win by 1-8 points over a team that will finish the year above .500.

Steelers fans are justifiably excited with the team’s current 4-1 record after five games, but it’s also important to keep in mind that last year’s team was 6-2 before things started to unravel.  But it’s also worth pointing out that last year’s team was also 1-2 at one point, and wasn’t “stomping” any of its opponents during the early part of the season (or at any point, actually). That’s not the case this season.

After five games, the Steelers are already ahead of last year’s total for “stomps,” thanks to their 18-point win against Cleveland, as well as their 25-point win against Tampa Bay. They had only one stomp last season, an 18-point victory in Denver on a Monday night.

Sunday’s game against the Browns may have been closer than the final score indicated, but it was still an 18-point win against an NFL team, while the only touchdown surrendered was another garbage time score with the game already well in hand. Due to their 18-point margin of victory, the Steelers head into Week 7 with a point differential of plus-54, which is currently second only to the New York Jets (plus-58, and better than I expected them to be).

This is a good sign.

Here’s a look at their point differential through five games dating back to the 2005 season, as well as how they finished the season:

Steelers Point Differential
Year Points For 5 Games Points Against 5 Games Point Differential 5 Games Point Differential Season
2010 114 60 +54 TBD
2009 113 98 +15 +44
2008 103 79 +24 +124
2007 132 47 +85 +124
2006 75 84 -9 +38
2005 122 82 +40 +131

Couple of quick thoughts…

1) The two lowest full season differentials (as well as the lowest through five games) were the two seasons the Steelers went 8-8 and 9-7 and failed to make the playoffs. The other three, well over plus-100, were playoff seasons, including a pair of Super Bowl championships. The Steelers are on a better pace through five games than the two Super Bowl seasons.

2) I wonder what the 2007 Steelers would have been capable of had they not missed Troy Polamalu and Aaron Smith for as many games as they did (ditto 2009, but even more in 2007 … that team flat out stomped people with a full roster. Dominated them).

The Steelers next opponent, the Miami Dolphins, is coming in with a 3-2 mark, but also carries a minus-23 point differential. Their wins were a five-point win against 0-5 Buffalo, a four-point win against 2-3 Minnesota, and a three-point win against 3-2 Green Bay. Its losses were a 31-23 decision to the 4-1 Jets, and a 41-14 loss to the 4-1 Patriots.

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  • Anonymous

    You don’t know at this point whether Cleveland and Tampa Bay will finish above or below .500 so you can’t tell for certain whether those are STOMPs or DOMINATEs.

    If you want to go with a record-at-the time definition, then Denver was 6-1 at the time they played Pittsburgh, making that a DOMINATE not a STOMP. Denver finished 8 and 8 last season so that wasn’t a STOMP or a DOMINATE using the full season definition.

    Still interesting info.

    • Gretz

      Yeah, that’s a good point, but I’m assuming Cleveland and Tampa Bay finish below .500. Cleveland is a given, I think, and I’m just not that sold on the Bucs at this point.

  • Anonymous

    “which is currently second only to the New York Jets ” – who have played six games.

    And speaking of fourth quarter TDs, if I am not mistaken, the Browns TD with 4:17 left is the second earliest TD the Steelers have allowed all season thusfar. The only earlier one was the first Baltimore TD, in the second quarter.

  • SteelerBill

    Love it…just posted at on SouthSide

  • Steeler Chick

    Great post. Thanks for the info. Love it.