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Why the Patriots Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007

I've thrown out a challenge to the followers of every other NFL out there: tell us why your team will be better than the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2007. And plenty of eager writers are lined up to tell you exactly why they will be superior to the Black and Gold. In the coming weeks, be prepared to get a gauge on exactly where the rest of the country ranks us in the NFL hierarchy this season.

Today's author is Andrew Schall, a self-described "pre-dynasty" Pats fan from NYC that will be a freshman at Pitt this fall. Please hear him out and comment accordingly.

Why the Patriots Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007

I’ve lived in New York City all my life, and became a Pats fan at a young age, when I couldn’t understand why the Jets and Giants played in Jersey and decided to pick up the next closest team. I didn’t have as much choice in baseball, however, as being something other than a Yankee fan was not even a question. As a Pirate cynic-in-the-making – I’ll be starting at Pitt this fall and avoiding the Pirates like the plague – my first thought was what this series would be like for the 2008 baseball season. Given the Pirates’ three-headed beast of bad young pitching, free swingers and head cases (not to be confused with that Duke/Doumit/Duffy bobblehead) only a handful of essays can be written seriously and analytically, and it’s hard to think seriously about a team when their lone All-Star is Dugout legend Dmitri Young.

You can say the same for the Steelers, but the other way around and without the presence of LadyCop. With some teams, you just invent a convoluted, SABR-style formula that pegs Houston as a breakout team, or ramble on about how Pennsylvania is a commonwealth and therefore insignificant.

However, the Pats-Steelers showdown isn’t as anticlimactic, and it never will be when there are two of the best top-to-bottom franchises in the game being compared. Either team is a reasonable choice to spend February in Glendale, but if I had to pick one, will the Steelers be the better team than the Patriots? I don’t think so. Here’s why, in no particular order:

-One of Scott Pioli’s strengths as a general manager is not standing pat with the roster. This comes more out of necessity than anything (see the patchwork secondary that guided the team to Super Bowl XXXIX), but projected starters like Dan Koppen, Heath Evans and Artrell Hawkins have emerged in recent years from injury-filled messes, the former as a 5th-round pick and the latter two being signed in-season. Positional flexibility is also a hallmark of Patriots football, as Belichick and Pioli have shown expertise in this regard. Richard Seymour has made the Pro Bowl at two positions, and Willie McGinest slid seamlessly throughout the 3-4 for years. The Patriots look good enough on paper, and with around $8 million in cap space (estimate from Miguel, of the amazingly meticulous, there are resources out there when they need reinforcements.

- It seems like Alan Faneca has little credibility as the team’s perpetual whiner, but contract complaints are different from hiring issues. If he’s upset about Whisenhunt and Grimm getting passed over for Tomlin’s job, some other players probably are too. It could make enough of a difference, especially early on. Contrast that to the Patriots’ relatively newfound sense of consistency among the assistants. After the string of departures from Crennel, Weis and Mangini, there are no top candidates on staff – defensive coordinator Dean Pees is on his way out and offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels on his way up. Don’t expect any departures this off-season – but maybe next, if McDaniels directs an offense that fulfills its high expectations.

-Donte Stallworth gives the Patriots a true downfield threat, and former Vols teammate Kelley Washington has the same skill set on a lesser scale. Wes Welker is overrated, but he’s better than what was there before and is one of the top return men out there. (By the way, I’m trying to avoid mentioning you-know-who. The media focuses too much on him and not as much about other parts of the offense, like the unusually deep receiving corps as a whole. Brady has thrown a lot to tight ends going back to journeymen like Jermaine Wiggins and Christian Fauria, so I’d rather hear about Ben Watson, a breakout candidate who’s finally realizing his potential.)

-The secondary doesn’t suck as much as it used to. No Patriot can compare as an impact player to Troy Polamalu, but Rodney Harrison comes closest and he’s back in the mix after two injury-filled seasons, along with IR buddy Eugene Wilson. Ellis Hobbs, always a special teams threat, improved his cornerback skills greatly in his second year, and will be put to the test because of Asante Samuel’s holdout. The Patriots need to find a way to get their top corner in uniform by Week 1, but even if they don’t, the constant weak link in the secondary won’t be as weak a link this year.

-Joey Porter is a Dolphin. Adalius Thomas is a Patriot. Peezy’s arguably better, but he won’t do the Steelers any good being in Miami. Thomas is the perfect player for the Belichick system, given his I’m-tired-of-hearing-about-it-level versatility that plays well in the 3-4. (As a side note, I assumed Porter was considerably older than Thomas, but they’re both 30.)
-No more Chris Gardocki. According to every announcer who’s ever been within five miles of Heinz Field, he’s never had a punt blocked in his career. So apparently you guys are screwed now.

- Laurence “Kool-Aid” Maroney will assume the bulk of the carries this year with Corey Dillon gone. Dillon outdid Maroney in carries (199-175), yards (812-745) and touchdowns (13-6), but looked like a shell of himself compared to the previous two years in New England. The unsigned 32-year-old could probably still be useful in a limited role, but better to let someone like him go too early instead of too late. Backups Kevin Faulk and Heath Evans have found a niche in New England, and Sammy Morris comes over from Miami. Other than Dillon’s 1600 yards in 2004, this could be the most effective Patriots running game since the Curtis Martin years. Although an abundance of construda may be to the Patriots’ advantage, that’s cancelled out in the “blog memes about running backs” category thanks to the presence of Najeh “Where’s the manure?” Davenport.

-To be as blunt as possible: the Patriots are the defending division champions. The Steelers are not. The Pats went to the AFC championship, and the Steelers had an off year. Like Sunil of Canal Street Chronicles said, two AFC North teams can say they’re better than the Steelers and make a good argument. No need for me to convince this audience that Cincinnati’s wildly overrated, but they’re still contenders who have posted identical records to Pittsburgh in the last two years. The Ravens have no passing game aside from Todd Heap (only four wide receivers caught a pass last year) but they upgraded the ground game with Willis McGahee and they upgrade every minute Kyle Boller sits on the bench. Meanwhile, the Bills lost three key defensive players and still have J.P. Losman taking snaps. The jury’s always out on Chad Pennington, and the secondary is questionable at best. Jets fans can have reasonable hope of a playoff berth, but the Patriots, until proven otherwise, have the benefit of the doubt. In Bill We Trust.

So there you have it. I didn’t go with the rigorous positional breakdowns of the Browns preview, the, um, offbeat style of the Rams one, or the hybrid Saints one. But hopefully I outlined a few of my reasons and got the point across clearly. Thanks so much to Don for letting a non-blogger have a go at it, and I’m looking forward to contributing again in the spring for “Why the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees Will Be Better Than the Pirates.” Until then, I’ll see you all at such exciting Pitt football games as Eastern Michigan, Grambling, Navy and UConn. Thanks for reading.

More in the Why My Team is Better Than the Steelers series:

Why the Cleveland Browns Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007

Why The St. Louis Rams Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007

WhyThe New Orleans Saints Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007

Why the Tennessee Titans Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007


rhodepop said...

Mr. Schall states: "I couldn’t understand why the Jets and Giants played in Jersey and decided to pick up the next closest team"

Uh, I know it is not much of a choice but wouldn't Philly be the next closest team?

I think EVERYONE knows the Pats will be better than the Steelers. My advice to this Pitt frosh is to take an English Composition class to understand how to make a point rather than rambling on.

Just watch Pats fans. Both Harrison and Maroney will miss games due to injuries.

Dr Obvious said...

Not a bad post, all said. I agree that the Pats are now one of the best run organizations in the NFL.

However, being screwed because we don't have NoBlockie Gardocki? heh. You haven't seen the new kid, have you?

I look forward a fantastic game every time the Stiller and Pats play each other. There's a case to be made that the Pats are the Bizarro Stillers, and vice versa. Both play ugly, beautiful smashmouth football. Both run a blitz happy 3-4. Both have a great owner.

If you can't get excited for a Pats/Steelers game, you might be broken, and are probably a communist.

Justin_B said...

I think we all agree with Bruce, the Pats are better. However can I attack a couple points made by Andrew.

"Joey Porter is a Dolphin. Adalius Thomas is a Patriot. Peezy’s arguably better, but he won’t do the Steelers any good being in Miami."

Come on. Joey Porter is better than Adalius Thomas. Seriously? He won't be missed. Especially by mini-horses.

"No more Chris Gardocki." Yeah, yeah, yeah. Never had a punt blocked... Never had one inside the 10 either. Bye Chris. At least we won't have to listen to that stat everytime we punt this year.

Finally, since you'll be attending PITT and probably coming back to read these comments... just ignore anything Adam is surely going to write about PITT, Penn State, or PITT versus Penn State.

Otherwise good article.

Steeltown Mike said...

Yeah, I think a majority of Steeler fans would rather have Thomas over Porter, at least at this stage.

I think the Patriots are better because they have a couple of standout wideouts, though I've heard that Patriots players are amazed how much Moss's skills have actually dropped off. But, most glaringly, their O-line is better than the Steelers' practically man-for-man.

Splitting hairs:

Pirates lone All-Star candidate was 2006 Batting Champ Freddy Sanchez. Dmitri Young was for the Washington Nationals.


Yeah. I still pay attention to the Bucs.

Free Pacman said...

I hope you all realize he was being sarcastic about the Gardocki thing.

Nice article, Andrew.

TheStarterWife said...

Nicely done Andrew. I am curious to see if Harrison has lost a step this year though.

P.O. said...

how is an 18 year old college freshman a "pre-dynasty pats fan"? he was roughly 13 when they won their first super bowl.. that is prime bandwagon jump-on age..

BWB said...

wait, another pats fan who didn't start off as one, and basically jumped on-board when the wins started? sounds like you're from boston, buddy.

Unknown said...

I can't wait to see how many cheap shots Rodney Harrison can throw out this year. He makes John Lynch look like a pansy when it comes to hitting people late.

AJ said...

Wow... this post was written with all of the egocentrics of a New Yorker, but still had the whiny undertone of a typical Boston fan. Well played.

Unknown said...

Thanks for all the positive feedback. A few responses and clarifications:

Bruce: My geography skills weren't that good at the time.

Steeltown Mike: About the All-Stars, I was trying to say that if this series were done for the Pirates, the only serious articles would be why teams like the Royals or Nationals would be better than the Bucs. The Dmitri Young line was kind of a nonsequitur, although that would've been a lot clearer if I had said the word Nationals.

Pacman: Glad someone realized that about Gardocki.

PO/NO Nation: It was '94 or '95 when I started watching football and the Pats. I didn't watch the team with as much intensity and scrutiny as I do now, but I still followed them game-by-game and collected Pats stuff.

Thanks again for your comments.

Adam said...

Dear Pitt Student,

First off. Sorry to hear about you going to Pitt.

Second, don't be so hard on my Buccos. I wouldn't call our young pitching "bad". Its hard to go after Gorzo for being 11-7 with an ERA in the 3s when he plays for Pittsburgh. Snell has been hard luck all year, or he'd be around Gorzo's record as well. Finally, Maholm is coming around after a rough start, and would say he is a solid #3.

Unfortunately the 4-5 guys ae aging vets who suck.

The offense is also coming around lately...O what the hell am I doing?

Anyway, nice write up. I'm also proud of the commentors for actually acknowleging that the Pats are better. It backs up my view that good blogs are better than good radio talk shows. If Mark Madden said this to his audience, people would be going nuts on him.

Sean said...

Adam, just wondering, will you be writing the post about why Penn State Will Be Better Than the Steelers in 2007?

In all seriousness, it could be more convincing than the Oakland Raiders article.

Adam said...

Well, why not.

If you actually want me to talk some football though, Penn State is full of questions this year.

We could be REALLY good, like I mean in the hunt for the BCS National Championship, but at the same time, we could lose 5 games.

Will the defensive line be great? Or just good

Will the offensive line open holes for Austin Scott? If they do, will Scott actuall run through them? Or around them?

And the biggest one: Will Morelli make the season crushing mistake like he did last year against Ohio State?

Penn State had as good a shot as anyone did during the regular season, driving for the tying score late in the 4th quarter, when Morelli threw a pick 6.

I know I seem like I drink a lot of Penn State cool aid, but Morelli's performance in the Outback Bowl didn't inspire me as much as a lot of my friends.

The defense and Tony Hunt won that game, not Anthony Morelli

Anonymous said...

Mondesi - this was not one of your better ideas.

Pats fan - I did not read your garbage. The Pats are chokers after losing to the Colts last year, the Red Sox are no better than the Yankees, and Cam Neely is still a whiny, little bitch.

Long live Ulf.

Joe Hardy - cut your age in half and add 7. You shouldn't date anyone under 49. Let this be a lesson as you set back out on the prowl in search of wife #4.

Louis Lipps is my homeboy said...

Wow, a Pats fan AND a Yankee fan!

The douchebaggery in that is staggering, especially when bandwagonism is factored in.

Oh well, at least I assume he's going to be a Pitt fan so that's oen reason I can like him.

Free Pacman said...

I would like to write the "Why the Hellen Keller Little League Team for the Blind Will Be Better than the Pirates" article next year.

Kaitie said...

Thank God. Another Patriots fan in Pittsburgh. I was beginning to think I was the only New Englandah expatriate languishing in this city.

save the steagles said...

I will consider this entire series a complete failure if we do not get a "Why Penn State Will Be Better Than the Steelers" post from Adam. Make it happen.