So while strolling around the net I came across some NFL power rankings, and in each case I would normally either see the Steelers, "(because they are the reigning super bowl champs)" or the Patriots, "(because Brady is back)" at the top of everyone's rankings.
As you can maybe guess by now, I never got to my power rankings.
I want to get to the point as to why people keep putting the Super Bowl champs at the top of their power rankings. I often, as a former physics major in college, compare teams to radioactive substances. Teams that aren't upgrading or adding are decaying. Injuries happen throughout the season and even the offseason. These injuries are similar to the randomness of radioactive decay. In either case though, there is a rate of decay. People don't stay young forever. Players get lost to free agency, injuries, and trades.
The moment the Steelers lost a super bowl contributor, they were not the same team anymore. They are not the team that won the SB. They are mostly a large collection of players that have won a SB. As soon as the next season starts they have to prove themselves like anyone else. They have the same record as the Detroit Lions.
Regardless, when making a ranking you are evaluating a team's roster. So I went back and looked at the Steeler's moves, and because the Steelers are big on player development I looked at their most recent drafts too.
In free agency they lost players like Nate Washington, Bryant McFadden, and Marvel Smith. And don’t underestimate their loss of Byron Leftwich. With someone like Big Ben you need a good backup to get you through a few games, or parts of games, that Ben will most likely miss playing behind that OL. One change in their overall record would have changed their playoff seed possibly making them the SB losers, assuming they even got that far.
Those losses are not back breakers, especially if they add in free agency, which they didn’t; or if they added a lot in the draft. They had the draft picks to replace their losses but did they improve themselves with their rookies? Their best rookie wide receiver, Mike Wallace, isn’t going to be as good as Nate Washington, at least not in his rookie year. Their top draft pick in Ziggy Hood, someone I liked in the draft, isn’t going to be better than Travis Kirschke or Aaron Smith, even though they are old and at the end of their career(35 and 33 respectively). There are other players I could discuss like Urbik and AQ Shipley, but the difference those picks could make this year is minimal. Urbik is very similar to players he will be replacing, and Shipley is at a position that takes time to learn.
So now looking back at their past drafts, you think, well those developing players should be coming around from the draft 2 or 3 years ago. Right?
2008 Draft Picks
Mendenhall is a bust IMO for where he was drafted. He’s not the outside runner that Parker is, and he’s not the inside runner that recently cut Gary Russell was or newly drafted Frank “The Tank” Summers is.
Limas Sweed is going to be another bust, with his inconsistent hands. I expect Wallace to take his roll eventually, just not next year.
Bruce Davis may be a good player eventually, but he won’t be better than Harrison or Woodley next year. I don’t think Davis even had 5 tackles all of last year.
Most of these draft picks are not going to develop much more as they were huge contributors last season in lots of cases. And most of them weren’t drafted in places that take a lot of time to develop. I’m looking for something that wasn’t there last year that could help them next year.
I don’t think Woodley or Timmons will get much better. Spaeth has already shown what he can do in his backup role to Miller.
We have Cameron Stephenson, their 5th round draft pick.
Williams Gay is the reason McFadden is not back. He should help them this year.
As far as I'm concerned however one pick in Gay improving is not going to outweigh their losses.
I was going to go on to talk about the Patriots, but clearly I’ve already written too much. So I will stop at listing the old age of players they will rely on like a crutch this year.
Shawn Springs who had injuries last year is 34.
Joey Galloway who was injured for a large portion of last year is 37!
What did age do to our team last year? Yeah that’s right.
Also, I’ve blamed a lot of the sacks Cassel took on him, which he deserves for holding on to the ball so long in a lot of cases. But, Brady was taking a lot of those same hits after our playoff game in 2007. His OL was failing him.
The Patriots have a good chance of being a really good team, but they also have a good chance of being super busts. Just remember once again, we were SB favorites until our age caught up to us and abetted our bad luck with injuries that ravaged our proverbial Achilles heal.