How do we measure a year for our favorite National Football League teams? More often than not, it’s disappointing if our team doesn’t win a Super Bowl, or at least make the playoffs. For some franchises, victory has eluded them so greatly that right now they’re really crossing their fingers for a 8-8 record by the last whistle.
It’s a tough thing to measure.
Some of the greatest teams in NFL history, however, never won the Super Bowl. The 1968 Baltimore Colts, for instance, went into Super Bowl III as 18-point favorites. They had dominated the opposition all season behind the arm of Johnny Unitas, and their defense held opposing teams to 10 points or less in 11 out of 14 games. And still, they lost to the upstart New York Jets and “Broadway” Joe Namath.
Success isn’t defined by a championship ring, but we can quantify it. Which NFL teams in the past decade have been the best?
10. 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers
Record: 12-4, won Super Bowl XLIII
It’s bizarre to think that Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin will have completed a decade in his current job following the 2016 season, but his staying power definitely was helped by this season early in his career.
The team wasn’t particularly effective on offense that season, either. In full, they were just 16th — exactly average — in terms of Adjusted Offensive Net Expected Points (NEP) per play. Only wide receiver Hines Ward finished in the top-10 of his position in Total NEP, though Santonio Holmes was also a top-30 wideout. Mewelde Moore also added a ton of value through receiving and turned out as a top-20 running back in Total NEP, thanks to his receiving ability.
What the Steelers thrived on was throwback, smashmouth defense. Their -0.15 Adjusted Defensive NEP per play (negative is good, as it means points are being taken away) is the fifth-best mark among all teams since 2000 and, of course, Steeler greats safety Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison featured in some of the most critical plays of the playoffs, earning the “City of Steel” its league-best sixth Super Bowl title.