Earlier I wrote about the Madden Curse, and how some fans wished their favorite players would avoid it. Maybe the 2011 season will prove those skeptical fans right, and Browns running back Peyton Hillis, who won the final vote against Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, will struggle in 2011 after the game is released in August. Or maybe this bit of superstition doesn’t hold true since Saints quarterback Drew Brees did just fine in 2010 after being featured on the game’s previous cover.
Maybe it’s time to put away curses. And another curse that might be on the ropes is the Super Bowl loser curse.
This was a good one, as the losing team from the Super Bowl had a losing record the following season for five straight years beginning in 2001 through 2005. After the Seahawks avoided the curse (due in part to the weak competition in the NFC West), the Bears in 2007 and the Patriots in 2008 started it up again by missing the playoffs after their Super Bowl losses.
Maybe that cycle has been broken after the past two Super Bowl losers, the Cardinals and Colts, both had winning records and made it back to the playoffs. It’s unlikely that the 2011 Steelers are going to bring it back to life for a few reasons.
They’re a really good team. They outscored their opponents by 143 points during the 2010 regular season, which trailed only the Patriots and Packers. With nearly all their starters likely to return, and many in the prime of their careers, only an unlikely rash of injuries could really bring them down.
Defenses are inconsistent, but not the Steelers. When they missed the playoffs in 2009, their defense slipped out of the top five (down to No. 9 overall) for the only time in the last four seasons according to Football Outsiders. That was still ahead of a couple teams who made the playoffs that year, and the main reason for that modest decline was the absence of Troy Polamalu for all but five games due to injury. He’s once again having to rehab an injury this offseason, but he’s expected back to full strength in 2011. Their 9-7 record in 2009 was due in large part to their awful special teams unit that season.
Their offense is really good. Even with their offensive line in tatters due to injury last season, and without Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games due to a suspension, their offense was still ranked in the top five by Football Outsiders.
Their schedule is favorable. In 2011, the AFC North will play against the NFC West, which didn’t feature a team with a winning record in 2010. While they’ll battle a very good Ravens team for the divisional crown, they’ll also play four games against the rebuilding Browns and Bengals.
Anything is possible in the NFL, but the Steelers appear set to avoid any let down after their Super Bowl loss.