Heck, the defense even scored 5 touchdowns, second only to the Miami Dolphins' 6 defensive scores.
By no means was the offense a weak sister, either. The Steelers ranked third overall on that side of the ball, gaining 367.9 yards per contest. No one in the league ran the ball better; in fact, it wasn't even close as the Steelers rumbled for a gaudy 173.4 yards per game – 30-plus more yards than the second-ranked San Francisco 49ers. No one was more committed to the ground game either; the Steelers ran the football more times (580), and for a better average yards-per-carry (4.8) than all but the St. Louis Rams (4.9). The Steelers offense also finished seventh in scoring (22.0 ppg) and first overall in Time of Possession, holding the ball for 34:10 minutes per game.
Perhaps no other singular statistical category offers as clear a glimpse into the dominance of this Steelers team in 2001, as does that Time of Possession (TOP) ranking. Scores, while certainly absolute with regard to winning and losing, do not begin to define dominance, and certainly not over an entire season. A team can dominate an opponent on the field, and still lose on the scoreboard, though this would be the exception in most cases.
One could point at the top defensive rankings, and even at the production of the Steelers' running game on offense, yet individually they still reflect dominance on only one side of the ball, or in one phase of the game. The Dallas Cowboys finished third in Rushing Offense (136.5 ypg) and fourth in Total Defense (287.4 ypg), but just fourteenth in Time of Possession. Their record in 2001? Five wins, eleven losses…hardly a dominant team.
Time of Possession has little to do with style, and everything to do with substance. The St. Louis Rams have a high-flying, score-from-anywhere type of offense, and a play-the-pass-first defense – a far cry from the approach in Pittsburgh (in fact, they may well be the anti-Steelers) – yet ranked third in TOP, and subsequently finished with a 14-2 record and a trip to the Big Show. Even the term Time of Possession, lends itself to dominance:
1) a nonspatial continuum in which events occur in apparently irreversible succession from the past through the present to the future
2) an interval separating two points on this continuum; a duration
3) a number, as of years, days, or minutes, representing such an interval
4) a similar number representing a specific point on this continuum, reckoned in hours and minutes
5) a system by which such intervals are measured or such numbers are reckoned
1) the act or fact of possessing
2) the state of being possessed
3) something owned or possessed
4) actual holding or occupancy with or without rightful ownership
5) a territory subject to foreign control
6) the state of being dominated by or as if by evil spirits
Pretty clear cut, if you ask me. A measurement of how long the opposition is dominated. Ownership of one's opponent; control of their territory, their very action; against their will. Sounds like Steelers Football, no?
The Steelers Front Office would seem to agree, and in some respects, have gotten into the act. While it has been erroneously reported that the defensive front seven and starting cornerbacks are under contract for the next five seasons, the team of Dan Rooney-Bill Cowher-Kevin Colbert-Omar Khan has locked this team up for a significant championship run, nonetheless.
Every d-side starter, with the exception of strong safety Lee Flowers, is under contract though at least the 2004 season. Add to that total back-ups John Fiala (LB) and Deshea Townsend (CB), as well as 2002 defensive rookies Larry Foote (LB) and Chris Hope (S). Offensively, quarterback Kordell Stewart, and tackles Wayne Gandy and Marvel Smith, are the only current starters whose contracts expire prior to 2004. However, key back-ups Tommy Maddox (QB), Oliver Ross (T) and rookies Kendall Simmons (G) and Antwaan Randle El (WR), are all signed up to, and in most cases, beyond that season. That's some serious time of possession, right there.
It is hard to fathom the Steelers keeping all of these players under their current contract terms, but with some minor salary cap massaging – and a little luck – this team could be playing championship-caliber ball with essentially the same roster, for the next three seasons; with astute drafting, and a key free agent addition here and there, perhaps even beyond. In this era, and especially in Pittsburgh, that is unheard of.
Of course, none of this means a thing…without a ring.