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Tuesday, December 9, 2008
Are Steelers more battle-hardened than Titans?

By Paul Kuharsky
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

Let's play a round of perception vs. reality.

Perception: The Steelers are way more ready for a nail-biting playoff game because they've been in and won tight games. The Titans have done too much coasting in the regular season and will suffer the consequences when the stakes are raised.

I'm not a big fan of this argument. It's akin to the case made before the 2006 draft that Jay Cutler was the best of the three top quarterbacks because he had faced more adversity at Vanderbilt. Yeah, everyone should dismiss guys who have won national championships and start scouring traditionally bad programs for quarterbacks. (I understand that Cutler ranks well ahead of Vince Young and Matt Leinart and will probably be the best of the three. That still doesn't make that argument a sensible one.)

Reality: There is no denying that the schedule has been tougher for the Steelers. Their opponents so far have a .479 winning percentage as opposed to .399 for the Titans. The remaining games for both teams, including their head-to-head matchup in Nashville on Dec. 21, are against teams with a combined 25-14 record.

But Pittsburgh has played seven games against teams that currently have winning records and the team is 4-3 in those games, with two wins by 7 points or less. Tennessee has played five games against teams that currently have winning records and is 4-1 in those games with two wins by seven points or less.

Titans and Steelers: Results against common opponents

Common
Opponents

Won by 19HoustonWon by 21
Won by 19ClevelandWon by 4
Won by 3Baltimore
Won by 3
Won by 7 and 17JacksonvilleWon by 5
Won by 17CincinnatiWon by 28 and 17
Won by 10IndianapolisLost by 4

Against common opponents, the Titans are 7-0 with an 85-point advantage and the Steelers are 6-1 with a 74-point advantage.

Pittsburgh's had a tougher road, but I'm not buying the conclusion that it's made the Steelers more playoff-ready.

I'm looking forward to finding out.