View Full Version : Steelers' D has a Curtain air about it

01-22-2009, 07:09 AM
Steelers' D has a Curtain air about it
By John Clayton

The NFL motto has been around for decades: Defense wins championships. Coming off the league's greatest scoring season since 1965, the Pittsburgh Steelers will be trying to prove that axiom is still valid.

Pittsburgh has been the home of great defenses for more than three decades. The Steel Curtain enjoyed the glitter of four Super Bowl rings. Bill Cowher, standing on the sideline with his tight jaw and aggressive 3-4 style, won 149 games and 12 playoff games in 15 seasons. Enter Mike Tomlin, who created an environment for the defense to grow even more under the direction of defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau.

The Steelers have a chance to write another page in history during Super Bowl XLIII. This is arguably the best Pittsburgh defense since the 1970s. It finished first overall: first against the pass, second against the run. The 3.9 yards per play allowed by the defense was the lowest tally since 1979.

"Without a doubt, this is the best defense that I've ever played on, but we'll see what happens in the next game," safety Troy Polamalu said. "I think that's going to solidify how good we are. This team had to rely more on defense. We had to make a lot more big plays. We caused and forced a lot more turnovers than in the past."

Three years ago, Cowher won Super Bowl XL with great defense and a strong running attack that took pressure off the defense. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger was only 23 at the time, and the Steelers didn't ask him to throw more than 22 or 23 passes a game. Pittsburgh played a moderately easy schedule, going 11-5 against opponents with a .492 winning percentage, and made the playoffs as a wild-card team.

On defense, the 2005 Steelers allowed 16.1 points a game, third-best in the league. They were fourth in yards allowed and third against the run -- very good, but not great. Nose tackle Casey Hampton, linebacker Joey Porter and Polamalu were the Pro Bowlers. The secondary was in a four-year transition, having moved on from Dewayne Washington and Chad Scott.

"We still pretty much have the same group we had in 2005, but we've jelled together," cornerback Bryant McFadden said. "The most important thing is the chemistry we have."

Safety Ryan Clark labels the team chemistry as a brotherhood. The Steelers try to play like a band of brothers who are out to help each other.

"We always say, 'Play for your brother,'" Clark said. "We have great guys who are selfless guys. When a guy around here makes a mistake, he feels terrible. We play for each other. That's what makes us a decent team."

In many ways, the success of winning Super Bowl XL makes the Pittsburgh defense even stronger. A decent core group remains in the front seven and in the secondary. Starters Hampton, Aaron Smith, James Farrior, Larry Foote, Polamalu, Deshea Townsend and Ike Taylor remain from the 2005 defense, but this year's version is so much more talented.

Taylor has developed into a Pro Bowl alternate at cornerback. McFadden has developed into a top-flight cornerback and has allowed the shorter Townsend to move into the slot in passing situations. Clark is the perfect safety mate for Polamalu, who roams the field and makes big plays. The development of LaMarr Woodley as a pass-rushing counter to James Harrison provides the pressure that forces quarterbacks into more mistakes.

The NFL tailors the game to offense. Holding penalties are down, so it's harder for pass-rushers to get to the quarterback. That extra half-second opens the door for more spread offenses to operate and move the chains with short completions. The game has changed to a point that the past two Super Bowl winners -- the Colts and Giants -- didn't rank among the top 10 defenses in points allowed. From 1983 through 2005, the Super Bowl winner ranked in the top 10 in that category.

That's the interesting part of Super Bowl XLIII. The Steelers have a defense that can rank among the best statistically in the history of the game. Pittsburgh is old-school. Arizona comes in with a Kurt Warner-led offense that can put up 30 points on any defense.

Which style will prevail?

Historically, the edge should go to the Steelers because the defense is so good, and it has been that way all season. "Everybody talks about our numbers and the 1985 Chicago Bears," Townsend said. "You can look at the numbers, but everyone knows it's about victories. I would say numberwise, we are better than the 2005 team, but the key is that the chemistry is there."

The pass rush and the secondary set this Steelers defense apart from the rest. Monte Kiffin was known for putting up stifling numbers against opposing quarterbacks with his Cover 2 defense in Tampa Bay when Warren Sapp, Derrick Brooks and Ronde Barber were all together. Pittsburgh might be the most productive pass defense since then.

The Steelers allow opponents to complete only 56.5 percent of their passes and hold them to an average of just 5.37 yards an attempt. The quarterback rating against them is a sick 63.4. They grabbed 20 interceptions and forced nine lost fumbles. The tandem of Harrison and Woodley has combined for 27.5 sacks.

What's even more impressive is how the defense held up against what started out as the league's toughest schedule. The Steelers played 11 games against teams with .500 records or better. They won seven. They allowed 80.3 rushing yards per game, Pittsburgh's second-best mark since the merger. The 2,511 passing yards allowed is their third-best total in a 16-game schedule. Including the playoffs, the Steelers' defense has had only one game in which an opposing offense put up more than 300 yards.

In a league that has been pushing the numbers to the offensive side of the ball, the Steelers are trying to swing it back to defense, and they are doing it with perhaps their best defense in more than two decades.

John Clayton, a recipient of the Pro Football Hall of Fame's McCann Award for distinguished reporting, is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

01-22-2009, 08:25 AM
I wish someone would come up with a name for this defense.
The Slag Pile, the Iron Crush, the Blast Furnace, ugh I'm terrible at this!:drink:

01-22-2009, 09:41 AM
I wish someone would come up with a name for this defense.
The Slag Pile, the Iron Crush, the Blast Furnace, ugh I'm terrible at this!:drink:

Why use another name? "Steel Curtain" works for me.

One could make the argument that the "Curtain" back in the 70's was the d-line (Greene, Greenwood, Holmes, and White). But this group I think should include the entire defense.


01-22-2009, 10:34 AM
Why use another name? "Steel Curtain" works for me.

One could make the argument that the "Curtain" back in the 70's was the d-line (Greene, Greenwood, Holmes, and White). But this group I think should include the entire defense.


Then maybe we should call it the "Gillette Sensor Defense" since there's 3 layers of steel to penetrate.

Somebody get Bob Kraft on the line.

01-22-2009, 10:44 AM
The Steel Curtin is good but it will always remind me of the defense in the 70's. Blitzburgh was for the group in the 80's. I think this defense deserves it's own identity.
I like the three layers comment. What has three layers? how about the Stainless Steel ......something? :hatsoff:
Ugh... where is Myron Cope when you need him!:banging:

01-22-2009, 10:58 AM
:couch: i kinda like "full metal curtain"

hey, and could somebody please help me out ? i'm lookin to find an image of the "amazing steelers" banner that hangs at Heinz field. :link:

Judy :tt02:

01-22-2009, 11:36 AM
:couch: i kinda like "full metal curtain"

Actually...you might have something there. :idea:

01-22-2009, 12:01 PM
Steel Assault

01-22-2009, 12:10 PM
I like the Steel Curtain. If it's anything it's traditional.

01-22-2009, 12:16 PM
The Steel Gauntlet covers the multiple layers.

01-22-2009, 02:22 PM
"The Full Metal Jacket"

nuff said

01-22-2009, 04:10 PM
While I think they deserve their own identity, I love the "Steel Curtain." To me, that's a Steelers tradition. It's the way it should be. This group is the Second Coming of the Steel Curtain. They should be proud to be worthy of the name, to be the one's that "bring that Steel Curtain" down again! The Steel Curtain lives on!

08-12-2009, 01:23 PM
OOH, I KNOW......


08-12-2009, 03:27 PM
I like Steel Curtain as well. In actuality it is more of a curtain because it can't be penetrated on the line or the secondary. In this day and age, it is nearly impossible for a secondary to be as good as they are. I think this defense can finally be the one who gets the monkey off our back with Tom Brady and company. It was no fluke that we burned them last year without Brady. I think we get to Brady just as easily as we got to Cassel or the dinks and dunks just don't work because the Steelers don't let them go for big yards. Polomolu is amazing at making up lost ground and stopping plays from being huge. And I think Timmons is the type of player who can be that way as well. I can't WAIT for this season to get started.