Blog Entry

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

Posted on: January 11, 2009 8:45 am
Edited on: January 11, 2009 8:46 am
I would love to sit down and chat with Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and other legendary…yes, legendary…members of the Steelers defense of the 70’s.  What would I love to chat with them about, of course, the obvious, the defense that I grew up watching.  The one that gained it’s place in the annals of NFL history with being an integral part of four Superbowl wins.  While others began to love the high powered games of offense, my love of defensive battles had it’s roots from this corp, because, even if the offense wasn’t able to get it done, the defense did. 

Their play was brutal and bone crushing.  Truly smash mouth football.  The play that put Greene, Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount into the Hall of Fame.  They’ve been considered one of the best defenses in NFL history. 

For the past four decades, Steelers fans have been accustomed to having some truly great defensive players wearing black and gold.  Kevin Greene, Rod Woodson, Carnell Lake, Greg Lloyd just to name a few.  Often times, these defenses have been dubbed the Steel Curtain, because they carried over the traditions and the mindset of the original “men of steel”

Perhaps the squad that best epitomized the original Steel Curtain defense is the one that we’re watching prepare for today’s divisional game against the San Diego Chargers.  For a few years, we’ve been watching this squad develop under defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau and for years they’ve been very good, in the top of the league but this year, is it safe to call them great? 

Perhaps, it’s too soon to do that, after all, the final prize hasn’t been won yet.  Ask any Steeler defender that they won’t consider themselves great until they win the Superbowl on their defense…and that’s what they plan to do too, get to and win the ring on their defense alone.  Remember the original Steel Curtain…when the offense can’t get it done, the defense will?  This is exactly what Dick LeBeau’s defense has been doing this year.  Getting it done.  When the offense struggled, the defense kept their opponents pinned down.  They just fell short of being considered one of the best ever.  They managed, until the last game of the season being first in most aspects of defense, but unfortunately, they fell to second against the rush. 

But we knew this already.  So now Dick LeBeau’s defense heads into it’s first playoff game for the season, rested, healthy and out to prove that they can do it on their own, if need be, and they’re going to do it as a team.  Maybe that’s why the “Blitzburgh Defense” has become so darn good, because they play as a team.  No doubt you have great defenders on every team.  Yet who can you say is instrumental on this defense? 

The front three?  The linebacker? The safeties?  Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel have been instrumental in closing gaps and stopping the run.  Yet if the runners did get through, you had Larry Foote, James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and even Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark getting to them.  Take out Woodley and Harrison and Lawrence Timmons steps up just nicely for them.  Take out Clark or Polamalu and Tyrone Carter makes big plays.  Bryant McFadden, Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend and even William Gay have performed superbly on a secondary that years prior was considered suspect.  One member of the defense goes down and someone else steps in and surprises us in a good way.  Even the weakest link, Anthony Smith has stepped up in special teams, helping the Steelers improve to 1st in kick off return coverage and 4th in punt return coverage in the NFL.  Every member of this defense have become ball hawks.

Three Steeler defenders will be going to the pro bowl this year, Polamalu, Harrison and Farrior.  Polamalu and Harrison will be voted to be on the NFL All-Pro team for 2008.  James Harrison will not only be named the Steelers MVP for his second consecutive time, but will have been voted the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.  There are three names that will have stood out on this Steelers defense, yet, many more who are just as deserving of recognition on this squad. 

Perhaps the most important component of this squad is the one who doesn’t get named in any awards.  Defensive coordinator, Dick LeBeau himself.  This year the Steelers honored Coach LeBeau for his 50 years in the NFL and his “family”, the Steelers defense, made sure they were on the field when he was honored.  Perhaps that is why the Steelers defense is as good as they are.  Not just the play calling, but also the cohesiveness of the squad.  Because of Dick LeBeau, this squad has formed what seems an unbreakable bond that believes they can do anything.  Family, that’s about right for LeBeau’s defense.  And if you were to view the “family portrait” taken this week, somehow, you get a sense that they will do anything.  It’s not a secret that LeBeau’s “family” want to see him get into the HOF, and if winning a Superbowl ring on defense, will do it, then that’s what they’re trying to do. 

As a fan, I’ve had the pleasure to watch LeBeau and his defense evolved.  In 2005, while I was holding my breath as the Steelers made the run to be the first 6th seed wild card team to win the Superbowl, I remember a conversation that I had with one of the CBS Sportsline board members.  Then, we were discussing the defense and how they reminded us of the original Steel Curtain.  As I look back on that conversation, I would have to say we were both wrong.  It’s this years team that compares more to the Steel Curtain then that defense.  How awesome though, that the majority of that 05 defense is still on the 08 Steelers defense, and the new members, well just made the team better. 

The possible reincarnation of the Steel Curtain defense bodes well for the Steelers and their fans though.  This squad, like the original one, knows what it takes to get it done and, somehow, I think they will. 

Since: Mar 24, 2008
Posted on: January 12, 2009 10:00 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

Congrats Mom...

Another great post... and yes a win yesterday...

It would be amazing to sit down and chat with the Steelers of old... I have read just about everything that has been written about the Steelers of the 70's and I sit there enamored with the stories as if I was a little boy listening to them talk... amazingly enought they have all been very resepctful and stoic in their praise of the Steelers that have come after them... speaking highly of the Greg Lloyd's and Rod Woodson's of the world...

You hit the nail on the head... the team of 2008 is a different type of defense... they are a true team... or family... they have the same sense of respect for the game as the 70's Steelers did... I recall the 'Blitzburgh' team of the 90's led by Dom Capers appear cocky... they had the gaul to make a video before they even made the Super Bowl... they wanted to be the Bears of 85...

Not today, Dick LeBeau has reached out to these young men... he has made them his family... he has instilled character into this group of men... they take matters into their own hands and make the team better... from Ike Taylor growing as a player after the Bill Cowher 'Incident', to Anthony Smith learning how to be a Steeler after his trash talking to Tom Brady, to the team rallying around Aaron Smith and his familty during their difficult times...

Back to Mr. LeBeau for a moment... the idea that he is not in the HOF for his playing career is disgraceful... I have yet to make it to Canton Ohio to visit the hallowed halls, but rest assured I will not attend until Dick LeBeau gets inducted to the HOF... his induction will be a remarkable day as he is by far the most resepcted man in the game today... imagine the crowd, let's just talk Steelers... Dan Rooney will be there... Chuck Noll will be there... Bill Cowher, Mike Tomlin, Dick Hoak, Russ Grimm, Mike Mularkey, Ken Anderson to name a few coaches... players... wow... Joe Greene will lead the list... but Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Carnell Lake, Kevin Greene, Joey Porter, Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith... the list will go on and on... and those are only the Steelers... that might very well be the day I make the journey to Canton...

Sorry for the digression... the Steeler defense of today will lead the Steelers into the AFC Championship Game this upcoming Sunday and a familiar and formiddable foe in the Baltimore Ravens... it will be a tough game that will require a double chin strap... I am hoping that the physical nature of the Ravens games versus the Dolphins and the Titans will have worn them down... no pride here, we have already beat them twice this year, and I will take any adavantage we can get as a 3rd victory will be very difficult... I watched Chris Johnson cause the Ravens a few problems  and after seeing Willie Parker and his fresh legs get going yesterday, I am looking forward to seeing that running game continue to be productive... let Ed Reed creep up to the line of scrimmage and much like yesterday, let Ben throw the ball down the field... a week to prepare for the Steelers... a week for me to get nervous...

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2009 12:26 pm

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

Thank you's to LeBeau getting into the HOF.

Since: Sep 7, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2009 11:35 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

You are absolutely correct in all you wrote;I too grew up watching the 70's teams and I think this group shadows that one. And like all things great we will hear more about this group in the future as we have time to reflect on how good they and Dick LeBeau are !! Thanks for the memories!!

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2009 10:53 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz


I think we'll see a replay of last weekend.  Didn't the road teams win on Saturday and the home teams win on Sunday.  I think we'll see the same today. 

As far as the Steel Curtain, not sure they were as stifling, but they were as hawkish on the ball and created turnovers.  It was more their determination to be the ones to win the games despite the offense, especially the year that Bradshaw got hurt and was out for a few games. 

Good luck to your Giants today. 

Since: Sep 9, 2006
Posted on: January 11, 2009 10:47 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz


I'm not sure how much snow there is in Pittsburgh, I know they're clearing it off the field now. 

Last matchup between the Chargers and Steelers, Willie Parker ran for 115 yds against the Chargers defense.  Ben threw no interceptions despite being sacked 4 or 5 times and with the exception of not being able to get into the endzone, the Steelers pretty much dominanted on defense.  Phillip Rivers left Pittsburgh with a 44.4 rating, despite having one of the best QB ratings in the NFL going into the game. 

No, the Chargers defense isn't the Ravens defense.  Of course, the Steelers offense isn't the Colts offense either.  But the Steelers defense isn't the Colts defense either. 

I'm not talking about just this game though as far as the Steelers defense.  I'm talking about the rest of the way.  I've often mentioned that it feels like 2005 season for this team.  This year, the Steelers seem to be getting it done despite the odds.  They seem to play better when the odds are against them. 

- The Steelers were suppose to be sitting at home this time of year, given their projected opponents at the beginning of the year. Yet, here they are AFC North division champions.

-  The year they had the 15-1 record, they lost the conference championship.  Last year, Willie Parker was due to take the rushing title for the year before he broke his ankle, Ben ranked 2nd or 3d in the NFL, their offense was strong and they were knocked out of the WC by the Jaguars.

- Normally strong at home, they were better on the road this year.

- They've beaten teams that normally had their number, shaking those monkey's.

- They've swept the division, the last time they did that was in 2002.

Now they're going into the playoffs with a suspect offense and they're not really expected to make it, especially given how their record at home has been in the playoffs.  If they get past the hottest QB this game, they face a team where odds are in the Ravens favor for taking the AFCC since it would be their 3d meeting. 

I have the same feeling in my gut this year that I had in 05.  This is not a bad thing to have.  It worked well in 05.  Looking at the "family picture", only confirms that feeling.

I like the odds of the Steelers overcoming the odds this season and they've been doing it and I think they will. 

Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: January 11, 2009 10:12 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz

Great story, mom.

Since we had two "upsets" yesterday - I still don't think of the Ravens winning in Tennessee yesterday as an upset, but from a seedings perspective I'll play along - I'm hoping we can go 2 and 2 with the favored home teams pulling out victories today. I remember watching that old Steelers defense in the 70's, and from what I can remember they were alot  like today's bunch in that they came up with big plays when it was most necessary, had ferocious players (Lambert, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes, etc.) that punished the body and had a nose for the ball. I don't remember them being quite as dominant in terms of yardage allowed or being as "stifling" as today's crew.

I won't give my take on the game, since it seems like every time I've picked the Steelers on your board they've come up short! Uh-oh, superstitions are surfacing. The Giants must be playing today... good luck, mom!

Since: Oct 19, 2007
Posted on: January 11, 2009 10:02 am

Steel Curtain + Blitzburgh Defense = Steel Blitz


I like teams that are exceptionally strong on one side of the ball or the other.  I don't know how the Steeler defense of today is going to rank against the legendary Steeler defenses of the 70's, but the accomplishment of no 100 yard rushers or 300 yard games is exceptional.  Exceptional enough to win a football game without the offense doing much more then not turning the ball over.

I think you are absolutely right that LeBeau has helped bring a bond between the players that starts with a trust in each other.  Since so many of the Steeler games were televised this year, I have had the pleasure to watch their defense at work more than a typical season when I only see them beat the Browns twice.  Never did I see players argue with coaches, or players with players in a distructive manner.  Emphatic shouting perhaps, but all for the betterment of the team and doing it better the next time.

The Chargers defense seems to be recharged somehow.  Since the KC comeback, the five consecutive wins has them on a high and they are playing their best.  Still, the Charger defense doesn't compare to that of the Steelers.  On offense, Sproles is not the kind of runner that can get it done on a wet if not snowy Heinz field in January.  His 300+ all purpose yards in San Diego will become 80 in Pittsburgh today.  Tomlinson is doubtful, and is not likely to be a big factor if he does play.  Rivers is playing well, and with a sputtering running game, will have to go to the air.  With the Steeler rush and blitz and strong secondary play, that usually means interceptions.

I have to go with the Steelers too today.  As to the rematch with Baltimore, sure, it makes since to wait until after today's game to consider the possibilities.  I'll make one comment.  Even though the Steelers were 6-2 at home and on the road this regular season, I have to believe they and all the Steeler Nation  is awfully pleased it won't be played in Baltimore.

Not sure how relavant this is, but Cleveland has had about 10 inches of snow since Friday evening.  The kind of snow with the big flakes that gently fall straight down and simply pile up.  As a kid, I loved that kind of snow.  I'd stick out my tongue and catch a few.  As an adult, not so much as the shovel awaits when the snow stops.  That kind of snow does signify no wind, and at least the potential for a passing game if it is like that in Pittsburgh today. 




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