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Short slants our D's achilles heel?

Postby Hi5Steeler » Tue Jun 03, 2008 7:10 pm

Steelers Q & A: Scott Brown answers your questions
By Scott Brown
Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Tribune-Review Steelers writer Scott Brown answers your questions about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Read older questions in the archives.

Q: An earlier question about Dick LeBeau got me thinking about the relative quality of the great Steelers Ds. Obviously, the Steel Curtain of the '70s was great, some of the best defensive teams ever. But a lot of us these days remember them from watching NFL Films, so we're seeing not merely their best moments, but their legendary ones, condensed into half-hour specials.

On the other hand, we're watching the modern team week in and week out -- most fans I know will tell you that they've watched every snap from center in a given season. That means we're seeing the current D warts and all -- we're seeing the burns and blown assignments and missed tackles, etc. The NFL Films' "Steel Curtain" never does any of that stuff, but surely the non-highlight version of those teams did.

So my question: was the perception of the Steelers D in the 1970s that they could stop anybody, anytime, period? Or was it similar to the way we've looked at some of LeBeau's teams -- that they are a very good defense with some exploitable holes? Obviously, rule changes and personnel continuity play a part in all of this, but I'm asking in general: just how perfect was the Steel Curtain?
-- Sean Blythe from Washington, D.C.

A: One of the more interesting questions I've gotten in awhile. And, like you, I can't claim to have more than fuzzy remembrances of the "Steel Curtain" defenses since I was born in 1971. On the surface, there is no comparison between those defenses and the LeBeau-led ones that we have been watching, and that is no disrespect whatsoever toward LeBeau, whom I admire greatly as a coach and as a person.

I say that based largely on the number of Hall of Famers the "Steel Curtain" defenses produced. Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount are all enshrined in Canton and you could make an argument that several other players from the "Steel Curtain" defenses, notably L.C. Greenwood and Donnie Shell, also are worthy of busts in the Hall of Fame.

Compare that to the defense from the 2005 Super Bowl-winning team. Only one player from that defense, Troy Polamalu, figures to have a chance at the Hall of Fame and he still has a lot of work to do.

That said, the 2005 defense measures up, at least statistically, to the ones in 1978 and 1979. The Steelers gave up 25 offensive touchdowns in 2005 compared to 28 in 1979 and 21 in 1978. As for another measuring stick applied to defenses, the 2005 Steelers gave up 284 yards per game compared to 266.9 by the 1979 Steelers and 260.5 by the 1978 Steelers.

Looks like the answer to your final question is this: Yes, the "Steel Curtain" was dominant but certainly not perfect. No defense ever has been or ever will be -- no matter what our memories or highlights from NFL Films suggest -- and opposing offenses will always find something to exploit.

Thanks again for the great observations and questions.

Q: Dick LeBeau is probably the greatest defensive coordinator ever. The man is a genius when it comes to schemes and plays, and can make adjustments with the best of them. What really bothers me is, why does he allow opponents to constantly kill us with their short slants/slots over the middle? If the Steelers could shut down the short passing game of the opponents, our defense would be so much better than it is now. Why doesn't he do something about that?

-- Clay Stapleton of Ashland, Ohio (formerly from Monessen)

A: The short answer is probably that defenses, even the best of them, can't take everything away from offenses. The Steelers rely so much on their outside linebackers to generate pressure on quarterbacks that when they do blitz it is only natural for opposing teams to try and counter that with quick-hitting passes in the form of slants.

Sure, the Steelers could try "jumping routes" so to speak but they would also leave themselves vulnerable to big plays. It is hard to argue with the success LeBeau's defenses have had through the years and remember, as NFL coaches and players are fond of saying, the other guys get paid too. All I know is in the chess match that serves as a game within a game among coaches, and particularly coordinators, I'll take Dick LeBeau any day.

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Re: Short slants our D's achilles heel?

Postby Deadguy » Sat Jun 07, 2008 9:40 am

Since they can't take away everything I think this type of D forces teams to be patient. Force a team to have long drives to score and there will be more opportunities to make a play. Yes, it doesn't always work that way, but that's the theory.

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Re: Short slants our D's achilles heel?

Postby jstallworth82 » Sat Jun 14, 2008 10:50 am

Th one thing the Steelers haven't been able to do of late is to consistantly put pressureon the QB. The biggest way to stop a good offense is to disrupt the timing and flow of the play and there is no better way to do that than pressuring the QB . The Patriots are and were a much and I mean much better team than the Giants were but the Giants pressures Brady and found his weakness and disfupted the timing and flow of the offense. Granted Eli was the luckiest below average QB in the word in the 2nd half but first they stopped N.E.'s O by pressuring Brady

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