The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970’s are the best defense of all time. Not arguably, because I am judging it by the fact that the stars of the team of that decade were overwhelmingly defensive players. The 1976 defense is the best defense of all time to not win a Super Bowl. The offense was crippled with injuries, but the defense almost carried them to a third straight Super Bowl. Injuries took their toll on the offense, and they fell short. They did produce four Hall of Fame offensive players from those teams, but the defense was central to four Super Bowl championships in six years, a record that no one has equaled, and I don’t believe anyone ever will. The defense featured five Hall of Famers and two egregious oversights in Andy Russell and LC Greenwood.
CBS Sports released its best 10 defensive players of all time as ranked by Jeff Kerr at CBSSports.com. The only Steeler to make the top 10 defenders of all time was Rod Woodson. I am a fan of Woodson, and he is a Hall of Fame player, All-Decade in the 1990’s and he won a Defensive Player of the Year. Based on CBS’ recent spate of Steeler hate, I am sure he is only on the list because he was on the Baltimore Ravens defense in 2000. The top of the list is Reggie White and Lawrence Taylor and that makes logical sense. Dick Butkus and Deacon Jones from the 1960’s make the list, but not one defensive player from the 1970’s appears on Kerr’s list.
Aaron Donald at number 5 on the list is the only defensive tackle in the top 10. Donald according to this list, is a three-time DPOY tied with J.J. Watt and Taylor as the only 3-time winners of the awards. Watt is not in the top 10, so I wonder how important the writers’ actual criteria matters to him? Kerr observes:
“A top-five finisher in NFL Defensive Player of the Year voting seven consecutive seasons, Donald also already has a Super Bowl championship — along with 6.5 sacks and 17 quarterback hits in 10 postseason games.”
However, the defensive player in the Super Bowl era that transformed a team from a perennial loser who had never won a playoff game to the Team of the Decade and who is inarguably the most important Pittsburgh Steeler of all time, Joe Greene was not on the list. Greene was a defensive tackle who was unblockable and unlike Donald who is 1-1 in the big game, he led the four-time winning Super Bowl defenses and was 4-0 in the biggest game. Any top 10 defensive players of all-time list that omits Greene is automatically to be discounted.
Again, this is not to disparage Woodson, but he is not even the best Steeler defensive back of all time. Up until 1977, defensive backs were allowed to contact receivers anywhere on the field as long as they did not actually interfere with the catch once the ball was in the air. One man forced that rule to change, Mel Blount. He was so physical, that after the Steelers held the Dallas Cowboys to 17 points in Super Bowl X, that Drew Pearson and Cowboy fans cried so loud that the NFL rules committee was forced to implement a 5-yard chuck rule. That has evolved into defensive backs who barely make contact with receivers within the 5-yard zone being called for holding and illegal contact. The NFL thought that if they changed the rule in 1978, it would slow Blount down. It didn’t and the Steelers promptly won two consecutive Super Bowls, Blount making three of the next four Pro Bowls. Only one other player in the CBS top 10 was so effective, he forced a rule change. Jones was so good at the head slap in the 1960’s, the NFL outlawed it.
Seven Steelers have won Defensive Player of the Year. Five of them were Super Bowl Champions for the Steelers. Greene, Blount and Jack Lambert dominated the award in the 1970’s. James Harrison and Troy Polamalu won the awards during the Super Bowl runs during the Ben Roethlisberger era. Woodson did appear in the Super Bowl the Steelers lost to the Cowboys 27-17 however, he was hurt for most of the season and was not an integral part of that defense. T.J. Watt is off to a terrific start in his career and the only player to ever have more sacks than Watt to start a career is Reggie White. It begs the question why the only Steeler on this list is arguably the fifth best Steelers defender of the Super Bowl era. He is definitively behind Greene, Blount, Polamalu and Lambert in my book.
I seriously question at this point if any of these writers making all time lists, coaching talent lists, or even current player top performers at CBS Sports and Pro Football Focus are aware that professional football is played at a pretty high level in Pittsburgh. Perhaps their own network denied them access to the Steelers archive of game tapes. Either way as a Steeler fan, I really wish they could make a deal to televise all their games on Nickelodeon at this point because at least the Steelers would have a chance of getting seen by the people making lists in between reruns of Icarly and Victorious.
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Are you steamed that Greene and Blount are not considered to be top 10 defenders and Woodson is credited as the best Steeler defensive player? Please comment below or on my Twitter @thebubbasq