View Full Version : Steelers' defense is holding the fort during 2-0 start

09-25-2010, 01:41 AM
Steelers' defense is holding the fort during 2-0 start

By Rick Gosselin

The Dallas Morning News
http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/20 ... sports&nfl (http://www.victoriaadvocate.com/news/2010/sep/24/bc-fbn-nflnotes-adv26da-_-sports-550-words/?sports&nfl)

I can't imagine the Indianapolis Colts without Peyton Manning. Or the New Orleans Saints without Drew Brees. Or the New England Patriots without Tom Brady.

Quarterbacks win in this league, and Manning, Brees and Brady are the three best at what they do. If they are on the field taking the snaps, their teams will contend for Super Bowls. Without them . . . well, when Brady missed the 2008 season with a knee injury, his Patriots missed the playoffs.

In my mind, quarterbacks comprise 75 percent of a Super Bowl equation - for 31 teams, anyway.

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the 32nd team.

Way back in 1969, when Pittsburgh used the fourth overall pick of the draft on North Texas tackle Joe Greene, the Steelers made a commitment to defensive football. Defense wins championships, and the Steelers were intent on building the best defense the NFL had ever seen.

That Steel Curtain - anchored by Greene with Hall of Famers Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Mel Blount in support - captured four Lombardi trophies in the 1970s.

That philosophy hasn't wavered for four-plus decades. When the Steelers won their fifth Super Bowl in 2005, their defense led the AFC. When they won their record sixth Super Bowl in 2008, their defense led the NFL.

The Steelers have had great quarterbacking. Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw was the triggerman in the 1970s, and Ben Roethlisberger has achieved Pro Bowl acclaim for his role in the two Super Bowl championships this century.

But Pittsburgh is less reliant on the quarterback position than any other team in the NFL. The Steelers can win with Roethlisberger - and they can win without him.

As they are once again proving this season.

The Steelers brought a quarterbacking depth chart to training camp of Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich, Dennis Dixon and Charlie Batch. The Steelers knew Roethlisberger would sit the first four games of the season because of an NFL suspension for improper conduct, but they didn't expect Leftwich to suffer a knee injury in the preseason finale.

That forced the Steelers to start their third option - Dixon - against Atlanta in the season opener. Dixon passed for 236 yards, but Pittsburgh didn't score an offensive touchdown until Rashard Mendenhall bolted 50 yards for the game-winning points in overtime.

In the second game at Tennessee, Dixon suffered a knee injury in the second quarter, forcing the fourth option - Batch - to take the field. He completed only five of 11 passes for 25 yards but did not commit any turnovers. Again, the Steelers didn't score an offensive touchdown in regulation but prevailed, 19-11, for a 2-0 start.

The Pittsburgh defense knew what it had to do and did it - not allowing an offensive touchdown for the first 121 minutes of the 2010 season.

Roethlisberger has missed 10 games since becoming the starting quarterback in 2004. The Steelers are 6-4 in those games, with three of the losses coming by a field goal, including two in overtime. Pittsburgh's backup quarterbacks have a 67.1 passer efficiency rating in those games.

But Pittsburgh isn't asking its quarterbacks to win games. The defense has been taking care of that for four-plus decades now.