Steelers’ Defense Doing Something Only The Steel Curtain Accomplished

Like I wrote, this is not the second coming of the Steel Curtain. But they’re doing an awfully good impression.

Keith Butler and this Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense have accomplished their weekly goal of not giving up more than 16 points over the last two games. Twelve to Miami, 16 yesterday to the Chiefs.

For the Steelers, that’s something that hasn’t been seen in a long time. Here’s a list of Steelers’ defenses that allowed 16 or fewer points in two playoff games. Doesn’t even have to be consecutive, though this year, it obviously is. Just two along the whole playoff run.

2016
1979
1978
1975
1974

Those other four years? The emergence and dominance of the Steel Curtain. Joe Greene. Jack Lambert. Jack Ham. L.C. Greenwood. Mel Blount. Donnie Shell. Names for the nostalgic.

And oh yeah, all those other four squads won a Super Bowl. It’s a good omen.

On the regular season, the Steelers’ defense manged to finish in the top ten in points allowed for the first time since 2012, arguably the last time the unit resembled anything close to great. Now, they’re sprinting back up to that level. The Chiefs, first and last drives aside, had zero answer yesterday. They couldn’t run, just 61 total yards, and the normally efficient Alex Smith was anything but. He completed under 60% of his passes, averaged five yards per attempt, threw a pick, and was sacked once.

Only two plays went longer for 20 yards and none more than 24. And it’s been led, in part, by a trio of rookies, the most unlikely of sources. Artie Burns, Sean Davis, and Javon Hargrave. All three barely left the field yesterday and all three had a big impact in the win. Burns’ contested a throw in the end zone, breaking it up, Davis swatted away the game-trying two-point conversion, and Hargrave was stout against the run while mixing in some pressure.

It’s a useful compliment to the mix of veterans and the ones who have had to grow up fast. Lawrence Timmons next to Ryan Shazier. Stephon Tuitt next to Hargrave. Davis next to Mike Mitchell. Bud Dupree next to James Harrison.

If they can somehow shut down New England, it might be ok to call them the new Steel Curtain.

Someone toss Tuitt a Coca-Cola.

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • SilverSteel

    Toss Tuitt a coca cola – classic. Man, Are you even old enough to remember that?

  • Jason Vancil

    The Defense has made strides, there is no doubt. Still have a few pieces to add for the future. Edge rusher, another corner or safety to add to the mix.

  • falconsaftey43

    Wow, now that’s amazing!

  • Gautama Om

    This defense is underrated and DEFINITELY not the same defense that was at the beginning of the season due to improvements from rookies like Burns, Davis, and Hargrave and second or third year players like Dupree, Shazier, Tuitt, and a little of Walton. This is the type of underrated defense is what opposing teams should be worried about because you could be caught off guard looking at the first half or their defensive stats for the season.

    I think we match very well vs. the Patriots especially with no Gronk. Guaranteed we will win this game if we dont let them dink and dunk us too much by being in less zone coverage and why should we? The Patriots offense are mostly not a vertical threat. Our DB’s need to get agressive and jam them at the line and we need to put some pressure on Brady with at least a 3 DLinemen.

    The other key to victory is if Ben can avoid zero TO’s. If we can do those things we will win this game EASY because the rest is all on Bell who will (aside from production) limit Brady to number of possessions.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    It’s still funny that the media think we are a bad Defense. PAY ATTENTION! DO YOU EVEN WATCH THE GAMES?!?

  • Bryan Ischo

    This bodes very well for Keith Butler. When a team starts putting together consistently good performances in one area you have to think that the coach of that area has a lot to do with it. And coaches are the most important element of the team as they stay here (hopefully) long term instead of coming and going like individual players. So lots of reason for optimism about the Steelers D going forward.

  • Bryan Ischo

    You are absolutely correct in every way. Especially the pressure on Brady part — the best way to beat Brady is to pressure him and take him off of his rhythm. He is so much less effective when scrambling (a couple of VERY lucky breaks in the Texans games aside) or when having to make his throw a split second sooner than he wants to. I really, really hope our D line is at their best on Sunday.

  • Paddy

    I am seeing the beginnings of a great defense, it won’t be like the 70’s because of free agency & caps but it’s coming along nicely. They will need a replacement for Harrison and that’s a player that is not on the team now.

  • Nolrog

    I’m so old, I remember when it was just Coca Cola.

  • dany

    Is it weird that Im more scared, defensive wise, about the packers/falcons than the patriots? Those two seem unstoppable

  • Jim Foles

    With the glass bottle vending machines.. nice..

  • Jaybird

    We are only bad on 3rd and 10 or longer.
    Other than that we are quit good.

  • Douglas Andrews

    Defense looking better and better each week. Give Coach Bulter a nod for the play of Dupree also. For a couple of series he looked like a man possessed out there. If we can ever get that kind of consistent play from Bud look out.

  • Gautama Om

    We’ll be fine as long as we don’t turn the ball over.

    FYI if you don’t count the special teams TD by the Patriots they would be 13-7 down at one point in the first half and down 13-10 at half time to the Texans (of all teams).

    I’m really more worried about our matchup with any of the NFC teams in the SB IF we make it pass the Patriots. I think both the Falcons and Packers are better than the Patriots (who are slightly overrated).

    I think Bell should be MVP , at very least top 3 candidate.

  • Mister Wirez

    Unfortunately… Yes.

  • thomas hmmmm

    That’s after the season ends. As of right now all the pieces are gelling and playing great D and have been since the second half of the season.
    At the moment we have two great performing OLB’s and the secondary has also been playing pretty good. I wouldn’t say great but they have been way better than I could have imagined.

  • If you up that score by 2 points to 18, then the 2005 playoff run fits in there as well.

  • thomas hmmmm

    The last two playoff games have shown a certain weakness in the run game. Which is the spacing of the DL. When they are out wide Bell eats up the middle and KC and Miami did that for then tightened up. Once they tightened up the run game sputtered at least versus KC.
    The counter to this is running those counters and pulling DeCastro and AV. Which for some reason it didn’t seem like they did much of that versus KC in the 4th quarter.

    I don’t expect BB to allow Bell to run all over them. I hope they do but they better hit NE often and early with counters and runs off tackle.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Remember the media called the D old and slow and they were still the #1 D in yards allowed for two more seasons after they started that chant.

  • thomas hmmmm

    I feel you both the NFC teams are bad match ups.
    Both ATL and GB attack down field.
    Ryan has been great against the blitz and seems to find the open receiver every time on a blitz.Plus he can throw downfield with pretty good accuracy.
    That is something this D really hasn’t faced in awhile a truly good qb.
    Rodgers needs no explaining we all know he can do it all and at a extremely high level.
    Out of the two though I think I would rather face Atlanta. Their D doesn’t seem as good as the Packers.

  • wilsonmjw

    Dupree and Harrison will dictate this game. They need to hit Brady…even if it’s borderline late. That is how you get him to make mistakes.

    I guarantee you Brady wouldn’t be getting up from that hit Moore took from Dupree 2 weeks ago…..

  • Bill

    I’m so glad to see the young guys on the defense! It’s possible they’ll make a mistake that will cost them a ballgame but that’s OK. You need a constant influx of youth in the game today, It just took too long to happen.

  • Antoine Devine

    There were several 2nd half plays where the gap was to the outside and their DT was sealed. However, Bell decided to keep it inside. I hope they see that in film study so their ready if the Pats try to pinch. It’s hard to criticize when he does find those creases.

  • John A Stewart

    Coach Butler please pretty please don’t haveTimmons covering Eldermen.

  • Steel.pirate

    Man no… Our Edge players finally playing average to above average on each snap. Great edge play? Not even close. The Texans had great edge play… too bad their offense allowed the Pats to have 12+ drives (Chiefs only had 9).

    Our defense is still only average… our offense success has masked the defense

    Within 3 scores:

    Steelers had 6 drives vs Dolphins and the offense accomplished something 5/6 –> 83%

    Steelers had 10 drives vs Chiefs and 8/10 drives –> 80%

    In fact, in 2 playoff games, only 1 offensive drive was an abject failure given the game situation… (Yes, 2 redzone INTs are problematic, but having given the starting field position was the 27 and the 20… not gamebreaking turnovers)

    Texans had at best 4/14 success rate –> 29%

    Heck of alot easier playing defense from in front, knowing your offense is going to get things done or at least flip the field/eat up clock.

  • Alex Kozora

    haha, not when it originally aired. But it’s the most famous commercial ever!

  • BBNCCU

    I am old enough to remember when a coca cola only cost 6 cents and came in a glass bottle.

  • mem359

    Should be Heyward.
    (He’s the one limping to the locker room while his teammates are still playing.)

  • From ‘Mean’ Joe Greene to QB Embarrassin’ Harrison.

    Hey ‘Mean Deebo’, want my Coke?

  • Froggy

    From what I read Harrison seriously restricts his carbs, so you’d better make that a Diet Coke.

  • SkoolHouseRoxx

    I say we’re 50-50 on 3 and long now a days! Can’t complain how we’ve been playing tho!

  • Matt Manzo

    I thought we got two sacks on Smith. Was Duprees FF not considered a sack?

  • thehugster

    can’t have a sack on an interception, it was not a fumble

  • mokhkw

    Hola if you’ve had a glass bottle of Coca Cola explode on you when you placed it on the cold cement floor. 🙂

  • Matt Manzo

    That’s right! I kept thinking it was a fumble Shazier recovered. Forgot that it was an int!

  • mokhkw

    Mentioned this elsewhere but I was kinda late to reply so I’ll post again:

    Via NFLN ATN Podcast, since Week 11 the Steelers Defense leads the NFL in Sacks and have averaged 16.5 points per game.

    Also, the 4 teams left for the Champ games have a combined 32-2 record since week 11.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Both Harrison and Dupree both have been making game changing plays in the playoffs so how is that not considered great?
    The only edge player on Houston that played great was Clowney. If you only consider sacks as equating to greatness then you are lacking in perspective. Mercilus is a nice player but I wouldnt trade him for JH for the upcoming game nor would I trade Dupree for him. I think JH is still better than Mercilus. Slow or not. His dip n rip move is basically unstoppable.

  • MC

    Oh how I wish Cam was still in the fold for this run. I love what the future holds for this defense.

  • Alex Kozora

    haha good point! And he’s got the gruffer looking face. Tuitt is still rocking the baby face.

  • Jason

    Atlanta also has 2 very good rb’s and I would disagree about the defenses. Dak shredded GB after a shaky start and went for 300+ and 3 td while Zeke ran for 120+. If Rodgers doesn’t make an all time great throw on 3rd and 20 I believe Dallas wins that game in OT.

  • Steel Realist PAul

    Nice stats on PPG given up. The defense is playing much better.

    But, am I the only one who saw Burns give up an easy TD? Or the play just before the breakup in the end zone, when the same WR was wide open and the QB just missed him?

    I understand he’s a rookie, but TDs are a pretty big deal.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Yea that was an amazing throw and catch but not as good as the Ben to Holmes in the SB.. Which is what I thought of when I saw that play.

  • Mark G Hunter

    I wouldnt worry too much. The Steelers offense is just as capable, with equal fire power, as Atlanta and Green Bay. Remember every one expected them to avg 30 ppg. Just as long as they execute they can stay with those teams. The question if they make it to the SB and meet which ever team. Is which team of the teams defense can make a big stop. To change momentum? I feel the Steelers have a better overrall defense than the two NFC teams anyhow….But i wouldnt even get into a shootout with either team. I’ll just let Bell handle it 30+ times and keep those QB’s off the field. But of course they must score TD’s!!!!

  • mrkillie

    This year’s team is kind of like the ’74 team in reverse. ’74 had one of, if not the best defenses established and an up and coming offense. This year has on of the best offenses established with an up and coming defense. ’74 had 3 rookies starting on offense – Webster, Swann and Stallworth. This year’s defense has 3 rookies starting – Hargrave, Davis and Burns. Hmmm. Let’s hope the reverse similarity continues.

  • thomas hmmmm

    Is DWill still injured? It would be nice to mix him in a couple times so Bell isn’t carrying it quite so much.
    But yea I agree with you the best defense to a strong opposing offense is having a strong run game. It also keeps your D fresh and wears out the other D.
    That is the Steelers formula and has worked very well through out the decades. That’s why I don’t buy into the it’s a passing league BS.. Power run and strong D will always prevail or at least prevail the majority of times.