Comparing the 2008 Steeler defense to the 1976 Steel Curtain defense is a daunting task. First off, the 1976 Steelers ran a 4-3 defense and the 2008 Steelers run a 3-4 hybrid defense. Secondly, there are more personal foul hits called on a defense in today\’s current NFL versus then. Lastly, sacks of the quarterback have only been an official stat since 1982. Taking those three things into consideration, we are left to look at the total yards, passing yards, rushing yards and points allowed as the only true comparisons. Through 12 games in 1976, the Steel curtain defense allowed 3060 total yards, while the 2008 Steelers have allowed just 2856 total yards. In the passing game, the 1976 Steel Curtain allowed 1790 passing yards while the 2008 Steelers have allowed 2002 yards. The rushing yards allowed by the 1976 Steel Curtain were 1270, while the 2008 Steelers have allowed just 854 yards. All of these stats are through 12 games. The points allowed category favors the Steel Curtain, as through 12 games they only gave up 138 points versus 170 by the 2008 team. The 1976 Steelers had 3 shutouts through 12 games while the 2008 Steelers have not shutout anyone thus far. In defense of the 2008 Steeler defense, they have only allowed 20 points or more four times while the 1976 Steel Curtain allowed 30 or more twice.
As you can see, statistics truly do not show the whole comparison. The true comparison will be made after the season is completed. The 1976 Steelers lost 24-7 to the Oakland Raiders in the AFC Championship game, making it the second loss to the Raiders that season. The 2008 Steeler season is still yet to be determined, but a Super Bowl win would clearly help distance them in any 1976 Steel Curtain comparison.