By Michael K. Reynolds
As has been well documented by the recent salutes to former head coach Chuck Noll and team legend Joe Greene, the Pittsburgh Steelers earned their reputation through defensive domination.
Although you’ll see the highlights of Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann in Super Bowl clips, the team’s unique brand from the 1970’s on has always been about the defense.
Even during past Steelers coach Bill Cowher’s rough patch during the late 1990’s, the defense still manhandled opponents.
They may have stunk at times on offense. Had no one who could throw a ball worth a lick. But through it all, no one poked a finger in chest of the Steelers.
Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco dissed the latest version of Steelers defense by stating more of less that it was no longer to be feared.
But who could argue with his assessment, and who on the Steelers roster is really in a position to jump into Flacco’s huddle and make him pay?
There is no Greene on the team. Or Jack Lambert. Or Greg Llloyd. Or James Harrison. There is Joey Porter, but he’s wearing a coach’s shirt now.
The Steelers have lost their patented brand of toughness. They are no longer the bully on the block.
Worse yet, there really isn’t any fear or intimidation on the other side of the ball as the offense isn’t asserting itself either.
Following two seasons of 8-8 records and a similar start this year of 1-1, this is a team lacking identity. Any spark of true excellence. Sure there are some great players. But no dominating play and there hasn’t been for quite some time.
The Steelers are at risk of becoming Plain Wrap. Generic Brand.
Make no mistake about it, this is Coach Mike Tomlin’s team now. It’s his players, his coaches and his philosophy. He’s shifted it from being about stifling defense and the power running game to sub-packages and bubble screens.
Maybe times have changed, and this is the way to win in today’s pass-happy NFL.
But there’s a larger question in the wind. What are the Steelers going to stand for in 2014 and for years to come?
It’s on Tomlin now to make that statement.