Does defense still win championships in the NFL? I think we saw in last year’s Super Bowl that that’s indeed still the case as the New England Patriots defense held a potent Los Angeles Rams offense to just three points. This season, the Pittsburgh Steelers are hoping to ride their solid defense into the playoffs and beyond. On Tuesday, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was essential asked during his weekly press conference if he’s a believer that defenses can still win championships in the NFL. His response wasn’t a bit surprising.
“I’ve always felt good about good defenses controlling the outcome of significant games,” Tomlin said. “I believe that that’s an axiom of football. I mean, I think that’s never gonna change. I think if you’ve got a good defense, you’ve got a chance in any circumstance.”
The Steelers defense has indeed given the team a chance to win every game this season from Week 2 and on and especially since safety Minkah Fitzpatrick was acquired via a trade with the Miami Dolphins after the first two weeks of the regular season. Since Fitzpatrick’s arrival the Steelers pass defense has been one of the top three in the NFL.
The play of the Steelers defense this season has helped the team overcome several mediocre and less than mediocre offensive performances in games. Because of that, it’s easy to point to the Steelers defense as being the chief reason why the team currently possesses the No. 6 seed in the AFC entering Week 15.
If you buy into the history of the ANY/A (adjustment net yards per passing attempt) stat, the Steelers are one of 10 teams after 13 games played likely to win the Super Bowl in February. Their defense’s 4.8 ANY/A stat entering Week 15 is tied with the Buffalo Bills as the third lowest in the NFL. Additionally, the Steelers enter Week 15 as the league leader in takeaways (33) and sacks (48).
Tomlin has already coached his way to one Super Bowl championship with the Steelers. He did that in 2008 and with the league’s best defense that season. That 2008 defense boasted a regular season ANY/A stat of 3.2.
Tomlin’s 2010 Steelers team also went to the Super Bowl on the heels of that year’s defense posting a 4.3 ANY/A stat during the regular season. That 4.3 ANY/A stat was second only to the Green Bay Packers (4.1), who the Steelers lost in the Super Bowl to that season.
Tomlin was also an assistant defensive coach on the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers team that won the Super Bowl that season. That Buccaneers defense had a league-best 2.3 ANY/A stat after the regular season.
So, does Tomlin really believe that defense wins championships in the NFL and can again in 2019? You’re damn right he does, and he should. We’ll now find out in the next several weeks if the Steelers 2019 defense can lead the team to a playoff spot and potentially to this year’s Super Bowl.