There have been a lot of great defenses to to appear in the Super Bowl; there’s a reason there is a saying “defense wins championships.” For the Steelers, a team who is synonymous with defense, surely they would have a defense listed in the “top ten greatest Super Bowl defenses.” Well, they do, but it may not be the one you’re expecting.
A couple of days ago, Ben Arthur of Fox Sports put out a list of his top ten greatest defenses to appear in a Super Bowl, and only one Steelers defense made the list, the 1975 defense that won Super Bowl X.
“Of Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s, the ‘75 group may have been the best one,” wrote Arthur. “It allowed the fewest points on a per-game basis — 11.6, which ranked second in the league that season — helping the franchise to a Super Bowl X victory over the Cowboys.”
As Arthur mentioned, the Steelers defense was dominant, allowing only 11.6 points per game. Going a little deeper into the defensive numbers of that defense, led by Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, and many many other superstars and hall-of-famers, the unit only allowed more than 20 points twice, and even pitched a shut out in Week One against the San Diego Chargers.
The ’75 Steelers also forced 37 turnovers that season in only 14 games: 27 interceptions and ten fumbles. The ’75 defense was simply unstoppable. In fact, Mel Blount had a league leading eleven picks that season making it difficult for opponents to get anything going in the passing game, while the defensive line consisting of Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White shut down the run game.
The season culminated with a 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys, and offense who had the eighth best offense in the league that season, averaging 25 points per game. In that game, they forced hall-of-famer Roger Staubach to throw three interceptions, and held the Cowboys to only 3.5 yards per carry. A dominant performance the ’75 Steelers defense is certainly deserving of being a top ten Super Bowl defense.
However, the Steelers do have other contenders that did not make the list that may scratch some heads. Looking first at the 1974 Steelers defense, that team allowed 13.5 points per game which is a bit more than the ’75 team, but they also forced a whopping 47 turnovers. Finally, they held the Minnesota Vikings, the NFL’s fourth highest scoring team at 22.1 points per game, to only six points in Super Bowl IX. In Super Bowl they held the Fran Tarkenton led Vikings to only 112 total yards, forced five turnovers, and even scored two points thanks to a Dwight White safety of Tarkenton.
Another contender from the Steelers who could have been on the list was the 2008 Steelers defense. That team allowed only 13.9 points per game in an era where scoring was a lot easier than it was in the 1970s. That led the NFL and they even had one of the greatest plays in Super Bowl history with James Harrison’s 100-yard interception return for a touchdown. That defense was simply dominant that season and if they didn’t almost blow the Super Bowl in the fourth quarter with poor play, they may have actually made the list.
The Steelers a team known for defense. The fact that they even have three realistic contenders for a top ten list of defenses in the Super Bowl is insane. While I’m not old enough to have watched those Steel Curtain defenses live, just looking at those stats show how dominant they were. The 2008 defense was special as well, proving that defensive excellence in the Steel City spans decades. The question now is, which Steelers defense do you think should have made the list?