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News » Defense


What goes into making a great Football defense?

The numbers 1-1-1 for starters. Those are the across-the-board rankings of the Steelers' defense today. The team ranks No. 1 in the NFL against the run, No. 1 against the pass and No. 1 in fewest total yards.

No team has finished that way since the great 1991 Philadelphia Eagles defense of Reggie White, Jerome Brown, Clyde Simmons, Seth Joyner et. al.

Some argue for that as the greatest defense ever and compare it to those of the 1976 Steelers, the 1985 Chicago Bears and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens .

Only 10 games into this season, the Steelers don't want to be compared to any of the great defenses -- yet.

"It just means we're a good defense right now," end Brett Keisel said of the rankings. "We still have a lot of Football left. If we finish the season 1-1-1, then maybe we can talk. Right now, we're happy where we are."

That would be in first place at 7-3 in the AFC North Division, one game ahead of Baltimore with a chance to go two up this weekend. The Steelers play the Cincinnati Bengals (1-8-1) tomorrow night at Heinz Field, while the Ravens must take on the Philadelphia Eagles (5-4-1) Sunday.

Tomorrow's matchup looks more like a mismatch on paper because that No. 1 Steelers defense must stop the worst offense in the league. The Bengals, in fact, are close to performing on offense the opposite of the Steelers defense because they are 32-30-30 -- ranked last overall and 30th in rushing and passing.

The Steelers trounced the Bengals, 38-10, Oct. 19 in Cincinnati for their widest margin of victory this season. They sacked Bengals quarterbacks seven times.

That's another stat where the Steelers rank No. 1, tied with the Eagles with 36 sacks. One more No. 1 ranking? The Steelers are the stingiest defense inside the 20, allowing only 10 touchdowns on 29 visits or a league-leading 34.5 percent.

"Since I've been here, getting turnovers is up there in importance, but the number one thing is not letting them score touchdowns," said 11-year cornerback Deshea Townsend.

The Steelers rank No. 2 with 150 points allowed, but they are No. 1 in the NFL with just 14 touchdowns against them.

But will the names of James Harrison, Aaron Smith, Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, James Farrior et. al. go down in history with the likes of the Steel Curtain, Da Bears and Ray Lewis' Ravens? That depends, because there's more to sealing the deal as a great defense than rankings.

"The Super Bowl," linebacker Larry Foote explained. "Winning games and stopping offenses in January. If this team wants to be remembered as a great defense, you better win the Super Bowl, especially around here."

Hear, hear, said safety Troy Polamalu.

"Greatness has to do with winning; greatness has to do with championships," Polamalu said. "That would solidify it, I guess -- the greatness or value of our defense."

That defense has played against some of the better offenses in the league, too -- Houston (No. 5), the New York Giants (No. 4), Philadelphia (No. 6) -- and quarterbacks such as the Manning brothers, Matt Schaub, Donovan McNabb, Philip Rivers and Jason Campbell.

Rivers came to town Sunday with the second-best passer rating in the NFL at 106.3 and managed only a 43.6 against the Steelers with two interceptions and 159 yards passing.

That defense, though, must face New England and Dallas the next two weeks after they play the Bengals.

"It's not finished," Polamalu said of the story of the 2008 Steelers defense. "At this time last year, we were in the same position. It depends on how you finish the season. We got worn down last year, we got beat up and were maintaining. We'd play great the first three quarters and get blown out in the fourth. So it all depends on how we finish out the season and a playoff run."

Baltimore is the only team to finish with more than 100 yards rushing against the Steelers this season with 103 yards. Opposing quarterbacks have a 71.8 passer rating and average just 5.64 yards per attempt. The Steelers have allowed just one pass completion beyond 35 yards and just one run longer than 15 -- 22 by Clinton Portis.

The only area in which they have been a disappointment is their No. 19 ranking with only 14 turnovers.

"You can't get enough of them," Foote said.

"We would like to get more turnovers," Keisel said, "and give our offense more opportunities. I think as the weather starts changing and guys get fatigued, maybe and hopefully those types of plays will come to us."

Dominant 'D'

The top defenses in the NFL:








Author:Fox Sports
Author's Website:http://www.foxsports.com
Added: November 19, 2008

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Fabian Washington Name: Fabian Washington
Position: CB
Age: 25
Experience: 4 years
College: Nebraska
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