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Both Italy and the Pittsburgh Steelers have built a reputation of being winners, and both have done it with defense. The Steelers have the most Super Bowls with six, while the Italians have four World Cup titles, the second most of any country.
The easy comparison comes with the defense. The Steelers had their share of offensive stars en route to their championships, but the Steel Curtain is what people think of when they think of the Steelers. Pittsburgh built a dynasty in the 70's, winning championships in 1974, 1975, 1978 and 1979. After many years of losing their way and then falling short many times in the playoffs under Bill Cowher, including a loss to Dallas in Super Bowl XXX. They won their fifth championship at Super Bowl XL, after becoming the first wild-card team to win it all.
They have remained elite since, winning a sixth championship at Super Bowl XLIII and losing Super Bowl XLV to the Green Bay Packers. They had a slow rise back to the top, but they made it on what they had built their reputation on.
Italy did the same on the international stage. Following wins in the 1934 and 1938 World Cups, Italy struggled to reach that level of success again for a long time. Post World War II, Italy lost 10 of their players in a terrible tragedy in 1949, when the Torino A.C team died in a plane crash. Italy wouldn't make it past the group stages of the World Cup until 1970.
Following a Euro win in 1968, Italy finished second in the 1970 World Cup, losing to Brazil in the final. Just over a decade later (much like Pittsburgh), Italy made it back to the final in 1982, but this time won it all. They defeated West Germany 3-1 in the final, winning the World Cup following a domestic soccer scandal. What followed was a string of heartbreaking exits for Italy.
After failing to qualify for the Euro 84', Italy lost to France in the Round of 16 at the 1986 World Cup. They lost 2-0 to the U.S.S.R in the 1988 Euro, Italy lost in penalty shootouts in three straight World Cups. They lost as hosts in the 1990 semifinals, the 1994 final, and 1998 in the quarterfinals.
At Euro 2000, Italy stormed through the tournament, and appeared to be on their way to a championship, leading France 1-0 into injury time. It was not to be. Sylvain Wiltord equalized for France in the last minute of injury time and David Trezeghet scored the golden goal, sending Italy home empty-handed.
A controversial exit in the 2002 World Cup and a disappointing finish in Euro 2004 worsened the blows to the Azzurri, but in 2006 the formula of timely scoring and stingy defense worked.
Much like mainstays on Pittsburgh's defense in recent memory have been Troy Polamalu, James Harrison, James Farrior, Lamar Woodley and Ryan Clark, Italy had Fabio Cannavaro, the controversial Marco Materazzi, Alessandro Nesta, Gianluca Zambrotta and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon. They conceded only two goals in the 2006 World Cup and won it all by beating France on penalties.
Both teams the last few years though have seen their rosters age, which has led to some disappointing defeats. Pittsburgh lost to the Tim Tebow led Broncos, while Italy failed to make it out of the group stage in the 2010 World Cup. Italy has undergone a youth movement, as the Steelers will very soon. While it will take a couple of years for both teams to be top contenders, you wouldn't bet against either of them making it back in any given year.