The 2008 version of the Steelers' defense was easily the best Steelers' defense in recent memory. I was a mini-mite member of Steelers' nation when they were riding their famed defense to their first couple Super Bowls in the early 70s, all of four years old when they arguably peaked as a defense during that decade in 1976.
By the time they won the Super Bowl in 1979, one of my earlier memories, the defense was not quite as dominant, although the offense by then was plenty good.
When fans of a football look forward to punts so they can see their defense take the field, it is past time to find the right nickname. That was the situation for residents of Steelers Nation last year.
If you absolutely had to sneak away to get a drink or take care of the kids, it was best to wait until the offense took the field. But, when the defense was on the field, turning away even for a mere moment could be a costly mistake.
It is a tradition in Pittsburgh for the Steelers' defense to carry a nickname befitting its personality. While the Steelers' defenses of the 70s were great, possibly the greatest in the history of the league, the nickname associated with that feared unit helped to preserve their memory for posterity.
While "The Steel Curtain" originally applied to the defensive line, it expanded over time to eventually encompass the whole defense. I would not be at all surprised if the unforgettable nickname even helped land a couple players in the Hall of Fame since it helped preserve their memory for posterity.
The "Blitzburgh" nickname that encompassed some of the Steelers' defenses of the 90s was equally appropriate, maybe even better. Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene spearheaded the pass rushing attack of those units.
Those two were known not just for their rushing prowess, but for looking certifiably insane while doing it. Lloyd would stalk the sideline before games like a caged beast while Greene looked like a psychotic studio wrestler with a bad hair day.
Those Steelers' linebacking units were spectacular with some of their best linebackers not even being their best rushers with players like Chad Brown and Levon Kirkland rounding out dominant squads.
Kirkland was one of my all-time favorite Steelers, and in my opinion, one of the most underrated linebackers ever to play the game. I remember watching number No. 99 running like a freight train (he literally looked like one) down the field covering Shannon Sharpe.
Those defenses never got the credit they deserved because their team never won the big game (although the '95 Super Bowl loss was certainly not their fault). I also think a couple of the other top defenses in league history do not get the credit they deserve because they were lacking a good nickname, such as the '86 Bears and the '00 Ravens.
But, the current Steelers' defense, with two Super Bowl titles and insane stats, should not soon be forgotten, especially with a good nickname. I actually think they may be even better this year, if that is at all possible, especially considering their softer schedule.
I don't think Steel Curtain or Blitzburgh should be reused. Those nicknames should be unique to the teams that played in those eras.
Nor is Steel Curtain really a good nickname for an attacking LeBeau 3-4 defense. Steel Curtain is more of a passive nickname, as in the curtain stands firm and can not be penetrated.
That was not the Steelers last year. They were a high energy attacking defense, more like a bunch of guided missiles attacking anything and everything that came near the football.
Below are a few possibilities but I'd love to hear other suggestions.
The Steel Swarm: This defense absolutely swarms opponents. The linebackers and defensive linemen are always buzzing around the quarterback, and opposing runners and pass catchers see very little daylight before being buried in a pile of Steelers.
The Steel Trap: The Steelers' defense tricks opposing offenses into making mistakes. When they step into the "trap," the defense is ready to pounce. This aspect of the defense was on full display during the playoffs when Troy Polomalu returned Flacco's pass for an interception to seal the AFC Championship Game and even more so when
Kurt Warner fell victim to Lebeau's scheme on James Harrison's absolutely momentum crushing interception return.
The Steel Hammer (or maybe Boomburgh, The Black and Blue Express, or Splatsburgh): This nickname, or a better form of it, would capture the propensity of Steelers' defenders to deliver absolutely bone jarring hits. No defense hits harder on a more consistent basis than the Steelers. Some of those hits this past year were so brutal that it was hard to watch the replay.
Two of the most vicious hits were those by Ryan Clark on Wes Welker and Willis McGahee. That last one was downright scary. Another possible nickname that would fit this theme is Wall of Pain, although "wall" may also be too passive of a word for this defense.
A last idea would be a nickname that honors Dick LeBeau in some way since he may be nearing the end of his career. Then again, I'm hoping he is still coaching at 100.
I'm struggling on this one.
The Lunatics of LeBeau just doesn't seem to cut it. Maybe something like the Wizards' Wall of Woe (or LeBeau's Wizards of Woe), LeBeau's Steel Pit, or, one I saw suggested at one point, LeBeau's Constrictors.
While I'm not sure a worthy name exists, I think I'm partial to Splatsburgh or The Steel Swarm. So, if you could be king for a day, what would you name this defense?