Last night Steeler Nation paid its last respects to a legend. Last night, the final irrefutable evidence of the end of an era was witnessed.
The legend that is dead is that of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense. The Steel Curtain defense, Blitzburgh, or any other appellation that may have been used over the past 20 plus years to describe the singular most widely recognized characteristic of the Pittsburgh Steelers is dead.
I’m not talking about the fact the Steelers defense gave up 28 points to the New England Patriots in Foxboro before a national audience. Or how the Patriots amassed 361 total yards, or scored four passing touchdowns. I’m not referring to any of the game stats themselves, for even at the height of whichever era of Steelers defense you most associate with the team, there were games where they gave up such stats to top tier QBs or opposing offenses.
What I’m talking about is the death of the legend of the Steelers defense. You remember that legend don’t you? The part where teams may defeat the Steelers, but they’d walk off the field at the end of the game bloody, bruised and battered. Where the Steelers defense made opposing offenses pay in blood and sweat for every yard and point made. Where quarterbacks had to prove they could scramble and juke to their left and their right because they never knew from where a devastating hit was coming. A defense that may not have always prevented the opponent from scoring, but made them work for it.
Where the talented and high caliber offensive opponents raised their own game to such a level that for those in Steeler Nation who loved the pure essence of the game, watching such an offense defeat our defense engendered respect and admiration; we were witnessing potential championship caliber performances, and relished such conflicts, because after all, Iron Sharpens Iron, right?
Well that Steelers defense is dead. DED. What Steeler Nation witnessed last night, what all of the football world witnessed last night, was a travesty and a mockery of a once proud Steelers defense.
A travesty because series after series, we witnessed discombobulation in our secondary as they prepared for the snap of the ball. Play after play, one Steeler player or another was waving his arms or looking around, trying to figure out who was supposed to go where. Play after play, one Patriots’ playmaker or another, Rob Gronkowski, Danny Amendola or Julian Edelman, was left virtually uncovered and allowed to slip between the seams and gain huge yards.
A mockery because what we saw on the field in Foxboro was not a Steelers defense I or anyone in Steeler Nation should be able to recognize. Against three (yes, count ‘em, three) rookie offensive linemen, one of which playing center, the once-vaunted Steelers pass rush was invisible.
Granted, Tom Brady never holds the ball long, and his “bread and butter” is quick strike passes, but he was rarely pressured by our front three of Steve McLendon, Stephan Tuitt or even Cameron Heyward. You remember them right, even though you rarely heard their names mentioned the entire game?
Granted, the Steelers had two sacks, one of them by our own rookie Bud Dupree (the other by Will Allen), but against a rookie center that’s it? A rookie linebacker (blind squirrel finds nut) and an aging safety were the highlights of our defense? Yes Ryan Shazier made some penetrations and some nice hits, but where was the vaunted Steelers linebacking corps most of the night playing against three rookies? They weren’t pressuring Brady, nor even collapsing the pocket and making him scramble.
Yes, the legendary Steelers defense is dead. Worse though, given the disarray evident play after play by the defensive corps, the waving of arms, the blown coverages, and at one key point with the Patriots around the 30 yard line only 10 players on the field for a play, the coaching of fundamentals, the preparedness Steelers defenses
are were known for was nowhere to be found and presumed dead as well.
After five pre-season games, and the entire training camp period, the Steelers defense conducted itself in front of a national audience in the home of a hated opponent, from coaching on down to player execution, as if it were presenting a satirical caricature of itself.
The legend is dead. All that is left is a bunch of empty uniforms to remind us of what once was.