This is Not Your Father’s Steelers
Steelers Fever Exclusive Editorial
|Monday, October 27th, 2014
By Tiger Rowan
Steelers Fever Columnist
Before Sunday’s victory over the Colts, Steelers fans were lamenting about this team not having a good defense. My family had been lambasting Jason Worilds; my friends had been chastising Mike Mitchell; and internet posters were growing more & more frustrated with Cortez Allen.
I kept reminding these fans that this Steelers team is not built like Steelers teams of old. I told them that this current Steelers defense is young, and conversely, that the only players on this roster who in their primes, are on the offensive side of the ball. Similarly, I repeatedly tried to convince them that once the offensive gels, it will carry this team to the promised land.
But, Steelers fans being Steelers fans, they did not want to hear anything about offense. And, understandably so.
For nearly thirty-five years, the Steelers had rested their hat upon having one of the greatest defenses in the league: the Steel Curtain defenses of the 70s; the Blitzburgh defenses in the 90s; and the stellar, yet nameless, defenses of the 2000s. Heck, even in that horrible stretch during the 80s, the Steelers had great defensive players like Mike Merriweather and Rod Woodson. So, I get their apprehension to glom onto anything about the offense… because, the Steelers are historically all about defense.
But, times have changed.
Looking back, for as long as I can remember, the Steelers have been known as “Linebacker U.” It seemed that every few years, they had a linebacker who was a potential Hall of Famer: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Mike Merriweather, Hardy Nickerson, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Joey Porter, Jason Gildon, Kendrell Bell, James Farrior, James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley… and so on.
Sure, the Steelers currently have a great linebacker in Lawrence Timmons, and I am hopeful that Jarvis Jones and Ryan Shazier will be the next group of linebackers added to this list. But, the Pro Bowl level talent on this current roster is no longer on the defensive side of the ball; it is clearly on the offense.
Simply put, Pittsburgh is no longer “Linebacker U”… it is now “Wide Receiver State.”
(I will wait for the defibrillator paddles to be placed back into their holders.)
If you do not believe me, look at the list of receivers that the Steelers have fielded over the last decade. Heck, you can throw out Hines Ward, Antwaan Randle El, Santonio Holmes, and Plaxico Buress, and focus solely on the guys who have been drafted in the past five years. Mike Wallace is tied for twelfth in touchdowns. Manny Sanders is seventh in receptions, as well as seventh for yards per game. And, obviously, we are all well aware that Antonio Brown might be the best offensive player (non-quarterback) in the entire league.
What is even crazier is that the Steelers lost both Wallace & Sanders to free agency and replaced them with Markus Wheaton (several key first-down conversions) and Martavis Bryant (three touchdowns caught, in just two games played). In other words, Pittsburgh is the best in the NFL at finding & developing receivers… which, in turn, has created a shift in the dynamics of the strength of the team, from defense to offense.
Yet, all of this fell on deaf ears… until Sunday, when the Steelers out-scored the Colts.
After that game, I received several texts asking, “Who is Martavis Bryant?” Similarly, my in box was rife with emails asking, “Where did all of these stud wide receivers suddenly come from???” In fact, even Plaxico Burress tweeted about how “Big Ben & Antonio Brown are the best quarterback-receiver duo in the entire NFL.” Everyone is (finally) starting to get it.
Do not get me wrong. I do not expect the Steelers to put up 51 points from here on out. But, the potential is indeed there… which is why I do place the the onus of victory upon the offense.
Simply, this is not 2008. The Steelers are not going to win many games by only scoring 21 points on offense. Due to all of the rule changes that benefit the offense, and the fact that Pittsburgh’s defense is so young, honestly, the Steelers defense is routinely going to give up 24 points per game. In turn, the Steelers offense is going to have to take control of games, by scoring in the high twenties. Luckily, they have the weapons to do just that.
So, for all of the fans who enjoyed the hard-nosed defense played by Steelers for nearly four decades (myself included), sit back & enjoy the offensive juggernaut that is maturing right in front of your eyes.