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These Are Not Your Father’s Steelers

Antonio Brown and company are kicking down pre-conceptions that the Steelers are a defense-first franchise Photo by Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

Antonio Brown and company are kicking down preconceptions that the Steelers are a defense-first franchise
Photo by Jason Bridge/USA Today Sports

For majority of last season, Steelers fans lamented about this team not having a good defense. My family lambasted Jarvis Jones; my friends chastised Mike Mitchell; and internet posters grew 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 are 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 70’s; the Blitzburgh defenses in the 90’s; and the stellar, yet nameless, defenses of the 2000’s. Heck, even in that horrible stretch during the 80’s, 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 Bud Dupree 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 Burress, and focus solely on the guys who have been drafted in the past five years. Mike Wallace is ninth in franchise history for receiving touchdowns. 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 & Emmanuel Sanders to free agency and replaced them with Markus Wheaton and Martavis Bryant (eight touchdowns caught, in just ten games played in 2014). 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 this past season.

Do not get me wrong. I do not expect the Steelers to put up 40 points per game. 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 18 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 around 21 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 the Steelers for nearly four decades (myself included), sit back and enjoy the offensive juggernaut that is maturing right in front of your eyes.

About Tiger Rowan (27 Articles)
Tiger is a Steelers contributor to The Point of Pittsburgh
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