They know the Steel Curtain only through legend, the occasional television clip and the evocative photographs — so much mud, so few teeth — that hang behind the Lombardi Trophies they pass each morning on their way to work.
By Judy Battista
The New York Times
The Steelers who will play in the Super Bowl on Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals are young enough that even the oldest of them was a child when the Steelers’ defense defined greatness in the halcyon days of the 1970s. For them, the Steel Curtain feels beyond reach, so infused with lore that making comparisons seems pointless. Jack Ham, the Hall of Fame linebacker from that era, pops up in the locker room and his defensive descendants are delighted, but even then, he is viewed mostly as an icon without peer.
And yet, about the midpoint of the 2008 regular season, Steelers fans signaled a subtle shift in perception. It was about then that the defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, a student of the game for 50 years, did a statistical analysis and noted an odd convergence of numbers. His defense was ranked in the top three in the league in nearly every major category — rushing yards allowed, passing yards allowed and points allowed — and in even more obscure ones like first downs allowed, yards per play, third-down conversions allowed and red zone defense. LeBeau said he thought he was reading the figures incorrectly because he had never seen a team so close to the top in so many categories. A hopeful sign appeared at Heinz Field: Steel Curtain II.