The 2015 Broncos are in first place in the AFC West due in large part to a defense that has been dominant so far this season. Their play has had many football experts comparing them to some of the great defenses of the past, including the 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears, and the 2013-14 Seahawks, among others.
When that conversation of great defenses arises, I am always surprised that the 1976 Steelers are mentioned almost as an afterthought, or with an asterisk. The reasoning given by most football people is that it was a different game back in the 70’s. Today there is wide-open play, rule changes that benefit the offense, the league is much more pass happy, etc. I say we are not comparing eras or pitting teams against each other. When you look at what this team did, it is remarkable no matter when they played. The record speaks for itself and should be celebrated.
The ‘76 Steelers had just come off two straight Super Bowl wins and were looking to make history by winning their third straight in 1976. However, Chuck Noll’s squad got off to a 1-4 start, and in the process, lost quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who was injured when he was body slammed to the ground by Cleveland’s Joe “Turkey” Jones.
With rookie Mike Kruczek now at quarterback, the Steelers had to rely heavily on the backfield of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, and the defense that had been the backbone of their championship runs.
The Steelers would not lose again, finishing the season on a nine-game winning streak. During this run, the Steelers’ defense allowed a total of 28 points. Yes, you read that correctly…..28 points allowed in nine games! And that’s just one of the numbers to come out of this astounding run:
• 9-0 record
• 5 shutouts
• 28 points allowed (3.1 points per game)
• 2 TD’S allowed
• 0 rushing TD’s allowed
• 28 turnovers forced
• 183.3 total yards allowed per game
• 35 sacks (not official – based on available box scores)
You would be hard-pressed to find a better defensive run than the one this Steelers team put together. For the season, Pittsburgh ended up leading the NFL in total defense and scoring defense. The unit featured eight Pro Bowlers and four future Hall of Famers. They faced six of the top ten offenses (based on yards) of the ‘76 campaign, yet they still forced 46 turnovers while allowing under 4 yards per play. This is a defense that literally carried a team to a division title and nearly another Super Bowl title, but still is underappreciated in some circles, in my opinion. Maybe it’s the fact that they did not win a title like the ’85 Bears, 2000 Ravens, or 2013 Seahawks. Pittsburgh lost the AFC title game after both Harris and Bleier were injured the previous week in the Divisional Playoff win over the Colts.
Despite coming up short in the postseason, the 1976 version of the “Steel Curtain” might have been its’ best edition, and if you ask me, should be at the top of any list of top defenses in the history of the game.Add to My RFN