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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

Steelers Defense? No Need to Worry

The evolution of pro football has taken a strange twist in recent years.

The game was first sold to the public in the 1950s as a wide open, high scoring affair. It was an alternative to the lower scoring collegiate game.

The pro game featured Bob Waterfield throwing to Elroy Hirsch, Otto Graham throwing to Dante Lavelli, Bobby Layne throwing to Doak Walker and Johnny Unitas throwing to Ray Berry.
It was a spectator’s sport, a game of explosive offenses and big plays.

The game mushroomed in popularity on this basis and yet the thing that made pro football in the first place – the wide-open game – became a victim of its own success.

As the game became bigger and the stakes became larger, it was just natural that the coaches started to go for a more conservative game. They started emphasising defense. Defense is a constant. It doesn’t have the ups and downs of offense. It is easier to be good on defense every week.

It became a rule of thumb that no team can win consistently in the NFL without a good defense.

The emphasis on defense has been transmitted to the fans. Once they became hooked on the game, they became as concerned about the defense as the coaches.

That’s why there was a touch of irony in the fan’s concerns about the Steelers defense in the wake of the team’s exciting 51-35 victory over the Cleveland Browns.

It was probably the most entertaining show of the season. The teams combined for just 20 yards shy of 1,000 yards on offense and the Steelers scored the most points in a game for thirteen years.

Yet the fans could not sit back and enjoy the good show. They were concerned about possible problems because the Steelers defense gave up more points than it has in five years, or since the 35-35 tie with Denver in the second game of the 1974 season.

“Don’t write our obituary yet,” Joe Greene told reporters after the game.

“We’ll give you one more game before we do that,” one replied in jest.

Jack Lambert and Dennis Winston tackle Mike Pruitt AP photoActually, there was no thought about writing the defense’s obituary, and it was no surprise that Coach Noll didn’t seem concerned about the missed coverages and the injuries on defense and said, “It’s something that will be straightened out.”

One thing that made it tougher to play defense was the huge lead the offense built up. It is natural to lose a little intensity with such a big lead. It didn’t help either that Brian Sipe and the Browns refused to quit and start looking for the exits when they fell behind the way some teams do.

Even Noll admitted it’s a “little tougher, especially when you’re hurting,” to play the same calibre of defense with such a comfortable margin.

The critical thing for the Steelers is that after struggling for three weeks, they bounced back from their only loss to show they could still play the kind of offense they did in the playoffs last year.

Noll never seemed to have any doubt. “We have faith in our offense,” he said. But he wasn’t putting a lot of significance in it. He believes that each game is just one-sixteenth of the season. “I don’t think it was any more significant than any other game,” he said. “We figured we’d do what we have to do.”

What they have to do this week is avoid a let-down against a Cincinnati team that is living up to its Bengal reputation. Cincinnati is 0-6 and going nowhere.

This one should be a pushover for a Steeler team that hasn’t lost a single game to a team that finished at .500 or below in the last eight years.

But the Steelers don’t avoid upsets by taking teams lightly. Noll said he would be amazed if the team has a let-down. “I’d be surprised,” he said. “We have a lot more respect for Cincinnati than you do.”

Regardless of whether they do or don’t have a let-down, don’t expect them to score 51 points again this week. But then you can’t expect them to give up 35 either.

Vito Stellino
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette October 9


 

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The Steelers 1979 season updated May 23rd 2020.

Ben's early Steelers games.

The Steelers 1978 season in full.
The Steelers 1977 season in full.
The Steelers 1976 season in full.

The Steelers 1975 season in full.
The Steelers 1974 season in full.

The first NFL champions the 1902 Pittsburgh Stars added June 2016

The Pittsburgh Americans added August 2015.

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