Comparing the Defenses of the 2010, 2008, and 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers: Games No. 9-12 Edition

BALTIMORE MD - DECEMBER 05: Defensive end Nick Eason #93 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates defeating the Baltimore Ravens 13-10 at M&T Bank Stadium on December 5 2010 in Baltimore Maryland. (Photo by Geoff Burke/Getty Images)

It's been nearly a month since I last updated my year long week-by-week comparison of the Steelers' defenses of 2010, 2008 and 1976. Not coincidentally, my break coincided with the Steelers unsettling defeat to the New England Patriots, a 39-26 drubbing at the hands of Tom Brady and the Pats' offense. At the time, I was undeniably concerned about the play of the defense, but I wasn't ready to write off Dick LeBeau's unit off just yet.  Every team has at least one off night when things just don't go anywhere near according to plan. That was certainly one of those weeks.

I did think though that the collective play of the defense would improve as the season entered the months of November and December. How much better, I wasn't and am still not sure. If last night was any indication, the best may be yet to come.

Let's revisit the weekly comparison with games 9-12 now updated.

Comparison Through 2 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (3-0) 20 10 266.5 214.5 52 8 6
2008 (2-1) 23 11.5 221 157 64 5 7
1976 (1-1) 45 22.5 385 254.5 130.5 8 N / A *

 

 

Comparison Through 3 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (3-0) 33 11 278.66 219 59.66 10 10
2008 (2-1) 38 12.67 234 69.67 64.33 8 10
1976 (1-2) 75 25 389.66 255.33 134.33 12 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 4 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (3-1) 50 12.5 289 226.75 62.25 12 11
2008 (3-1) 58 14.5 236.25 162.25 74
11
15
1976 (1-3) 92
23
336.75 198 138.75 16 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 5 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (4-1) 60 12 296.8 233 63.8 15 16
2008 (4-1) 79 15.8 231.6 164.8 66.8
11
18
1976 (1-4) 110
22
334.6 194.2 140.4 18 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 6 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (5-1) 82 13.66 299.5 235.66 63.9 17 17
2008 (5-1) 89 14.83 228.33 158.66 69.66
12
25
1976 (2-4) 116
19.33
307.33 177.83 129.33 21 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 7 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (5-2) 102 14.57 302.1 243.1 58.85 19 19
2008 (5-2) 110 15.7 236.4 164.4 71.56
12
25
1976 (3-4) 116
16.57
285 161.4 123.4 22 N / A *

 

 

Comparison Through 8 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (6-2) 123 15.37 298.33 239.9 58.24 21 23
2008 (6-2) 116 14.5 235.7 163.97 70.1
14
32
1976 (4-4) 116
14.5 266.12 152.47 113.47 27 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 9 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (6-3) 162 18 315.5 252.1 63.1 21 23
2008 (6-3) 140 15.5 241.7 171.1 69.2 14 34
1976 (5-4) 116 12.88 265.1 160.3 104.6 33 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 10 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (7-3) 165 16.5 302.15 239.1 62.9 24 29
2008 (7-3) 150 15.0 239.33 169.2 68.9 16 36
1976 (6-4) 119 11.9 261 155.07 105.77 33 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 11 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (8-3) 181 16.45 304.6 240.5 63.9 25 31
2008 (8-3) 160 14.5 236.48 168.8 66.52 17 37
1976 (7-4) 135 12.27 257.72 152.25 105.34 37 N / A *

 

Comparison Through 12 Games

Year Points Pts/Game Yards/Game Pass Y/G Rush Y/G Turnovers Sacks
2010 (9-3) 191 15.9 301.62 239.33 62.2 27 36
2008 (9-3) 170 14.1 239.02 166.8 71.15 22 42
1976 (8-4) 138 11.5 245 149.15 105.73 39 N / A *

*Sacks, of course, had not yet become an official stat in 1976, so we unfortunately can't track and compare that category.

A couple quick notes:

* The '76 defense continued its sick run in November, as the Steelers saw their winning streak extend to eight after the abysmal 1-4 start to the season. Game No. 9 was the Steelers' fourth straight shutout, the four and final one coming against the Kansas City Chiefs in a 45-0 rout. Incredible.

* The turnover totals in '76 were amazing. Maybe one of you can look this up - what's the NFL record for most turnovers created in a season? And if the total came after the schedule was expanded to 16 games, what's the prorated turnover/game figure? I'd have to guess that the '76 defense is in contention for the most ever, though perhaps not since fumbles are less common than interceptions and teams passed less frequently than they do today.

* I'm still amazed by how few passing yards the '08 defense allowed. The '08 pass defense was nearly as stingy as the '76 version. Considering how much the game has changed since then, that's really quite remarkable.

* The '10 version is quietly playing very well across the board. Fewer than 240 yards passing per game now after seeing the figure rise above 250 through the ninth game. The Steelers continue to be next to impossible to run the ball against. In fact, they're nearly 25 yards per game clear of the second best run defense (NYJ (86.3 YPG).

* And finally, the '10 defense is now tied with Oakland for the most sacks (this will hold up for at least another week, as neither the Jets nor Patriots are close). The 27 turnovers are third most, trailing only the Eagles (28) and Giants (30) heading into the final quarter of the season.

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