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Learning from the Past: The 1978 Steelers

Since I normally lurk in the shadows of BTSC , I'd like to first give you some information about myself. I was born in Colts country in 1989, but was immediately wrapped in a terrible towel by my grandfather. He was born and raised in Pittsburgh, a former high school and navy linebacker, and a  die hard fan. He told me stories and showed me videos of the Steel Curtain 70's, explained everything Cowher needed to do differently, and taught me the proper way to celebrate and scream at the TV. My earliest football memories are of him praying on his knees for a miracle comeback in Super Bowl XXX, and breaking the coffee table during the 97-98 championship game against the broncos. We now live on opposite sides of the country, but every Sunday I call him to bitch about last weeks mistakes, hear his insights into the game, and remind him to take his blood pressure medication. The insight he gives is rarely different from what most of us agree on, but last week he said something that surprised inspired me.

 

"Learn from the past moving forward".


Thanks to technology and the every expanding media wing of the NFL, us younger fans who didn't witness the Chuck Noll era can catch up on missed time. On Hulu I found tons of videos on the steelers of old and decided to devour them to gain insight to his statement. In particular this video of the 1978-79 season I find a surprising amount of similarities to this year and believe we could improve our short comings by follow that team's example.

If you can't watch the video right now, it gives a great summary of the season and events leading up. Despite being considered the most dominate team, the steelers had failed to make the super bowl in the two years prior. Just like we've seen in recent years, rule changes were being implemented to benefit the offense and seemed to target the steelers specifically. Defensive linemen were no longer allowed to slap opponents helmets at the line anymore, and more significantly the Mel Blount rule which attacked his physical style of play by only allowing contact with wide outs within 5 yards. Despite this, the defense found a way to remain physical and dominating. The offense moved away from the power running game to an explosive passing attack called by Terry Bradshaw. Swan and Stallworth emerged as one of the most dominating duos in the league. Supporting players stepped up when stars were injured and sometimes out performed them. Chuck Noll focused more on the fundamentals and execution rather than flashiness and motivating speeches. This all culminated in a 14-2 season and our third super bowl win. 

What changes should we make based on the '78 example? I've got two. 

 

Overcoming rule changes. 

I don't have to tell you things are bad.  With the Hines Ward Rule,  inconsistently implemented H2H calls, PF penalties protecting Marque quarterbacks, flip a coin pass interference calls, and millions of dollars in fines imposed on players...we know things are bad. Regardless of that reality we have to find a way to over come rule changes that threaten our style of play without sacrificing the style completely. After re-watching games from the 08-09 season it become painfully obvious that our defense has lost some of the physicality that has defined them. A big hit can make the difference on a third down conversion, a punishing sack can shake a normally cool quarterback's nerves, and punishing those brave enough to go over the middle can change a team's game plan. Maybe we should follow the '78 steelers and turn the blitz dial up to 11 or we could move away from the prevent defense we go into as soon as we have a 10 point lead. This strategy makes it harder to punish receivers and quarterbacks, wears out the defense, and frustrates the hell out of me. Stop sacrificing being aggressive when we are ahead because you're afraid of getting burned on the deep ball. 

 

Ben calling plays.

Bruce Arians. What a conundrum. One week you love the guy (see patriots) and the next you want his head. The solution to this problem is extremely easy to implement because we already have the necessary pieces. Just let Ben call the plays from a game plan that Arians designs. Ben has shown time and time again his ability to move the ball down the field from the hurry up offense for 2 minute drills and game winning drives. Does the coaching staff not think he could also handle those responsibilities when we have a lead or trying to establish a rhythm in less crucial situations? I'm not saying give him free rein of the offense but more flexibility and responsibility would allow the offense to explode under his leadership. 

What do you guys think? Am I crazy? Any ideas from your perspective? 

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