The NFL Network posted a poll for its viewers to pick the greatest defense of all-time. Between the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers, the 1985 Chicago Bears, 2000 Baltimore Ravens and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Chicago Bears collected the most votes and had 38%. The 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers came in second in the voting with 26%, while the Baltimore Ravens came in third with 25% and the 2002 Tampa Bay Buccaneers filled out the rest of the votes with 11%.
If you got a chance to see the assembled panel on NFL Network discuss their opinions, you saw former Steelers' cornerback Rod Woodson sitting with former Tampa Bay defensive tackle, Warren Sapp and the Arizona Cardinals' newest free agency add to their secondary, Antonio Cromartie. Before pulling out the results, Woodson asks the moderator if this is a question of one single season, or of an "overall defense." The moderator said that the poll was based on one single season.
Upon first seeing the results, the first reaction you hear from the panel is Warren Sapp saying, "oh that's wrong," in his display of dissatisfaction from the results. But the panel got into the discussion of which defense each player thought to be the best regardless of the poll. Both Warren Sapp and Antonio Cromartie show their support behind the 2000 Baltimore Ravens' as the greatest defense and sort of patted Rod Woodson on the back, a member of that very defense, as they chimed in. Warren Sapp's biggest reason for picking the 2000 Ravens' team was the fact that they won with Trent Dilfer at quarterback, as opposed to the Pittsburgh Steelers' hall-of-fame Terry Bradshaw and the Buccaneers' Brad Johnson (whom received praise from Sapp for having more touchdown passes in his career than Troy Aikman).
As Cromartie and Sapp continued their reasoning, Woodson immediately chimed in and took over the conversation.
"We did break the  Bears' single season scoring record," he said. "We did do that; but when I look at as a whole ... the Pittsburgh Steelers' defense they won four Super Bowls and dominated over the course of time. I mean we're talking about almost a ten-year stretch for them that they just dominated."
Woodson went on to rattle-off the names on the defense such as Joe Greene and LC Greenwood, and also argued that Mel Blount was the greatest corner of all-time.
Woodson then flat-out says as his conclusive statement, "I think they are the best defense to ever play in the National Football League."
Warren Sapp and the rest of the panel seemed surprised by the hall-of-fame defensive back's stalwart support of the Steelers' defense in the discussion. As the discussion rounds out, the moderator brings up the fact that the defense had four hall-of-fame players on it.
Rod Woodson has often shown respect for the Pittsburgh Steelers' organization in the many debates that are discussed on the NFL Network, but his reverence of the 1976 Steelers' defense shows his sense of humility and his love for the Steelers' organization. But he made a point of not losing the fact that when you consider whom should be called the greatest defense that you need to take longevity into account. It is not lost upon Woodson that being able to play at the level which the Steelers' defense of the 1970's did for as long as they did, is an important factor when discussing greatness. While limiting the scope of the discussion to a single season, you can focus upon more specific stats and make the discussion easier, but doing so ignores many factors that contribute to how great certain players are over their careers.
That's the point Woodson made on air yesterday; that when you take into account how many great players were on the 1976 Steelers' defense and how their greatness could not be limited to just one season, you get a more wholesome evaluation of talent and performance. For example, you can't consider the fact that Mel Blount, just the season before, had eleven interceptions in a fourteen-game regular season. You also couldn't consider that, as Woodson points out, that defense went against the toughest teams of that era in the NFL over several seasons and came out as Super Bowl champions four times in a span of six years. Even while there are four players from that defense that are in the hall-of-fame, there are more who many consider to be viable candidates for Canton that have gotten passed over in years past because of how many Steelers from that era have made the hall-of-fame.
If anything, that alone should be the ultimate testament to how great a team/defense was in their era. In this segment, Woodson focused less upon single season statistics and more on the amount of legendary players and their accomplishments as a team over a longer period of time.
The moderator ended the segment shortly after Woodson's argument with the proper response after Woodson's position, "it is hard to argue with that."