There have been two types of heroes on the large and small screen throughout the years: Bruce Lee and everyone else.
Bruce rarely ever had any trouble defeating his adversaries. A quick kick to the face and they were down for the count.
Everyone else -- guys like Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, and even 007 -- well, they've had their troubles on occasion. You know the drill. It's the end of the movie, and the villain is dangerously close to putting an end to the story's hero. The knife is at his throat, and just when it looks like the bad guy will win this time, boom! Out of nowhere, the hero finds a way to wrestle that knife away and save, not only his own neck, but the entire free world.
Ideally, football fans want their teams defensive units to be like Bruce Lee was in his movies--dominant and absolutely merciless. However, with the exception of a few squads -- like, say, the '76 Steelers, '85 Bears and '00 Ravens -- not too many defenses have been able to dominate week in and week out in the modern era.
Realistically, in today's pass-happy NFL, defenses are happy if they can just hold on at the end.
The 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers defense hasn't exactly been suffocating--only 10 takeaways and one defensive touchdown so far this year through 11 games. However, the only thing that really matters is preventing the other team from scoring, especially at the end of the game, and Dick Lebeau's defense has excelled in those situations this year.
Last night was the latest example. By all rights, the game against the Chiefs should have been a laugher in Pittsburgh's favor. Tyler Palko was only making his second career start at quarterback, and for much of the game, he looked like a guy who was making his second career start at quarterback. He was responsible for three first half turnovers that should have led to a pretty easy night for the Steelers. Unfortunately, the offense scored just 10 points off of those takeaways, and the Steelers only led 13-9 in the closing moments. Despite looking pretty atrocious for most of the game, Palko was beginning to gain momentum on Kansas City's last drive as he completed a couple of big conversions on 3rd and 4th down and had his team at the Steelers 37 yard line with 38 seconds remaining. Just when it looked like the Steelers might suffer another heartbreaker on Sunday Night Football, Keenan Lewis saved the day by intercepting a Palko pass intended for Dwayne Bowe, and the Steelers escaped with their sixth victory in the last seven games.
The last second defensive stand marked the fourth straight game in-which the opposing offense had the football with a chance to either win or tie the game in the closing moments. In three of those situations, the defense thwarted the comeback attempt and preserved the victory.
That might just seem like another day at the office for a Dick Lebeau defense, but what killed the 2009 Steelers, more than anything, was the inability of the defense to hold fourth quarter leads. The unit failed to protect late leads in devastating losses to Chicago, Cincinnati, Kansas City, Baltimore and Oakland, and when the playoffs began, the Steelers were watching at home with everyone else.
So, while this defense might not be as opportunistic as the 2010 version or as menacing as the 2008 edition, it's ability to take a stand at the end is what separates it from the 2009 unit, and that, more than anything, is why the 2011 Pittsburgh Steelers are sitting pretty at 8-3 and haven't suffered the same type of devastating losses.
At the end of the movie, somehow, someway, the hero always finds a way to save the day.