We have all heard the old adage: The best defense is a great offense. While this statement is often referring to a nation's military capabilities, it is also relevant in team sports, especially the game of football. Military ideology and the NFL go hand in hand. They mirror each other; teamwork, self sacrifice, offensive strategies, defensive maneuvers, and chain of command.
What does the best defense/great offense statement actually mean and how does it relate to the Pittsburgh Steelers moving forward?
Basically the statement refers to the fact that an adversary will often take pause before unleashing an offensive attack on their opponent because they fear the repercussion of superior firepower. The more powerful combatant can oftentimes hinder or stop an attack before it even starts due to this reality.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense made great strides last season, all the more impressive considering the Steelers feeble offense wasn't striking fear in the hearts of any opponent. For the Steelers defense to take the next step in their development next season, that absolutely has to change.
The Pittsburgh Steelers defense has all the components to accomplish something special next season. They have the look of a top three unit in 2020, with some good health and reasonable growth from some young contributors.
If NFL history has taught us anything, it has taught us this: a offense doesn't have to be great to support a dominating defense, they just have to be good enough.
Superior defense and a solid offense go hand in hand. Looking back at the Steelers during the Steel Curtain years, the 85 Chicago Bears, and the 2000 Baltimore Ravens: we see a common trend. Those teams were built around their superior defenses, but each team's offense carried their own weight. This simple fact allowed each defense to achieve greatness.
The Pittsburgh Steelers offense evolved from a ball control, power running game during the first two Super Bowls to a grip-it-and-rip-it, high scoring powerhouse during the next two championships, thanks to the gradual growth of QB Terry Bradshaw. If it hadn't been for some untimely injuries to key contributors during the 76 & 77 playoff runs, the Steelers could have realistically won six Super Bowls in a row. What might have been? Nonetheless, those Steelers teams evolved in unison, on offense and defense.
The 85 Chicago Bears were the perfect storm. They utilized their unique defensive concepts to run roughshod over totally overmatched opponents. Oftentimes it appeared as if the Bears had two or three extra defenders on the field. They caused mass confusion for every QB presnap, every QB that is except Miami Dolphins great Dan Marino. Marino was able to make the correct presnap reads necessary to exploit the Bear's overly aggressive defense and handed Chicago their only loss of the season.
The Bear's offense was hardly dominant, but they didn't need to be. They controlled the time of position running HOF RB Walter "Sweetness" Payton, and utilized a motley crew of colorful personalities to consistently capitalize on the short fields created by their dominating defense. Throw in a punk rock QB, an overweight kitchen appliance, and a catchy music video: suddenly you have the makings of a feel good Super Bowl championship team.
The 2000 Baltimore Ravens hold a unique place in NFL history. They won a Super Bowl championship with the epitome of a game manager at QB, Trent Dilfer. The Ravens defense, lead by three future Hall of Famers, just didn't allow opponents to reach the endzone that season. As with the aforementioned great defenses, they regularly created short fields for their offense, when they weren't scoring off turnovers themselves. They relied on a young stud RB Jamal Lewis to control the clock and wear down the opposition. Are you starting to notice a trend yet?
For the Pittsburgh Steelers defense to reach their full potential they need the offense to pull their weight. The defense can be even more aggressive and implement the entire playbook if they don't have to absolutely fear giving up the big play. Last season, a touchdown deficit felt more like a two touchdown mountain to climb. A defensive back stumbles or two defenders collide in coverage and suddenly you are facing overwhelming odds, especially for a team struggling to score more than ten points a game.
The healthy return of Big Ben Roethlisberger could just be the magic elixir for much of what ailed the Steelers offense last season, which would go a long way toward helping the defense take that next step. Only time will tell.
There is good news on the horizon. The 2020 Pittsburgh Steelers offense doesn't have to be as potent as in past seasons; they just have to be good enough.