While the Pittsburgh Steelers’ all-decade offense was relatively easy to put together (check it out HERE), the defense was... not.
Almost every position group required serious consideration, with the exception of the near legendary duo of Troy Polamalu and Ryan Clark.
From 2010-12, the Steelers’ defenses commanded respect and struck fear into the hearts and souls of opposing quarterbacks. The pass rush was ferocious, the linemen were maulers, the linebackers roamed all over the field and the secondary locked down and knocked out opposing players.
That defense grew old, turning into shells of themselves and retiring, and the Steelers’ top ranked defense became mired in mediocrity for a handful of seasons.
But like the Steelers’ defenses of old, a “Stiller” pass rush and outstanding front seven brought about a defensive resurgence, with the defense absolutely carrying the team in 2019.
Book-ended by two “Stiller” defenses, the all-decade team shows this.
This is based purely on play from the 2010 through the 2019 season.
Defensive End — Cam Heyward, Brett Keisel
Starting slowly after being selected in the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Cam Heyward became a full-time starter in 2013. By 2017, he was one of the best defensive ends in the NFL.
The heart and soul of the Steelers’ defense, a case can be made that he’s been the best Steelers’ defender of the decade.
Racking up 397 tackles and 54 sacks over the decade in a position not known for heavy stat totals, Heyward has been one of the most dominant players in the league and consistently one of the most underrated.
Like DeCastro on the offensive side of the ball, a case can be made for Heyward on the NFL’s all-decade team.
The other side of the line was a much tougher choice.
The unfulfilled star or the unsung star. Stephon Tuitt or Brett Keisel.
In the end, the unsung hero finally gets his praise.
Keisel is a folk hero in the Burgh, his beard is a superstar in its own right. He was a vital part of a Super Bowl defense and the unsung hero of the early 2010’s. Keisel was the motor, the heart and soul before Heyward and the prototypical Steelers defender.
The Beard racked up 173 tackles and 15.5 sacks from 2010-15.
Defensive Tackle — Javon Hargrave
The final three seasons of Casey Hampton or the first four of Javon Hargrave?
Another tough decision, but the spot goes to Hargrave who became one of the finest defensive tackles in the NFL during his last two seasons with the Steelers.
With an 80 plus grade in the 2018 and 2019 seasons, according to PFF, Hargrave steadily improved during his four seasons in black and gold and priced himself out of the Burgh, scoring the largest nose tackle contract in the NFL.
Hargrave accumulated 168 tackles and 14.5 sacks in four seasons while doing his very best imitation of a brick wall to opposing halfbacks.
Outside Linebacker — James Harrison, T.J. Watt
Can you imagine James Harrison and T.J. Watt coming off the edges at the same time? Let’s just give the opposing quarterback a moment of silence. ... OK.
Combining for 75.5 sacks over the decade (41 for Harrison and 34.5 for Watt), the pure pass rushing prowess between the two is unmatched in the decade.
Watt has turned into one of the best defenders in the NFL, racking up 14.5 sacks, eight forced fumbles, seven passes defended and two interceptions in just 2019.
Harrison was one of the most intimidating players in the NFL, renowned for his insane workouts and bruising hits on quarterbacks, half backs and wide receivers.
Harrison and Watt, fittingly, book-ended the NFL’s All-Pro teams in 2010 and 2019, respectively.
Inside Linebacker — Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier
The first of the real life tandems, and this one still hurts.
Lawrence Timmons was Mr. Do-It-All for the Steelers. From 2010-16, Timmons led the team with 825 tackles and chipped in 23.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, eight forced fumbles and scored a touchdown.
Timmons took the mantra of “if you’re not puking, you’re not trying” to heart. He was the ultimate hustle linebacker.
A supremely gifted yet injury plagued linebacker, Shazier was on his way to superstardom.
Over his 46 games in the league after being selected in the first round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Shazier accumulated 299 tackles, 25 passes defended and seven sacks, forced fumbles and interceptions.
Showcasing blazing speed and a knack for finding the football, Shazier had become the defensive signal caller and was trending toward being a bonafide leader on the defense.
Unfortunately, Shazier’s spinal cord injury derailed a supremely promising career in its age 25 season.
However, Shazier was still good enough to make the all-decade team.
Cornerback — Ike Taylor, Joe Haden
A couple of No. 1 corners operating as 1A and 1B?
Ike Taylor never put up huge interception number, he wasn’t a ball hawk, but he was tasked with shadowing opposing teams’ No. 1 wideouts and showed up more often than not.
From 2010-14, Taylor recorded just five interceptions, but he defended 52 balls in tough match ups.
Joe Haden, after spending the early portion of his career in Cleveland, gave into the dark side and finally joined the Steelers in free agency before the 2017 season.
Haden, like Taylor, has been tasked with locking up opposing teams’ top receivers. With the help of fellow corner Steven Nelson and safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, he’s revitalized a one-time team weakness.
In his three seasons in the Burgh, Haden has picked off eight passes and defended 36 more.
Safety — Troy Polamalu, Ryan Clark
What else can be said about Troy Polamalu?
Depending on who you ask, he’s the best strong safety of all time.
Winner of the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Polamalu might have been entering the back nine of his career in the 2010’s, but he was still the same jaw-dropping, gravity defying superstar he’d always been.
It would have been almost blasphemous to not include Polamalu’s long-time running mate Ryan Clark on the team.
One of the hardest hitting safeties in the NFL, Clark would be there when Polamalu wasn’t hurdling the linemen or snagging immaculate interceptions.
Clark missed just one game from 2010-14 and racked up 497 tackles, 26 passes defended and eight interceptions.
The all-decade defense was certainly much more challenging to compile, but what do you think? How would this defense fare against the all-decade offense?
Let me know in the comments below!