clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Throwback Thursday: 2008 Steelers defense immortailized on ESPN The Magazine

The dominant 2008 Steelers defense took a break during their Super Bowl season to do a photo shoot with ESPN The Magazine.

Ryan Clark rapped, Troy Polamalu received plenty of ribbing for his trademark hair, and James Harrison took on everyone in a push-up competition.

And, at some point during this photo shoot turned party, an iconic magazine cover was created.

There's been a slew of dominant defensive seasons in Pittsburgh dating back to 1972. The '74 defense didn't allow a touchdown in Super Bowl IX. The '75 defense sacked Roger Stauback seven times and picked him off three times in Super Bowl X. The '76 unit, arguably the best defense in NFL history, allowed a putrid 28 points in a nine-game stretch that included five shutouts. The 90's Steelers brought Blitzburgh back to the Steel City, while the Dick LeBeau units of the 2000's helped bring two more Lombardi Trophies to Pittsburgh.

One of the best defenses in Steelers history was the 2008 unit, which led the NFL in fewest points allowed, total yards allowed, passing yards allowed and was second in rushing yards permitted. Safety Troy Polamalu along with linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison earned Pro Bowl nods that season, with James Harrison winning the Defensive Player of the Year award after tallying 16 sacks during the regular season.

Polamalu and Harrison turned in three of the more memorable plays in NFL history that year. Polamalu's diving interception in Pittsburgh's Week 11 win over the Chargers was upstaged only by his game-winning pick six against the Ravens in the AFC Championship Game. Harrison provided arguably the greatest defensive play in NFL history with his 100-yard interception return for a score in Pittsburgh's 27-23 win over the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII. Harrison's pick not only showcased his freakish athleticism, but it also was a testament to the entire Steelers' defense, as with many members of the defense aided Harrison down the field on a play which perfectly characterized how the defense played as one, complete unit.

The defense's chemistry was not just reserved for the football field, as evidenced in this video documenting the team's cover shoot with ESPN The Magazine that took place during the '08 regular season. It was a close unit that wasn't short on personality, and it's easy to see why the group was so successful.

The group had many more memorable moments following the 2008 season. They boasted the No.2 overall defensive standing in 2010 while helping lead Pittsburgh's charge back to the Super Bowl. They were still dominant in their final seasons together, as the Steelers defense was the No.1 overall unit in the NFL in 2011 and 2012. In all, the unit was statistically the NFL's best on five occasions in an eight-year span, and in the process etched its place as one of the best defenses in league history.

It's hard to believe that this cover photo was shot almost seven years ago, and even harder to believe that only William Gay, Lawrence Timmons and Harrison are the only players still on the team from that devastating defense. But while most of the players are gone, their dominant play, colorful personalities and how they meshed both on and off the field made them a defense Steelers fans won't ever forget.