Blessed with a dominant offense, it was a surprising defense that catapulted the 1992 Cowboys to the top.
In a year's time, the same thing could be said about the 2015 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Now, comparing the Steelers to the Cowboys can be considered treason in some circles, but the comparison is appropriate in this case. Like the Steelers, that 1992 Cowboys team was anchored by a dynamic offense centered around a talented offensive line and the "Triplets" consisting of Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith and Michael Irvin. The Steelers have their own version of that trio in Ben Roethlisberger, Le'Veon Bell and Antonio Brown. Like that Cowboys team, this Steelers' offense has been improving over the past two seasons, and it's expected to have its best season yet in 2015.
Defense was the question surrounding that '92 Cowboys bunch, especially after being carved up by the Barry Sanders and the Lions in the 1991 playoffs. Ditto for this year's Steelers defense after Joe Flacco riddled Pittsburgh's unit in the Ravens playoff win over the Steelers last January. Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson knew his offense would show up in 1992, but what would he do to about his defense? The same question could be had for Steelers coach Mike Tomlin heading into this training camp.
Hopefully, Tomlin and the Steelers can mirror what Johnson did with Dallas' defense during that 1992 Super Bowl run. Johnson allowed young players to play, and play often on a defense that employed 22 subs and starters combined. And while they weren't the best unit against the pass (sound familiar?), that unit became the NFL's top-ranked defense in 1992, and did so without boasting a single Pro Bowl player that season. Along with their depth, the main strength of the '92 Cowboys defense was their ability to force turnovers, which they did a record nine teams in Dallas' 52-17 win over the Bills in Super Bowl XXVII. A question mark at the beginning of the season, Johnson's defense had become a dominant force.
This years Steelers' defense has many of the same ingredients going into this season. Pittsburgh has a bevy of young, talented players that includes defensive linemen Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, Shamarko Thomas, Antwon Blake and 2015 first round pick Bud Dupree. Dupree is just one piece of a linebacker unit that might be the deepest in the league, which also includes James Harrison, Lawrence Timmons, Ryan Shazier, Arthur Moats, Sean Spence and Jarvis Jones. The defense line is also not scarce of talent, with reserves Cam Thomas, Daniel McCullers, Clifton Geathers and sixth round pick Leterrius Walton looking to make their marks.
Pittsburgh general manager Kevin Colbert did his part to help ensure that the secondary would create more turnovers this season, as rookies Senquez Golson, Doran Grant and Gerod Holliman picked off 29 total passes last season. Meshing their talents with Blake, Thomas, William Gay, Mike Mitchell and Will Allen, Pittsburgh's secondary could become a major part of the team's success this fall.
Pair with their record-breaking offense, the Cowboys young, deep and ball-hawking defense did their part in helping Dallas win it all in 1992. Here's hoping Pittsburgh's defense makes the same leap, as well as the entire Steelers' team, in 2015.