The Pittsburgh Steelers, during the glory days of the defense, used to swarm the ball, make splash plays, and just flat out dominate. They used to look a lot like what the Seattle Seahawks defense looked like during Super Bowl XLVIII.
To say the Seahawks defense completely dominated and obliterated the high powered Broncos offense might be going just a tad too far. There was plenty of bed wetting and crapping that went on with those Broncos – right from the very start of the game when nerves got the best of center Manny Ramirez couldn’t overcome that fierce 12th man (pffffft!) noise and prematurely snapped the ball. However, the old saying rang true once again on Sunday night: Offense wins games, defense wins championships. The Seahawks defense did everything right. They swarmed the pocket, caused pressure, which led to tipped passes, errant throws, and mistimed routes, which led to turnover chances, which led to actual turnovers, which then led to a pick 6, great field position, and unrelenting pressure on the Broncos defense by giving them little time to rest. And it’s something they’ve been doing all year.
There are some key factors to the Seahawks defense’s success: simplicity, speed, simplicity, hybrid schemes, oh and did I mention simplicity? The greatest difference between a defense like the Seahawks and what Dick LeBeau conjured up eons ago is simply… well… the simple. The Hawks defense is really good at using a hybrid man/zone scheme that allows their good and fast corners to play man while the LB’s either blitz the bejesus out of the offensive line or hang back in coverage to disturb any crossing route. The safeties have the choice to aid over the top if it seems like it is needed or they can pinch in. No complicated schemes. Simple. Man up on the outside and the inside takes care of the rest. The corners jam the receivers worse than the Fort Pitt Bridge at rush hour, giving the opposing QB few options while linebackers and linemen collapse the pocket. Despite it being the Seahawks, at times it was a thing of beauty to watch. Oh yeah, it also helps that some of those guys are incredibly smart. According to Richard Sherman following the Super Bowl victory, he claimed that they were able to figure out Manning’s hand signals and began jumping routes – which personally I noticed a few routes jumped out of nowhere.Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor (31) holds up the ball after making an interception against the Denver Broncos in the first half in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Of course it’s not just scheme and the simplicity of that scheme. The defense is also built to flourish in that system. All eleven starters on that defense are fast fast fast. They have excellent pursuit to the ball and allow very little in YAC stats. And you know what else? Only two, count’em TWO, of the 22 defensive players are first rounders. Seven are UDFA and the rest fall in there with a smattering of 4th, 5th, 6th and 7th rounders. Yes, even the Super Bowl MVP, LB Michael Smith, was a 7th rounder back in 2011. That my friends is great scouting and even better coaching from both the positional coaches and the DC. Imagine that, a coaching staff that builds the scheme around a core group of players instead of trying to fit square pegs into round holes.
So, for those of you who still think that DLB is not past his prime and should be coaching the Steelers defense now and for many years to come, I ask that you go back and watch Sunday night’s Super Bowl and tell me you weren’t amazed (or at the very least impressed). The Steelers should take note of what transpired on Sunday. And in addition, Colbert could use a few lessons from their scouting department as well. The Steelers might just find themselves a few more games better than 8-8 and a chance at that Lombardi if they can take a few things away from Super Bowl XLVIII.