TAMPA, Fla. — The Doomsday Defense. The Purple People Eaters. The Steel Curtain. Exceptional defenses generate colorful, distinctive nicknames that define a style and forge an image that guarantees they will be mentioned for generations.
There’s no such catchy nickname for these Pittsburgh Steelers, except the not-so-original Steel Curtain II — which, if nothing else, proves Steelers fans love making any connection possible to the four Super Bowl winners of the 1970s. This time, the similarities between the new and old Curtains are striking, the statistics comparable, the analogies valid, the smack-you-in-the-mouth mentality the same. Call it the defense that doesn’t need a nickname. James Harrison’s nastiness resembles another former Kent State linebacker, Jack Lambert. There’s a huge, run-stuffing nose man — Casey Hampton, a modern-day version of Ernie "Fats” Holmes. Troy Polamalu makes the same game-changing plays Mel Blount did. LaMarr Woodley and Harrison, with a combined 27 sacks, pass rush with a vengeance from a 3-4 defense the way Dwight White and L.C. Greenwood did from a 4-3. There’s even the wizard defensive coordinator — Dick LeBeau, the designer of the zone blitz who draws up masterful blueprints much like the Steel Curtain’s Bud Carson, the innovator of the Cover-2. Parity and the salary cap may not allow this Steelers defense to win four Super Bowls, send four players to the Hall of Fame or get pasted across cereal boxes.