So maybe it's too early to start calling the Steelers defense "Steel Curtain II." But Pittsburgh's D has been dominating for most of this season. Consider this: The Steelers rank first in total defense (239.1 yards a game), pass defense (163.3) and scoring defense (13.7 points). They are second in stuffing the run (75.8). They have held teams to fewer than 300 yards for 14 straight games, tying the record set by the 1973 Rams. The Steelers (11-3) have a long way to go to be compared to their legendary teams of the '70s, including a showdown today with the Titans (12-2). But if Pittsburgh continues to shut teams down and run the table through the Super Bowl, it likely will be considered one of the best defensive units of all time. We look at three of the best the Steelers would have to stack up against:
Mike Singletary, above. William "The Refrigerator" Perry. The Super Bowl Shuffle. The Bears' vaunted defense didn't give up a point in the playoffs until Chicago's 46-10 drubbing of the Patriots in the Super Bowl. Buddy Ryan's blitzing "46" defense was dominant, holding seven opponents to fewer than 10 points.
The real "Steel Curtain" was stacked. There were eight Pro Bowl players, including Hall of Famers Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, above, and Mel Blount. The Steelers played their best when it mattered the most, giving up just 28 points in the final nine games of the season. That helped turn a 1-4 start into a berth in the AFC Championship Game (where the Steelers lost to the Raiders).
Led by Super Bowl MVP LB Ray Lewis, above, the Ravens set NFL records for fewest points allowed (165) and fewest yards rushing (970) in a 16-game slate. Baltimore had four shutouts in the regular season and stepped up its game in the postseason, when it surrendered just 23 points in four games. Most important, the Ravens won the Super Bowl (beating the Giants 34-7).
"I think I kept spitting for 24 hours. I kept brushing my teeth. To have another man spit in your mouth like that … it was gross."
Steelers P Mitch Berger on the Ravens' Frank Walker, who admitted to accidentally spitting in Berger's mouth in a confrontation last week
Jackson steps in
Vikings coach Brad Childress will start QB Tarvaris Jackson today against Atlanta, even though veteran Gus Frerotte (8-3 as a starter) is healthy enough to play. Jackson, benched after an 0-2 start, performed well last week (throwing four touchdowns in a 35-14 win over Arizona). Jackson said he has taken a different approach in his second time starting. When asked what has made him change, Jackson joked: "Being on the sideline for about 13 weeks."
Stover's special day
Ravens K Matt Stover has had plenty of memorable moments in his 18-year career. But he admitted that Saturday's game, his final one at Texas Stadium, would hold a special place in his heart. Before the Dallas native left for Louisiana Tech, he spent 10 years selling programs outside the stadium. "I grew up watching Roger Staubach, Ed 'Too Tall' Jones, Randy White and all those guys," said Stover, a 1986 graduate of Lake Highlands High (Dallas). "Pat Evans, their team physician, lived right across the street from me. I used to punt and kick into his front yard."
When a Kansas City Star columnist made a reference to Chargers players partying in Kansas City before last week's game, it sparked a storm of talk among fans and questions for coach Norv Turner. Turner tried to put out the fire. "I can tell you exactly I know where they were," Turner said. "We have a (1 a.m.) curfew on Friday night, and all our guys were in. We get into town on Friday night, and it's no different than being at home. I'm not naive enough to think when we're at home that none of our guys go out to dinner or a club on Friday night. We had a curfew, and all our guys were in."
The picks of the moment for Super Bowl XLIII on Feb. 1 in Tampa:
Giants vs. Steelers
The Giants may have lost two straight, but until Carolina beats them, they're still on top. The Steelers defense is arguably one of the best in their franchise's storied history; they battle the Titans today to see who's the class of the AFC.
Times wires, Baltimore Sun and San Diego Union-Tribune contributed to this report.