Feb 2, 2014; East Rutherford, NJ, USA; Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman (25) makes a play on the ball against Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (88) during the fourth quarter in Super Bowl XLVIII at MetLife Stadium. Sherman was injured on the play. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

Is Seahawks Defense A Model For Pittsburgh Steelers?

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.

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  • Shawn Winbush

    wow another “Steeler fan” jumping on the Seahawks bandwagon! newsflash fella! The Steelers don’t need to model themselves after anyone,they damn near laid the blueprint.Geez you’d think the Seahawks invented defense the way you sound.I agree thier defense is impressive and had a great showing in the Super Bowl.And yes, they have had success finding gems on thier own, and other team’s castoffs.But stop acting like our scouts get it wrong all the time.Seattle is FINALLY getting it together talent wise.before this,they weren’t relevant since 2005.before that…??????? what happened with thier scouts,coaching,F O then. We can and will turn it around and very fast.We don’t model after anyone, we are the model….we are the STANDARD.

    • Craig

      7, 8, 9 years ago is irrelevant in this discussion. The notion that the Steelers laid ‘the blueprint’ is irrelevant in this discussion. The fact that the Steelers were 21st in defending the rush and the middle of the road in everything else is VERY relevant to this conversation. That’s your ‘standard’? The same defense that let Terrell Pryor run over 90 yards for a touchdown? The same vaunted defense that let New England rack up the score like it was Madden? This defense would have been torched by Manning if they were to have faced in the AFC Championship game. Oh that’s right, the Steelers never made the playoffs this season (or last) because the Standard helped this team go 0-4, 2-6 and finally 8-8. That Standard is broken and something needs to change. No being able to acknowledge just makes you a HOMER who holds on to the hopes and dreams of 2008 and older. Reality check, bud. This defense needs some serious help and fast or we’ll be 8-8 again next season (leaving the offense for an entirely different discussion).

      • Dom DiTolla

        The Cleveland Browns were “the standard”once as well. Care to tell me how that franchise is doing?

        In all professional sports, teams have to “adapt or die.” The Steelers’ defense is old, running a system which has been exposed. Do they need to completely copy what Seattle is doing now? No. But the Seahawks illustrated how a defense can find success in a pass-happy NFL against one of the league’s most potent offenses of all time.

        • Timothy Edmunds

          Cleveland’s D has never been the problem, it is their offense so that argument is moot. The Steelers were one of the top teams in pass defense this year, and that was with an over the hill secondary. Our run defense hurt, but I would like to believe it was because of some injuries and rookies not familiar with the speed of the NFL or DLB’s scheme. The steelers are fine people. They are the franchise that sets the STANDARD in the NFL with how they draft and develop young talent. Look at our receiving Corp, no one drafted higher than the 3rd round. We got shamarko Thomas in the 4th round, and he got some great playing time, Vince Williams in the 6th who had to come in for an injured Foote, Worilds was a 2nd rounder, Cortez Allen was like a 5th round pick out of CITADEL and he will be good. Don’t worry our defense and coach Lebeau will be fine.

          • Dom DiTolla

            Nice try, but you missed the point of my post.

            Cleveland was the standard NFL franchise during the 50s and 60s. The Steelers have not set any sort of standard in recent years when it has come to drafting and developing players, and the fact that guys like Ryan Clark, Ike Taylor, Brett Keisel, etc. are all starting into their mid-30s when they are far and away shells of their former selves illustrates that fact.

            You’re fooling yourself if you believe that this defense will be “fine” with LeBeau still at the helm, and that this franchise will be “fine” if the status quo remains in place.

      • William Cross

        Haha! Yeah the d needs help, but it’s not a coaching problem, it’s a success problem. See, when you’re the absolute best d in football for a decade, you have to pay these guys, depth suffers, and any problem is magnified. The seahawks are the beneficiary of the new collective bargaining agreement, so before you go changing everything to emulate how seattle did it, wait a couple of years and see what happens when they have to pay their players.

      • Shawn Winbush

        First off, no where in my comments did I say this years defense was the Standard.This
        HOMER, as you intelligently stated,was referring to the Steeler defense in general as being The Standard.Stevie Wonder can see we need to get better on D, I acknowledged that if you care to read and comprehend.And yes it is relevant to go back 7,8,9 even 10 years if I’m going to support my argument.Since 2002,I’ll go back that far.Pittsburgh’s defense has been ranked outside the top 10 only once..that’s THIS YEAR.That Standard has seen 5 years ranked #1, and 8 top 5 rankings.That wasn’t by luck. that took scouting,coaching,talent and ability,didn’t happen by accident.Yes we have fell victim to age, even FA has taken some talent away. But we are not light years away from making a top 5 showing again.

        • Craig

          If the Steelers defense was the standard, then why don’t more teams play a ridiculously complicated zone scheme? They don’t because that’s not the NFL today. It doesn’t work anymore unless you have top notch defenders at just about every single position. And like our friend William Cross intelligently pointed out, you have to pay for that kind of talent. The Steelers have dug themselves a massive grave with signing big deals to players that don’t deserve them, restructured like hell to defer the debt, which is killing them year after year in the cap space. How do you combat that? Get younger guys in and let them play and develop. But our friend DLB lets young players rot on the bench in favor of older vets just simply because they are ‘familiar’ with the system. It’s a bad recipe they’ve been living with for a few years now, and we are now seeing what happens when you can’t find someone to replace a Casey Hampton (or develop one), a James Harrison (or develop one), an Aaron Smith, or a younger and better Ryan Clark (oh wait they found one, they just let Shmarko rot), etc etc etc.
          You’re right, we aren’t light years away from making a Top 5 – something has to change for that to happen.

          • Dom DiTolla

            I can guarantee that Williams and Garvin would have rotted on the bench last season had Foote stayed healthy.

          • Thumper833

            I think we just saw how to stop a top shelf passing game. With big physical defensive backs. Guys who can put a forearm in the neck of a receiver and disrupt patterns. With safeties that match up with TEs. With Cam Chancellors not Shamarko Thomases. With Richard Shermans not Willie Gays. We have a total reset of the defensive backfield in order. Sure we can find guys in later rounds just like Seattle, but Pitts D is crying out for an upgrade right now. The D line and LBs and especially the backfield. Starting with Round 1.

    • [email protected]

      Lets face it – Shawn and everyone else reading. Shawn, I agree with you that we as an organization have done great things in the past, and that everyone is jumping our management/scouts s–t right now. The game is changing and the Steelers and the 30 other teams who are not Seattle have to learn to cope since everyone is playing by the same rules (OK, maybe not Brady since he can get a flag with just a frown!)…… The important thing in my mind is that the Steelers as an organization know how to succeed, which is the GOOD news. It has been INSTITUTIONALIZED in the team’s methods, which is why everyone – players, other teams, press – are always holding us up as a model. The BAD news is that inevitably every great team (and I was impressed enough to include Seattle’s D in that category for sure – looked like us in the 70s) ages, and must be replenished with new talent. Unfortunately we whiffed a bit on the draft, especially in that ’09 class that is now nowhere in sight of the ‘burgh. So now we are paying the price. And yes, letting Lewis go last year has (with HINDSIGHT) proven to be stupid. Etc, etc. If the Steelers don’t replenish with the right people we won’t see a SB in awhile. If on the other hand, we DO successfully draft (and I think last year’s class will prove to be a very good one) the next few years, we are right back in the game. In baseball, you bat .500 you’re in the HOF; in managing a pro football organization you do that and you’re 8-8. We can debate things all day – ‘LeBeau needs to retire and his D is too complicated’; ‘Colbert/Tomlin have done a poor job’, ‘The style of the game has passed us by’. Personally, I’ll place my bet with the organization with 6 rings and give them a chance to set things straight. I’m thinking 2 – 3 years and then we need to review at that time.

    • Craig

      Hey Shawn. Read this gem from yesterday’s Trib?


      Starkey nails it and pretty much backs up every claim I’ve laid out.

      • Shawn Winbush

        Yes I read the article Craig. what did he point out that we already didn’t know? and if you want to get technical,he agreed with my point also.The cupboard isn’t bare.We can rebuild this defense with some good foundation in place already.Seattle has put together a very good defense,young core and they are talented,i get that. I am watching their Super Bowl celebration. I have seen this team defense before,I have seen this celebration before.I will see it again VERY SOON in Pittsburgh.

        • Craig

          Your tune seems to be a bit different than from before. You agree with Starkey, yet those were things I was already saying – the Seahawks defense is a model for other defenses. Play the younger guys. Poor picks and development/coaching. It’s all there.

          He also says that the Steelers D has been dead for three years and that using the #1 defense argument is a bad one because total yards means nothing – to which he lists quite a few telling stats. You said “Pittsburgh’s defense has been ranked outside the top 10 only once..that’s THIS YEAR.That Standard has seen 5 years ranked #1, and 8 top 5 rankings.That wasn’t by luck. that took scouting,coaching,talent and ability,didn’t happen by accident.” Pretty different from what Starkey says (and me). Somehow you agree now?

          I believe his argument becomes flawed when he says there is a strong foundation. He lists three players – one of which is about on his way out. That’s not a foundation when you include a 10 year veteran who very well could be gone if the Steelers can’t sign him to a cheaper deal. They need lots of help.

          • Shawn Winbush

            I can see now that you don’t take the time to interpret,so I’m going to end this debate. I didn’t say Seattle’s defense was the MODEL defense,that would be contradicting myself right there.I said they put together a talented defense,a very good defense. I gave them that credit. IN my first initial post to you I gave them the SAME CREDIT.That and the fact that I don’t think our cupboard is bare is all i agreed upon.Both you and Starkey have taken shots at DLB,the coaching,scouts and F O concerning lack of talent and the right personnel .That our defensive scheme is outdated and needs an upgrade. I was defending the organization with the comment you quoted me one. where has my opinion changed? when did i start singing a different tune? I don’t backpedal Dude.And I in no way credit his theory or opinions any different than yours.Regardless,of his list.I believe we do have good young talent on the defense.Cam,Shark,V williams,C Allen,J Jones,S mclendon,and possibly J Worilds. I am still of the opinion with a good draft or two,this Defensive can be right back to form very quickly,not the 10 year project you and Starkey make it out to be.

  • Monzell Lamar Lewis

    Yea, however D get no help now back then they got away with a lot you can’t do now so my pick is doing it now far harder then the past

    • Craig

      I would agree with that. Pass heavy offenses and more risk taking down field makes it hard for teams that struggle at the corners (like the Steelers D) play any kind of man coverage and allow the guys in the box to blitz and disrupt. They are relying on talent alone right now to do that, and they just don’t have all the pieces to make it happen. That partially falls on the scouts and Colbert and also falls on coaching in not getting the most out of each guy that comes in. It will be interesting to see where Jones is two to three years from now.

      • Dom DiTolla

        Seattle’s defense should illustrate to those “Defense in Round 1″ people that talent can actually be found later on in the draft process as well. In addition, you forgot that it is the coaching staff and front office’s fault that they are not a) giving their young talent chances to contribute early on (Cameron Heyward) and b) not locking up young free agents (Keenan Lewis).