Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #9 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were definitely known as a defensive football team. They came of age during their run leading up to Super Bowl IX, but it was in the following two seasons they were at their zenith. The late Chuck Noll had a roster that entered its prime on the defensive side first after drafting DT “Mean” Joe Greene in 1969.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

The banner that hung in Three Rivers Stadium honoring the Front Four.

As defending Super Bowl champion, everyone gave them their best shot. For all the talk of the ’76 version, this team was equally stout. They only allowed 162 points while holding 8 of 14 opponents to 10 or fewer points. This didn’t include the Cincinnati Bengals, who under Paul Brown and Bill Walsh fashioned the league’s #2 ranked offense. The Steelers did hold them to 24 and 14 points to sweep them as they finished 12-2 to Cincy’s 11-3.

In fact the ’75 AFC Central was the first time in history 3 teams finished with at least 10 wins thanks to the 10-4 Oilers. Take away the games with the Steelers and the Bengals finished 11-1 and Houston 10-2 v the rest of the NFL. Pretty significant to go 4-0 against these two then wouldn’t you say??

When it comes to quality opponents, two of the Steeler’s 8 games of 10 or less allowed  came against top 10 offenses that year. Now add in both the AFC Divisional playoff and the AFC Championship where they gave up 10 points in both wins over Baltimore (12th offense) and Oakland (4th in offense). Then they made it to Super Bowl X and beat the 3rd best offense in the Dallas Cowboys while only yielding 17.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Joe Greene was the 1st Steeler drafted in the Chuck Noll era.

Now this is a heavyweight champ that left little standing in their wake defensively. The lone blemish?? OJ Simpson and Buffalo’s #1 ranked offense got off on them in a 30-21 win. “The Juice” broke for over 200 yards in Three Rivers Stadium. Buffalo ran for 308 yards in that game.

All that withstanding, the Steelers sent 3/4ths of their secondary to the Pro Bowl. Cornerback Mel Blount, who led the league with 11 interceptions, joined FS Mike Wagner and SS Glen Edwards. These guys were behind a good group of Linebackers that included fellow Pro Bowlers Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, and Jack Ham. Yes all three made the Pro Bowl. Once you follow that up with DT “Mean” Joe Greene and DE LC Greenwood, you have 8 of the starting 11 in the Pro Bowl….. Eight!! Come on…that is beyond the college try. Now you know why the ’78 Steelers didn’t make the top ten.

RIP Coach Noll

RIP Coach Noll

This article is dedicated in the memory of DT Ernie Holmes, DE LC Greenwood, DE Dwight White, and former Head Coach Chuck Noll who passed last week.

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3 thoughts on “Top Ten Single Season Defenses in NFL History : #9 1975 Pittsburgh Steelers

  1. Only #9? And behind…the ’75 Vikings? Ouch.

    All due respect to the Purple People Eaters and this Top Ten list, but the Vikes had quite the soft schedule in ’75. Wasn’t Washington the only good team they faced that year? And they allowed 31 (to 30) against them. Now the ’69 Vikings belonging on this list? Perhaps another story.

    But even that first Bud Grant Super Bowl defense in my mind isn’t up to par with the ’75 Steelers. Their only blemish was Week #2 vs OJ & the Bills. This shouldn’t be an excuse and it really isn’t (after all, Bills had that Monster 4-0 start in ’75; none of those games close either), but that defeat could be a little due to Steelers coming off their very first ever World Championship, blasting the Chargers at SD on opening day, 37-0, and thinking it should be “easy” here-on-out. Bills then giving them the wake-up call needed for they to get their feet back on the ground and truly dominate with a vengeance the rest of the way.

    And they did so in a division that had the 11-3 Bengals and 10-4 Oilers. And Steelers sweep them BOTH. Eight Pro Bowlers on that D, five of them All Pro, four of them in Canton. And then, in the playoffs, they hold Bert Jones’ offensive powerhouse Colts to 10pts, then hold the Raiders to the same (but not before going up 16-0 on them), and then hold off a Roger Staubach Comeback with Noll basically “daring” him to by “giving” him good field position on that last possession. That, right there, is where Legends are made! In my opinion, they’re the Best NFL Team Ever. Really should have been 13-1, but had everything wrapped up going into LA the final week.

    Just judging them by their defense? I’m simply going to opine that they at least be #2 (at least). And their ’76 D? Yes, I “get” they only being #4 because of how they fared earlier on; and against those good offenses. And they did have Bradshaw during those weeks. BUT…they didn’t have #75. Mean Joe was out for a bit.

    And then, came those LAST NINE WEEKS (Kruczec in for Bradshaw for most of it)! Yes, with exception to a pair against Ken Anderson’s Bengals, it was vs soft competition down that stretch, but, I don’t know, FIVE shutouts vs NFL offenses is still FIVE shutouts vs NFL offenses – allowing a TD (two, actually, vs Houston) in just ONE of those remaining nine! Yes, back to Anderson’s Bengals, they were held to 9pts (3FGs) total in both those games! And then they squash Bert Jones again, this time IN Baltimore, in an expensive 40-14 victory. “Expensive” in that Franco & Rocky were lost for the following week. No, Madden probably still wins anyway. They finished 13-1, beat Steelers opening day as mentioned, beat them other recent times as well, were a rivalry. They were due. It still would have been nice to see #32 & #20 in that game though. Guess we’ll never know…

    Those last nine games a scarier read, to me, than da ’85 Bears schedule/results. But I won’t invest in arguing against their spot. They were too Special a team, and I liked them! I had the Ditka and McMahon bios that came out just after, and was very glad #34 got a Ring! Either way, though, I got to opine that ’76 Steelers at least get the 3-spot. The reason you give for the Ravens being at #2 instead of #1, I give for they simply being pushed some more spots further down this list. No disrespect for them. Ray Lewis is the best MLB in history (LT best OLB), and of course he isn’t the only name to mention on that D! Just feel other defenses should be placed above them.

    That’s what good Top Ten-lists are for (and this IS a good one) – good ARGUMENTS!


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