History Of Steeler Defenses: Blitzburgh (1990s)

July 11, 2022
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Almost every legendary NFL defense with a nickname had a championship moment.

Dolphins “No Name” defense: 1972 and 1973

Cowboys “Doomsday” defense: 1971 and 1977

Steelers “Steel Curtain” defense: 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979

Bears “Monsters of the Midway” defense: 1985

Seahawks “Legion of Boom” defense: 2013

Then there are other legendary NFL defenses with a nickname that never had a championship moment like the Vikings “Purple People Eater” defense or the Broncos “Orange Crush” defense.

The Blitzburgh Defense

The Steelers “Blitzburgh” are in that championship-less category. Their defense went without a Super Bowl and that’s a big part of why they’ve been overshadowed. The Blitzburgh defense in the 1990s carried the Steelers mediocre offense. The Steelers had a front lineup of Kevin Greene, Greg Lloyd, Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, and Jason Gildon. The Steelers also had Rod Woodson, a first ballot Hall of Famer and member of the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary All-Time Team.

In 1992, Bill Cowher was hired as head coach after Chuck Noll’s retirement. Through the 1980s, the Steelers were unable to match the players that led to their 1970s successes. After a decade of mediocrity, the Steelers broke out in 1992. They won the AFC Central for the first time in eight years, and clinched the 1-seed in the playoffs. The inexperienced Steelers lost in the AFC divisional to the Bills 24-3, but the Steelers would continue to consistently make the playoffs.

During the NFL’s first year of free agency in 1993, the Steelers signed Kevin Greene. Greene signed a three-year, $5.35 million free-agent contract with the Pittsburgh Steelers which became an absolute steal. In 1994, the Steelers established themselves as the AFC’s top team. They had a 12-4 record and were heavy favorites against the Chargers in the AFC Championship. The Steelers were down 17-13 late in the game against the Chargers, but were on the doorstep to score. On 4th & 3, Neil O’Donnell targeted Barry Foster, but a Charger defender tipped the pass. The Steelers turned over on downs and lost in a painful heartbreaker.

In 1995, the Steelers had another great season and found themselves once again hosting in the AFC Championship as heavy favorites. They met up with the Cinderella Colts and the Steelers were poised to defend their turf. The Steelers had a 20-16 lead during the final seconds. On the last play, Jim Harbaugh attempted a hail mary pass that hit wide receiver Aaron Bailey’s chest, but it hit the turf before Bailey could haul it in.

The Steelers made it to Super Bowl XXX against the mighty Cowboys. The Steelers had many opportunities to win, but Neil O’Donnell threw two late-game interceptions to Larry Brown to ruin the Steelers chances at victory. The Steelers never made it to the Super Bowl again during the 1990s. In 1997, the Steelers hosted the Broncos in the AFC Championship but were taken down 24-21. It would not be until the turn of the millennium when the Steelers won the Super Bowl in 2005 and 2008.

The Blitzburgh defense could never get over the Super Bowl hump, which would have cemented themselves in football immortality. It wouldn’t be until a new wave of Steeler defenders came in the 2000s to lead to two Super Bowl victories in 2005 and 2008.