Effective Steelers' D line shuns spotlight in Detroit
Posted: Thursday February 2, 2006 6:54PM; Updated: Thursday February 2, 2006 6:54PM
Casey Hampton earned a Pro Bowl berth this season despite not recording a sack.
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
DETROIT -- Joey Porter's mouthing off -- again -- Jerome Bettis has been pressing more flesh than any three politicians and Troy Polamalu and his hair have become the biggest hit Motown has seen since I Heard it through the Grapevine.
On the other side of the spectrum there's short, pudgy (but don't call him that), overweight (don't even go there) Casey Hampton and his buds on the Pittsburgh defensive line.
We're not saying these guys are wasting away from a lack of recognition here at the Super Bowl. Let's face it: Anything in a Steelers jersey this week is in danger of massive, smothering, Trump-like overexposure. Still, compared to Porter, Bettis, Polamalu, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, coach Bill Cowher and many, many other Steelers, the D line is plugging away in relative obscurity this week.
Which, fortunately for them, is just how they like it.
"My guys love not being in the limelight," says the team's defensive line coach, John Mitchell. "They know their job. We tell our guys that you can be the reason that somebody else makes the plays."
That sentiment may seem a little coach-speakish, a tad pre-packaged, maybe, a little falsely team-centric. But when it comes to playing football Sunday night -- there is a rumor spreading ever-so slowly around town that they're planning a football game here that night -- lots of people in the game know that nobody will be more important to the team's success than its D line.
It's this simple: Priority No. 1 for the Steelers is to stop Seahawks running back and league MVP Shaun Alexander from going off. Hampton, Kimo von Oelhoffen and Aaron Smith -- the three guys who put the 3 in the Steelers' 3-4 defense -- are the literal first, and most important, line of defense against Alexander.
If they don't bottle him up, the Steelers are in deep, deep trouble.
The Steelers, as we've all been reminded during Super Bowl week, always have had a special place in their hardened little hearts for defense. The Steel Curtain defense of the '70s is revered in the Steel City as the best the NFL has ever seen.
"We hear about it every day," von Oelhoffen says. "That is part of the tradition that we are part of."