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Danny O'Neil covers the Seahawks for The Seattle Times.

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January 21, 2009 1:16 PM

Seahawks-Steelers, Then and Now (v.4)

Posted by Danny O'Neil

Here it is. One more instance of this blog's ongoing effort to take a sledgehammer and bang home the point that three years after the Seahawks and Steelers played in the Super Bowl that Pittsburgh has played its way back to the game while Seattle is coming off its worst season since 1992.

Now, we look at the defensive statistics from then compared to now:

PittsburghRush yards allowedRankPass yards allowedRankPoints allowedRank
20058631981616.13
200880.32156.9113.91
SeattleRush yards allowedRankPass yards allowedRankPoints allowedRank
200594.45222.42516.97
2008118.718259.33224.525

 

The implications of those numbers are that Pittsburgh had one of the best defenses in the league in 2005 and continues to have that despite changing five starters.The Steelers stopped the run then, and they stop the run now. Pittsburgh rushed the bejeezus out of opposing passers in 2005 -- racking up 47 sacks -- and they did that this season as well to the tune of 51 sacks. The results didn't change although some of the names did.

In 2005, Pittsburgh's top two pass rushers were outside linebackers Joey Porter and Clark Haggans. Porter led the team with 10.5 sacks, Haggans was second with 9. Three seasons later, Pittsburgh's two top pass rushers were its outside linebackers only now those positions were filled by James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Harrison had 16 sacks and was named the league's defensive MVP. Woodley had 12 sacks.

That speaks to Pittsburgh's ability to generate its own replacement parts, which is the key to sustaining success in the salary-cap era. A successful team simply can't afford to pay all of its most successful players. The only way to not experience a dropoff is to have someone ready to fill that void when players do leave for greener pastures. That's just what the Steelers have done. Woodley was a second-round pick, Harrison an undrafted free agent signed by the team in 2002.

Seattle's defense was statistically solid in 2005. The Seahawks were among the league's best run defenses and led the league with 50 sacks. Those two totals were deceiving, though. Seattle's offense was the strength of that team, and consequently teams had to play catch-up. That meant more throws, hence the lack of rushing yards and the preponderance of sacks.

Seattle still has two of its top three pass rushers from that season. Leroy Hill had 7.5 sacks as a rookie, Rocky Bernard had 8.5 sacks in what was -- conveniently enough -- a year in which he was playing for a new contract. Hill has six sacks total in the three seasons since while Bernard hasn't had more than 4 sacks in any of the previous three seasons.

The Seahawks have changed seven defensive starters since Super Bowl XL, and four of those were signed as free agents: defensive end Patrick Kerney, linebacker Julian Peterson and safeties Brian Russell and Deon Grant.

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