Best NFL defense: Steelers or Giants?

Posted June 13, 2012 @ 12:51 p.m.
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The second “In the Trenches” matchup searching for the best defense in the NFL matches up the Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Giants. The fans will decide which team moves on to the semifinals to face the Baltimore Ravens. Here’s what the PFW staff had to say about the two defenses:

Associate editor Arthur Arkush:
“The one clear advantage the Giants’ defense has over the Steelers’ is applying pressure. New York’s front four is just loaded with pass rushers who can get upfield in a variety of ways. But in nearly every other statistical category, Pittsburgh is a notch above New York. Now, that’s not to say the aging Steelers will always be on top, but they definitely proved last season that the Pittsburgh brand of physical, aggressive 'D,' masterminded by the legendary Dick LeBeau and spearheaded by arguably the best linebacking corps in the NFL is still alive and well.”

Editor-in-chief Keith Schleiden:
“Yes, the Giants are the defending Super Bowl champs, and they held the explosive Patriots to a mere 17 points in the title game. The Steelers, on the other hand, were eliminated from the postseason after the offensively-challenged, Tim Tebow-led Broncos racked up 29 points in the wild-card round. But on any given Sunday, I’d put my money on the Steelers turning in a better defensive performance than the Giants. Pittsburgh ranked first in overall defense (yards allowed) in 2011, compared to New York’s 27th. The Steelers were also tops in the league in limiting scoring (227 points allowed), while the Giants were 25th (400). That says it all.”

Senior editor Mike Wilkening:
“The Steelers' defense is exceptionally sound, physical and consistent. Offenses aren't often going to consistently get the better of Pittsburgh over four quarters. There is a lot of focus on the Steelers' weaknesses — insert the reasonable concerns about the age of some of their stars here — but no defense gave up fewer yards and points a season ago. The Giants' defense has an outstanding line and a knack for coming up big in the postseason, but the Steelers are the better group on balance.”

Senior editor Eric Edholm:
“The stats say the Steelers — I say phooey. The Giants had two bad spells last season when the ‘D’ broke down, and it inflated the numbers to unsavory levels. But by the end of the season, which group was more dominant? The Steelers look old, and I am not sure that we haven’t seen the best of guys such as Troy Polamalu and James Harrison. The Giants are young and dangerous — their ‘old’ parts are players such as 30-year-old Osi Umenyiora, a part-time (albiet important) player now. The only position where the Steelers have an edge is at linebacker, but the Giants have big edges over them on the line and in the secondary, in my mind.”

Associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
“Steelers — I know they're older, but that front seven getting after the quarterback and stopping the run is still among the league's elite. Pair that with one of the NFL's greats at safety, and Steel City still gets the nod. The Giants stepped up late in the season and get the edge at pass rush, but I'm not as confident in their linebackers and secondary as I am in Pittsburgh's.”

Producer Mark Schoeck:
“It looks like the Giants have the Steelers beat in terms of dominant personnel on all levels. So why have two of the past four Defensive Player of the Year awards gone to Steelers, and none have gone to the Giants? Because the Steelers are more efficient, better coached, and they continue to rank among the league’s best in yards and points allowed year after year. That includes 2011, when they ranked first in each of the categories.”

Senior producer Adam Anshell:
“I'm not ready to write off the Steelers just yet. While is seemed like a down season in 2011, when you look at the numbers, that really wasn't the case. Pittsburgh led the league in total defense, but they just didn't have the big impact plays that we're used to. The roster turnover on defense has brought in an influx of new blood that should bring some life back to the defense. While it's hard to argue with a defense that led the G-Men to the Super Bowl, I'll still take the Steel Curtain in this matchup.”

Senior editor Nolan Nawrocki:
"The Giants have a more athletic, terrorizing pass rush with a havoc-wreaking group of condors that intuitively know how to spread their wings and disrupt quarterbacks, but Dick LeBeau is the best in the league at creating pressure packages with a LB unit that stacks among the NFL’s best. Having the oldest defense in the league last season took some toll in Pittsburgh, but LeBeau’s defense works best with savvy veterans who know the intricacies of his system. The presence of Troy Polamalu gives the Steelers an edge despite its advanced age."


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