It’s championship time in our “In the Trenches” bracket in which the fans decide who has the best defense in the NFL. The Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks have advanced to the championship. Which team has the best defense in the NFL?
It’s up to the fans to decide who wins it all, but here’s what PFW had to say about the matchup:
Senior editor Eric Edholm:
“I think people might be surprised to see the Seahawks (over, say, the 49ers) in this spot, and it requires a bit of a projection. This was a top-10 defense a year ago, but not a top-five group. In order to get to the Steelers’ level, they’ll have to jack up the pass rush — especially on third downs. That’s what bringing in Bruce Irvin and Jason Jones is expected to do. The linebackers are a good group, maybe not a special one, but that young, fierce, playmaking secondary and a deep, strong and talented defensive line have me very excited to see what they look like. The Steelers might be the better group today, but they have big questions — age and injury potential chief among them — at every level of the defense. We might have seen the best of Casey Hampton, James Harrison and Troy Polamalu. Could they have one more great season left in them? Sure. But I expect a small slide down the rankings statistically.”
Associate editor Kevin Fishbain:
“Steelers: In a few years, the answer might be Seahawks, but Pittsburgh still reigns supreme in this matchup. As good as the Seahawks’ safeties are, Troy Polamalu is arguably the best in the league. The Seahawks’ have talent on the D-line with Red Bryant, and they might have the edge in that department, but the Steelers’ edge at linebacker is insurmountable for Seattle. Seahawks fans, just look: James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons vs. K.J. Wright, Barrett Ruud and Leroy Hill? That’s not even a competition. It’s simply not fair. Add in Dick LeBeau and the fact that the Steelers had the No. 1 defense in the NFL last season, and Pittsburgh should win this handily.”
Associate editor Arthur Arkush:
“About the only scenario where I could see myself anointing the Seahawks 'D' ahead of the Steelers’ is in upside — and even there I would likely go with Pittsburgh. We’ve been over Seattle’s exciting secondary and underrated defensive line, but there is a reason Pittsburgh’s defense isn’t underrated and doesn’t fly under the radar: It has been the league’s gold standard for so long. If James Harrison, Troy Polamalu and Co. are slowing down, yet still leading the NFL in total defense and points allowed a season ago, we can all only hope to age as gracefully.”
Producer Mark Schoeck:
“The Steelers are the obvious choice, and rightfully so. Earl Thomas may be the best player on that Seahawks unit, but Troy Polamalu is the best safety in the league. The Seahawks LB corps pale in comparison to the Steelers. But personnel isn’t why the Steelers are so much better. They were first in yards and points allowed in 2011 not because of great players, but a battle-tested Dick LeBeau scheme that isn’t going anywhere. Were the Seahawks players in Steelers uniforms and coached by Dick LeBeau, they might be in the argument.”
Senior producer Adam Anshell:
“Let me start by saying that I like the Seahawks defense. I think they were a good unit last year that will be even better this year. Maybe even among the elite in the NFL in 2012. But they're not a top-two unit. They're certainly not better than the 49ers and they're a small step behind the Steelers as well. Even though 2011 felt like a drop-off year for the Steelers, they still led the league in total defense and points allowed. With an influx of youth, I expect them to be even better in 2012. If the Seahawks defense can get a pass rush out of the guys that they've brought in, they could challenge to be a top-five defense, but outside of ballot-box-stuffing by the hordes of Seahawks fans, this shouldn't be close.”
Senior editor Mike Wilkening:
"The Seahawks’ defense is on the rise. The Seahawks have an above-average defensive line, and their secondary, led by the Pro Bowl safety tandem of Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, is impressive, too. However, the Steelers’ defense is on another level. Seattle’s defense would have to take a leap forward to be on par with Pittsburgh, which allowed the fewest yards and points in the NFL a season ago. And as much as I like the Seahawks’ secondary, the Steelers allowed the fewest passing yards in the game in 2011. Pittsburgh gets the edge here."
Contributing writer Mitch Fraser:
"As confident as I was that the 49ers were a better defense than the Seahawks, I’m equally if not more confident that the Steelers are also, like the Niners, in a different category. Yes, the Seahawks have good young talent and do boast an elite secondary, but overall they cannot compare with the Steelers 'D.' Behind Polamalu and Harrison’s tough-nosed attitudes towards the defensive side of the ball the Steelers have been a defensive juggernaut, and not to mention legend Dick LeBeau is calling the shots. The Seahawks' secondary gets an edge because the Steelers' secondary gets exposed at times. But overall, championship blowout for the Steelers."