by JJ Cooper
The Steelers came within an eyelash of becoming the first team to lead the NFL in rushing defense, passing defense, total defense and scoring defense. But thanks to Jamal Lewis' 94 yards and the Giants' decision to sit Brandon Jacobs in a meaningless season ender, Pittsburgh missed the rushing defense crown by 54 yards.
Minnesota ended up allowing 76.9 yards per game on the ground, while Pittsburgh finished second by allowing 80.2 yards. Pittsburgh actually allowed less yards per carry than the Vikings (by two hundredths of a yard), but Minnesota faced 29 less rushing attempts.
Pittsburgh's most impressive stat was its passing defense. Pittsburgh ended up allowing only 156.9 yards per game through the air, 23 yards per game better than second place Philadelphia. The difference between Philly and 12th-ranked Green Bay is only 22 yards.
Pittsburgh also finished first in total yardage allowed (237.2), yards per play (3.9) and points allowed (13.9). All in all, this has to rank as the Steelers' most impressive defensive effort since the 1976 team rolled off shutout after shutout. But as great as it is, it's still too soon to figure out where it ranks and compares to the Blitzburgh and Steel Curtain defenses of the past--that will be determined when the playoffs are done.