NFL teams fear the Pittsburgh Steelers defense.
And they have for a number of years. From the Steel Curtain in the 70s to the James Harrison and Troy Polamalu era of today, the vaunted Steelers' defense has been as close to as impenetrable as they come.
But years ago, Tom Brady and the New England Patriots found a way to score on Pittsburgh. And teams took notice. It was a simple formula: Don't run the ball, pass the ball.
The Patriots laid the blueprint to beat the Steelers. Other teams quickly followed. And before the Steelers knew it, they were having to try to win high-scoring games.
Pittsburgh was dealing with weak and young cornerbacks. The days of Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake were long gone. All-Pro receivers looked like they were playing against high schoolers when they went up against the Steelers' secondary. Quarterbacks had field days.
Steeler fans groaned and begged for a high draft pick to help the secondary. And while the arrival of Troy Polamalu signaled the beginning of a turn around, one man can only do so much.
Ike Taylor was the only preaching about how good he can play. The only problem was, Taylor was still getting burned like toast a few times every game.
But last season, things looked like they were beginning to turn around.
The Steelers' defense averaged 214.1 pass yards per game. Teams struggled against the defensive scheme of Dick LeBeau. It looked like the secondary issues had been resolved. Enter Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Rodgers and the Packers once again implemented a game plan similar to Brady and the Patriots. Rodgers finished with 304 yards and three touchdowns en route to earning the MVP award in Super Bowl XLVI.
With all of the hoopla and problems in the offseason with the lockout, no one ever figured Pittsburgh would be able to find a way to solve it's secondary issues for 2011-2012.
But Pittsburgh found a way to prove everyone completely wrong.
To date, the Steelers rank No. 1 in the league in pass defense, allowing just 179.1 yards per game and an average of 1.07 touchdowns per game.
Considering that Taylor and Polamalu are nearing the end of their prime, this is a feat in itself. Aside from Taylor and Polamalu, only Steelers fans could tell you the names of the other members of the secondary.
And while the players deserve credit for the turn around, perhaps Head Coach Mike Tomlin deserves just as much. Tomlin hired the aforementioned Carnell Lake to coach the secondary.
Who better to fix a damaged defense than someone who played for the Steelers and knows the rich history of the Steel Curtain. Lake has instilled his wisdom and knowledge into the secondary, all the while making sure they play defense the Pittsburgh Steeler way.
It's been an entire team effort to turn the Steelers' secondary around, and in turning the passing defense from mediocre to top-of-the-league, credit and kudos must be given to the entire organization.