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The Dallas Cowboys are going to visit the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday. If you’re a football fan of any level, you’re excited about this.
This is the meeting of arguably the two most historic organizations to ever field professional football teams. It happens once every four years, and it’s a moment to be properly hyped up.
In preparation for the upcoming duel, I was doing some research on the last time these two squads battled at Heinz Field, where the contest will take place. It was December 7th, 2008 and it was quite the nail-biter.
Those 2008 Steelers were pretty good. They won Super Bowl XLIII over the Arizona Cardinals, so that makes them the best in the world that season. Part of what made them tick was their league-leading defense, coordinated by Pro Football Hall of Famer Dick LeBeau.
Coach LeBeau has a very famous detail when it comes to coaching defense in the NFL – 17 points. As a defense, if he can limit the opposing offense to 17 points or less then he feels like his offense can beat that. 17 points. Dick LeBeau, who is the current Defensive Coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, has to be quite happy with the 2016 Dallas Cowboys as their defense is holding their opponents to 17.5 points on average through Week 9.
Through eight games, the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers played five of the eight teams that the 2016 Cowboys have through eight performances: Cleveland, Philadelphia, Cincinnati, New York Giants, and Washington. All of these teams have experienced significant turnover as it’s been eight seasons, but we’re talking about 63% of the same franchises here.
The “mighty” 2008 Steelers, through eight games, were holding their opponents to 14.5 points on average… just three less than our current Cowboys. Pretty interesting, isn’t it? A defense that is regarded as one of the best in the history of Super Bowl Champions was only a field goal better than Rod Marinelli’s Mighty Orphans through eight games.
Pittsburgh carried an impressive distinction with them into that December 7th game when they hosted the Cowboys. Up until that point the most yards surrendered to a single running back by the Steelers were the 73 earned by New England’s Kevin Faulk. The Cowboys took a rookie running back into that game, and had one on the sidelines injured for what it’s worth, with odds stacked against them.
The rookie running back in question was current Cowboys Coach Tashard Choice. He broke down the eventual World Champions more than any running back that had come before him that season, all the way to the tune of 88 yards. It was an impressive feat for a rookie running back on the Cowboys, a sentence we’ve muttered seemingly over and over this season.
While the NFL is entering Week 10, the Dallas Cowboys have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher. America’s Team has the stingiest defense when it comes to opposing RBs hitting triple digits, just like the 2008 Pittsburgh Steelers.
Considering that at the same point in the season that team was only three points better than ours defensively, I’d say we’re in some pretty solid company. You can’t fight destiny.