As I can surely attest to, everyone has an opinion. Some carry more weight than others simply because of their own personal experiences. Such as the case as a couple of former Pittsburgh Steelers have had plenty to say about the current team and they aren’t holding back.
J.T. Thomas won four Super Bowls in the 1970’s after being a first round draft pick of the Steelers in 1973.
Former Steelers great DB JT Thomas on the Steelers defense: "They don't have a leader."
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 4, 2021
Let’s examine. First of all, Thomas hasn’t been in the Steelers’ locker room as a player since the 1980’s. Things do change from what I’m told as do the times and the people. But does Thomas have a point?
Cam Heyward is the captain and therefore leader of this defense. I find it hard to believe he is not a good leader but is his one voice enough? Minkah Fitzpatrick has been described as being nearly mute at times. He’s not an outspoken guy. T.J. Watt is a fiery player often speaking loudly with his play but is he the type of “leader” Thomas is talking about?
He played with Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Mean Joe Greene, Jack Ham… All are Hall of Famers and thought to be widely regarded as leaders. Is this what he’s referring to? Or is Thomas just another bitter former player who wants today’s generation to get off of his lawn?
Also adding his two cents was former Steelers’ safety Chris Hope who played alongside Troy Polamalu in Super Bowl XL.
Former Steelers DB Chris Hope on @937theFan talking about the Steelers 2020 defense: "No disrespect to them, but I get offended when people talk about that defense like it was one of the best defenses in Steelers history."
— Andrew Fillipponi (@ThePoniExpress) February 5, 2021
While this current version of the Black and Gold defense is very good Hope is correct. There have been defenses better than this one but there’s also some perspective needed.
If we cite the defenses of the dynasty days we must remember how different the game was. Defensive backs could actually touch receivers and quarterbacks could actually be breathed on. In the mid 1990’s and 2000’s, those defenses were led by tremendous players and role players who took great pride in doing their job for the unit.
Take for instance Aaron Smith who was one of the most underrated players Steelers’ history or even Brett Keisel. Their high level of play allowed the stars around them to flourish. The current installment of this defense has this to a degree but it isn’t as consistent or as good.
It would be easy to dismiss these comments for myriad reasons but there is a little bit of truth too. Both things can be true and that’s OK. Criticism can often be a good thing.