The Steel Curtain was the front four of the defensive line of the 1970s American football team Pittsburgh Steelers of the National Football League (NFL). This defense was the backbone of the Steelers dynasty, which won four Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV), in six years.
The Steelers began their 1976 season 1–4 and lost their quarterback, Terry Bradshaw. For the nine games remaining in the season, the Steelers recorded five shutouts (three of them back to back), and only allowed two touchdowns (both in a single game), and five field goals. The defense allowed an average 3.1 points per game and the team had an average margin of victory of 22 points. Eight of the Steelers' starting eleven defensive players were selected for the Pro Bowl that year, and four would be selected to the Hall of Fame.
The Steel Curtain's famed front four were:
- No. 75 "Mean" Joe Greene – defensive tackle, 1969–1981 (1969 Defensive Rookie of the Year; 1972 and 1974 Defensive Player of the Year; NFL 1970s All-Decade Team; Pro Football Hall of Fame)
- No. 68 L. C. Greenwood – defensive end, 1969–1981 (NFL 1970s All-Decade Team)
- No. 63 Ernie Holmes – defensive tackle, 1972–1977
- No. 78 Dwight White – defensive end, 1971–1980
Greene is currently the only surviving member of the four, following the deaths of Holmes and White within five months of each other in 2008 and the death of Greenwood in 2013.
Origin of the nickname
The nickname "Steel Curtain", a play on the phrase "Iron Curtain" popularized by former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, originated in a 1971 contest sponsored by Pittsburgh radio station WTAE to name the defense. The name was also a play on Pittsburgh's reputation for steel production. The contest was won by Gregory Kronz, a ninth grader at a suburban high school. According to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "he was just one of 17 people who submitted the 'Steel Curtain' moniker to the WTAE contest, necessitating a drawing for the grand prize," which Kronz won.
- Battista, Judy (January 31, 2009). "Steelers’ Defense Recalls Steel Curtain Memories". The New York Times. Retrieved May 28, 2017.
- NFL Network (2008-05-28). "Top 10 nicknames in NFL history". NFL.com. Retrieved 2008-06-24.
- Ruth Ann Dailey (2006-01-30). "Steel Curtain seeks heavenly help". post-gazette.com. Retrieved 2012-09-30.