The Steel Curtain was the nickname given to the front four of the famous defensive line of the American football team Pittsburgh Steelers during their 1970s dynasty years. This defense was the backbone of the Steelers dynasty, which won 4 Super Bowls (IX, X, XIII, and XIV). Over the years, the nickname evolved into a reference to the entire defensive squad.
In the 1976 season, the Steelers' defense was a juggernaut, arguably the greatest defense of all time. After the Steelers started 1–4 and lost their quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, the Steelers' defense took over for the remaining nine games. The Steelers recorded five shutouts, including three in a row, during this stretch. During this nine-game stretch the Steelers allowed a total of two touchdowns (in the same 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. Four would be selected to the Hall of Fame.
The Steel Curtain's famed front four were:
- #75 "Mean Joe" (Charles Edward) Greene – defensive tackle, 1969–1981 (1969 Defensive Rookie of the Year; 1972 & 1974 Defensive Player of the Year; NFL 1970s All-Decade Team; Hall of Fame)
- #68 L. C. Greenwood – defensive end, 1969–1981 (NFL 1970s All-Decade Team)
- #63 Ernie Holmes – defensive tackle, 1972–1977
- #78 Dwight White – defensive end, 1971–1980
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 contest was won by Gregory Kronz, then 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.
- Ruth Ann Dailey (2006). Rev. Kronz and the Steel Curtain. Retrieved January 30, 2006.