The 1978 Pittsburgh Steelers are what a great team looks like and to me the definition of what a great team looks like so to the point as their cover corner back Mell Blount saying that “the NFL changed its rules in 1978 to slow down the Steelers so they weren’t so dominant”. That they went from being a power run ball control offense in the mid-1970s to a vertical pass offense with two deep threats in wide receiver in John Stallworth. Who to me is the Michael Irvin of his generation with his size and strength, but with great speed and could get by you just by running by you. Which made QB Terry Bradshaw’s job a lot more fun because he had a big strong accurate arm that could go deep.
Bradshaw had the WRs to throw the ball to and the Steelers still had their power running game with tailback Franco Harris and tailback Rocky Blier. And they still had their Steel Curtain Two-Gap defense that could stuff the run and attack the QB just with their front four. With defensive tackle Joe Greene arguably the best defensive lineman of all-time. Defensive end LC Greenwood who should be in the Hall of Fame and DE Dwight White. And with middle linebacker Jack Lambert the best MLB of his era and Jack Ham the best outside linebacker of his era. With the Steelers front seven they could stuff the run, attack the QB and cover the whole field.
With those players and with CB Mell Blount I believe the best CB off all-time, you hated being the top WR on the other team because it meant the QB wasn’t going to throw you the ball. And with safeties Donnie Shell and Mike Wagner, you weren’t throwing the ball deep against the Steelers. You couldn’t really run the ball on the Steelers even though you really only had to block four players. Pass protection was almost impossible with the Steelers front four and even if you had time to throw, who you going to throw the ball to, no one is open.
The 1978 Steelers were so great not so good, but so great that the NFL changed the rules to slow them down. And so they were so dominant, other than the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and maybe the Miami Dolphins no one could give the Steelers a hard time before the 1978 rule changes. Which were aimed at the Steelers Steel Curtain defense. The illegal contact rule, meaning you couldn’t jam a WR after five yards. The new blocking rules aimed at Joe Greene that outlawed head slapping. But that didn’t slow the Steelers because they just adapted to the new rule changes meaning that their defense was probably not going to be as dominant anymore.
But again these are the Pittsburgh Steelers, they have Chuck Knoll as their head coach, Terry Bradshaw as their QB and Franco Harris the at TB, with John Stallworth and Lynn Swann at WR. Which meant they just needed to open up the offense and score more points. Go to the vertical pass offense to complement their power running game. The Steelers didn’t change to fit in with rest of the NFL, but they adapted and overcame and made themselves better to utilize the other talent that they had and not rely so much on their defense and power running. That’s what the 1978 Steelers were and what a great team looks like. You make a move at them they make another move and get better than they were already are.
There are a lot of teams to choose from as the best team of all-time and I’m referring to the Super Bowl era including the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins. But I take the 78 Steelers because of their head coach who was also their general manager in Chuck Knoll, who was great at both jobs. And could go to the Hall of Fame in either role, who was a defensive head coach as he built the Steel Curtain defense. But understood offense well enough that he knew what type of offense he wanted the Steelers to have. And then go out and get the players to play in that offense and of course not just the talent but how well they played together and how dominant they were.