PITTSBURGH — The Pittsburgh Steelers, once known for their innovative defenses, are thinking about copying the 46 defense of the Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears.
Defensive coordinator Tony Dungy said the Steelers will experiment with the defense in training camp this summer before deciding whether to use it in regular season games.
"If it looks good, then we'll stay with it and probably build on it," Dungy said.
The 46 defense is named for former Bears defensive back Doug Plank, who wore No. 46. It is a different version of the 4-3 defense the Steelers played during their four Super Bowl championship seasons in the 1970s.
The Steelers discarded the 4-3 three years ago and went to the 3-4 defense, which utilizes four linebackers and three down linemen. The 4-3 defense has two defensive ends and two tackles and only three linebackers.
"The 46 things is really a small part of what we're trying to do," Dungy said. "We haven't shelved any of our defenses. We're just going to emphasize big plays and we're going to play the people who make them."
The Steelers used a conservative defensive scheme last year aimed at minmizing big plays. Their defense ranked sixth overall in the National Football League, but produced fewer turnovers--and fewer victories--than a more wide-open scheme they used in 1984.
The Steelers advanced to the American Conference championship game in 19884, but slumped to 7-9 last year, their first losing season in 15 years.
"We didn't have that killer instinct," Dungy said. "We've just got to come up with a big-play attitude."
In the 46 defense, the primary pass rusher is a defensive end on what is called the weak side. Three linebackers bunch up on the other side of the four-man line, which overloads away from the three linebackers. The strong safety acts as a fourth linebacker, in essence creating a 4-4 defense with four down linemen and four linebackers.
"If you want to play it fulltime, you've got to have great up-front people," Dungy said. "They've got to get pressure. There can't be any ties, they've got to beat their guys."