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Which Defense Is Older: Steelers or Ravens?


The Ravens

and Steelers have both heard the claims over the years that their celebrated defenses are getting older and aren't what they used to be.

For both teams, the faces of the defense – Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Troy Polamalu and James Harrison – are playing into their twilight years.

But which group is truly older?

Here's a look at each team's starting defensive lineup, according to the most-recent depth chart (cornerback Corey Graham has replaced Jimmy Smith because Smith has been ruled out Sunday after undergoing groin surgery):

Ravens   Steelers
Haloti Ngata (28) Ziggy Hood (25)
Ma'ake Kemoeatu (33) Casey Hampton (35)
Pernell McPhee (23) Brett Keisel (34)
Terrell Suggs (30) LaMarr Woodley (28)
Dannell Ellerbe (26) Larry Foote (32)
Jameel McClain (27) Lawrence Timmons (26)
Paul Kruger (26) James Harrison (34)
Corey Graham (27) Keenan Lewis (26)
Cary Williams (27) Ike Taylor (32)
Bernard Pollard (27) Troy Polamalu (31)
Ed Reed (34) Ryan Clark (33)
Average Age: 28 Average Age: 30.5

The Steelers are an older bunch at most positions, and have just four players on their starting defense under the age of 30. The Ravens have just three players over 30 years old.

"I think our defense is pretty young," inside linebacker Jameel McClain said. "Check the lineups we have out there now and all the people we have getting involved and we're actually probably younger than people believe. That's to our benefit."

The Ravens defense clearly got much younger when 37-year-old linebacker Ray Lewis went down with a torn triceps muscle. But even if he were starting in place of Ellerbe, that would only bump the Ravens' average age to 29, still a year and a half younger than Pittsburgh.

While the Steelers are the older bunch, that hasn't hurt their production. They still have the top-ranked defense in the NFL, and Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh said that the perceived decline of the Steelers defense was way overblown.

"It was greatly exaggerated, no doubt," Harbaugh said, referencing Mark Twain's famous "greatly exaggerated" quote. "They look great. They are playing great. They are the No. 1 defense in the league – run, pass, big plays, sacks; they are still getting sacks. It's just a premier defense, no doubt."

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