While Pittsburgh sports fans watch our beloved Pirates fight to end the town's baseball playoff drought, the Steelers are waiting for training camp to begin. While it's fun to watch the Buccos compete on the diamond, everyone in Pittsburgh is just waiting for the Steelers' next big move. And while you can watch ROOT Sports or catch-up with Pirates' blog sites to debate all-time lineups for the team, why not pick the best of both worlds and develop an all-time Steelers baseball lineup?
A lot of football fans from the late 80's and the early 90's can reminisce about Nintendo's Tecmo Super Bowl. Many football fans still have a nostalgic connection with this video game to the point where it is still played tournaments are still played on a system as outdated as the last time the Bengals won a playoff game. (And that's longer than the Pirates!) But a game that doesn't get as much attention is the classic sports/RPG video game: Baseball Stars!
So if you've never played Baseball Stars before, the basic concept was that you would make a team from scratch. It was the first sports video game that allowed you to name all of your players and build them up from being a weak low-talent ball-club, to a team that could compete with the best players in baseball history. As a kid I spent days building lineups with my best friends, family and classmates and won plenty of championship series.
Recently I decided to start a Steelers team on Baseball Stars in my boredom on a long flight. I figured this would be a fun and creative way to look at what Steelers could make a dugout. The game allows for eight starters, two starting pitchers, 2 relievers, 1 closer and 5 pinch players. So with those parameters here's the lineup:
Naturally I filled the pitching staff with Steelers quarterbacks. Terry Bradshaw is a must as a starting pitcher, he had the consistency to lead a team throughout an entire football game, and is probably the closest thing the Steelers have ever had to an ace. Bobby Layne was one of the greatest passers of his generation, and he was a Steeler for the last 4 seasons of his career. To be honest, I don't know much about Bobby Layne outside of what my grandfather told me, but I figured an NFL legend that spent at least a few seasons with the franchise (WHICH IS WHY JOHNNY UNITAS IS NOT IN THIS LIST!) deserves some consideration.
"Jefferson Street" Joe Gilliam Jr. was the player who battled with Terry Bradshaw for the starting quarterback position during the 1974 Super Bowl season. Franco Harris spoke highly of him as a player, and although he did not have many big games for the franchise, he is regarded as a trailblazer for African-American quarterbacks in the NFL.
Kordell Stewart is a quarterback who deserves more love than he is given from the Steelers fan-base. He wouldn't be a closer, just a pitcher to segue from the starter to the player we all want to have in the clutch.
Ben Roethlisberger might be the best personification of a closer in all the NFL. His late game heroics after offensive and defensive battles have earned him the reputation of a gunslinger that most analysts would want for that final drive in the game. It only makes sense to put him on the mound when you need those last three outs in a game.
Catcher - Joe Greene: Would anyone try to ever run him over to get to home plate? I don't think so.
1st Base - Franco Harris: I always feel that any Steelers list without Franco Harris is a disservice to society. I was not sure where to put him, so I figured here was as good as any other.
2nd Base - John Stallworth: A speedster who can catch and had the strength to level to Raiders defenders with one block? Sounds like a winner.
3rd Base - Rod Woodson: Even coming off of his ACL injury, Woodson was able to be a problem for Michael Irvin in Super Bowl XXX. His speed, hands and reaction time would be great for stopping liners down the third base line.
Shortstop - Lynn Swann: I like the idea of an acrobatic shortstop who can make great plays to setup double plays.
Left Field - Hines Ward: Not lightning speed, but just fast enough to be effective in left field. His college quarterback experienced arm can help with throwing out base runners from deep. Also his strength could add some pop to his bat.
Right Field - Antwan Randle El: In his prime his speed made him among the fastest players in the NFL. But his arm as a former quarterback would also help getting a runner out who thinks they're safe when the ball is in the outfield.
Center Field - Troy Polamalu: This one seems like a no-brainer. He can be anywhere he needs to be to make the catch and has great awareness. As a safety, this would be his natural baseball position.
Mike Wallace and Santonio Holmes are two of the fastest speedsters the Steelers have had in the modern-pass-happy NFL era. They'd be perfect players to send in and steal a base in a pinch when you need it.
Jack Lambert, Gregg Lloyd and Mel Blount are some of the toughest athletes to ever play for the franchise. If not for any power to get hits, these guys would be great when there's a bench clearing brawl.
After developing the team and their skills I matched them up in a 7 game series with the vaunted American Dream team. Although they were not impossible to beat manually once you were used to the game, they almost always beat any team in simulation. After a seven game series however, the All-Time Steelers won five games the to the Dreams' two.
Rod Woodson won the Triple Crown of the series, and Terry Bradshaw out-pitched the American Dream's Cy Young in the series.
If you're going to try this, you'll need to make all of your pitching staff as strong as possible. The American Dream can only be beaten if you don't allow their all-star lineup of Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Willie Mays and other hitters are kept in check.
So that's it; I'm sure there are opinions out there who think certain players don't belong here and I disrespected other Steeler greats. However this can be a fun topic to talk about without the buzz of training camp or a football season.