I have read enough mock drafts lately that I am seeing them in my sleep, and no matter how much I enjoy them its time for a change. I decided to pick my All-Time Steelers team. This has been done previously many times, but should give everyone something to read here in the offseason.
The team has been chosen from my memories of watching Steeler football (started about age of 5 in 1976), and of the many Steeler books that I have in my library. Unfortunately I don't have any true visual knowledge of the pre-70's games except for what I have seen in highlights. I do have an extensive dvd collection (transferred from vhs recently) containing full games from the 70's, 80's, 90's and 2000's, and have enjoyed watching many of them in the name of research for this project. The written library includes over 35 books about the team and players and I have read them all on different occasions. So after researching all of my available materials, and having a lot of fun doing so, I have put together the following team. I hope everyone enjoys reading this as much as I did putting it together.
The players and coaches will be listed in the order of the depth chart ie. 1st = starter, 2nd = co-starter or back-up depending on position. After each player there will be a list of accolades and/or comments. Also there is an honorable mention made at most positions.
1.Chuck Noll (1969-91) 4x SB Champ, 1993 HOF Inductee, NFL 70's & 80's all-decade teams, 209 career victories. coached 23 years and was the first coach to win 4 Super Bowls
Honorable Mention Bill Cowher (1992-2006) SB XL champ, 1992 NFL Coach of the Year, 149 victories for a 10 wins a season avg.
Bill Cowher is a great coach, and a personal favorite, but I can't see how anyone could rank higher than possibly the greatest coach of all time, Chuck Noll.
1. Terry Bradshaw (1970-83) 4x Super bowl winner, 1989 HOF inductee, 2x SB MVP, 3x pro bowl, 1978 1st team all-pro, 1978 NFL MVP, NFL 70's all decade team. the only player for the Steelers to win league MVP in modern NFL history
2. Ben Roethlisberger (2004-present) 2x SB winner, 3x AFC champion, 2x pro bowl. Steelers all-time leader in all passing categories and as long as he's not jinxed by the Steelers curse will be a future HOFer
3. Neil O'Donnell (1990-95) led team to SB XXX, 2nd highest QB rating in Steelers history, 1992 pro bowl. Only 1 of 4 Steelers to have more TDs than Ints
Honorable Mention Bobby Layne (1958-62) 1967 HOF inductee, 2x pro bowl, 2x 2nd team all pro
Bradshaw gets the nod over Big Ben here simply due to his 4 and 0 record in the big game. Both QBs are great under pressure and more than capable of leading this team. The third position and I'm sure the most controversial one on the team was a little harder to make. Normally a Hall of Fame player makes the list automatically, but in Layne's case, his hall of fame induction is based more on accomplishments he had before coming to the Steelers. Everyone loves to hate O'Donnell, however if you take away the one interception in SB XXX with 4 minutes to play and Neil more than likely has a super bowl ring like the men ahead of him on this list.
With the running back position, it has been broken down into two categories, the runners and the blockers. Normally this would be HB and FB, but in the 70's Harris was the FB and Bleier the HB, and I believe this would be reversed in today's teams.
RUNNING BACKS RUNNERS
1. Franco Harris (1972-83) 4x super bowl winner, 1990 HOF inductee, 9x pro bowl, 1977 all pro, SB IX MVP, 1972 rookie of the year. Just two words here Immaculate Reception
2. Jerome Bettis (1996-2005) SB XL champion, 5x pro bowl, 1996 1st team all pro, 1997 2nd team all pro, 6th leading rusher in NFL history. Once the voters get over their Steelers biasness will be in HOF
3. John Henry Johnson (1960-65) 1987 HOF inductee, 3x pro bowl, 1962 all pro, led Steelers in rushing 4x and is still 4th on Steelers rushing list. Was the 1st Steeler RB to gain 1000+ yds in a season
Honorable Mention Willie Parker (2004-09) 2x SB winner, 2x pro bowl, 2007 all pro. Longest run in Super Bowl history (75)
RUNNING BACKS BLOCKERS
1. Rocky Bleier (1968, 71-80) 4x SB Champ, 1976 topped 1000 yds along with Harris. There is no better team player and has to have the most inspirational story of any player (if you are not familiar just ask and myself or someone else will tell you).
2. Merrill Hoge (1987-93) 12th all time Steelers rushing list, 11th all time Steelers receiving list. A player clearly cut from the Rocky Bleier mold, more heart than skill, even has his own inspirational story (his just coming after his career instead of before it). Any doubts why he is on this team just take a look at the 1989 playoff games against Houston and Denver.
Honorable Mention Dan Kreider (2000-07) SB XL winner. On pure blocking ability Kreider would be on this team, but the added running and receiving skills of the men ahead of him is why he is HM.
With the RBs Harris and Bettis were no-brainers, and being a HOFer gave Johnson the edge over Parker. Barry Foster was also considered in this spot, but health issues kept him from being more successful (probably a good thing because if he stays healthy Steelers don't trade for Bettis). The others that were thought about for the blockers were Tim Lester and John L. Williams, but neither was on the team as long as the men ahead of them.
1. Hines Ward (1998-2011) 2x SB winner, SB XL MVP, 4x pro bowl, 3x 2nd team all pro, Steelers all time leader in all Receiving categories. Ward was so tough that the NFL had to come up with a rule to protect defensive players from him becoming the 2nd Steeler to have a rule named after him. Was considered the best blocking WR in the game. Should eventually end up in Canton if he can overcome the "Steelers curse".
2. John Stallworth (1974-87) 4x SB champion, 2002 HOF inductee, 3x pro bowl, 1979 1st team all pro, 1984 comeback player of the year, 2nd all time in all Steelers rec categories. Often considered second to Swann but was just as good and could of easily been SB XIV MVP.
3. Lynn Swann (1974-82) 4x SB winner, 2001 HOF inductee, 3x pro bowl, 1978 1st team all pro, 2x 2nd team all pro, SB X MVP, NFL 70's all decade team. Known for his acrobatic catches and made a generation of young men rethink about ballet lessons.
4. Louis Lipps (1984-91) 1984 Rookie of the Year, 2x pro bowl, 2x all pro, 4th Steelers all time rec list. Could have been much better but had to suffer through some rough qb years
5. Buddy Dial (1959-63) 3x all pro, 2x pro bowl, 4th Steelers all time rec TDs. Led the Steelers in receiving 4 out of 5 years being the first to top 1000 yds in a season. Had record for most rec TDs in a season with 12 until Ward tied him in 2002
6. Antonio Brown (2010-present) 2x pro bowl, 2013 2nd team all pro, 1st player in NFL history to record 5 catches and 50 yds in every game for a season. Already 9th on Steelers rec list and with another year like last could move all the way to 4th.
Honorable Mention Santonio Holmes (2006-09) SB XLIII MVP, 12th on Steelers all time rec list. His winning catch in Super Bowl XLIII is what put him in this spot.
The last couple positions at receiver became a little more difficult to decide. Antonio got the nod for the 6th spot because he is still under contract and expected to add more to his resume. Holmes' performances in the '08 playoff run and SB XVIII is what makes him the honorable mention. Others considered here were Yancey Thigpen, Elbie Nickel, and Charles Johnson.
1. Heath Miller (2005-present) 2x SB champion, 2x pro bowl, 3rd all time Steelers rec. One of the most underrated players in todays NFL, because unlike the big # receiving TEs, Miller is just as good catching the ball as he is blocking making him a true all around TE.
2. Eric Green (1990-94) 2x pro bowl, only Steelers TE to ever lead the team in receptions for a year. Was an absolute beast when he came into the NFL, but unfortunately couldn't keep his head straight or control his greed, could have been one of the greatest.
3. Mark Bruener (1995-2003) There is no great stats for Mark, but good luck in finding a better blocking tight end.
Honorable Mention Bennie Cunningham (1976-85) 2x SB winner, played 118 games for 202 receptions and 20 TDs
Steelers Tight Ends are a little harder to decide upon, because the team likes to use their TEs primarily for blocking over the years. Even the 1st two players on this list are well known for blocking ability. Larry Brown was also a consideration for this position.
1. Mike Webster (1974-88) 4x SB champion, 1997 HOF inductee, 9x pro bowl, 9x all pro, NFL 70's & 80's all decade teams. anchored the line for the Steelers SB runs in 70's and started a great tradition at center
2. Dermonti Dawson (1988-2000) 2012 HOF inductee, 7x pro bowl, 6x all pro, NFL 90's all decade team. Bill Belichick once said that Dawson was the best offensive lineman he ever coached against
1. Alan Faneca (1998-2007) SB XL winner, 7x pro bowl, 7x all pro, NFL 2000's all decade team. Faneca should be a 1st ballot HOFer but he is going to have to overcome the "Steeler curse" and the fact that the HOF voters don't favor guards.
2. Bruce Van Dyke (1967-73) 1 pro bowl, 1972 & 73 All AFC, named to the Steelers Legends team in 2008
3. Gerry "Moon" Mullins (1971-79) 4x SB champion. Just watch SB XIV and you will see Mullins leading the way on a Franco Harris sweep that ends in a TD.
1. Tunch Ilkin (1980-92) 2x pro bowl, currently can be heard on Steelers radio
2. Jon Kolb (1969-81) 4x SB winner Protected Terry Bradshaw's blind side through the 70's and was considered one of the strongest men in the NFL during his playing years.
3. Charley Bradshaw (1961-66) 1964 & 1965 pro bowls
Offensive Linemen was by far the hardest position to decide upon who made the team. There are no stats to look at for OL, so I had to go strictly by pro bowl, all pro voting and from what I have seen watching games. There were numerous players that were looked at and an honorable mentions list could go forever, so instead here is just a few others that were considered, Maurkice Pouncey, Jeff Hartings, Duvall Love, Carlton Hasselrig, and generally the whole run-smashing line of the 1990's. In the end I went with my prejudiced opinion that the 70's offensive line was overlooked and never achieved their acknowledgement for the 4 super bowl victories.
1. Gary Anderson (1982-94) 3x pro bowl, 1985 1st team all pro, 1983 2nd team all pro, NFL 80's & 90's all decade teams, all time Steelers scoring leader. If they ever put PKs in the HOF and he can overcome the Steelers curse, Gary will be the 2nd one to be voted in after Morten Andersen.
This was the easiest position to decide on and there really is no one who came close. Some may decide to like Roy Gerela or Jeff Reed better, but there truly is no comparison.
It is now time for the heart and soul of true Steelers Football, the defense. There are 4 players listed at each position, so no matter if you are a fan of the 3-4, 4-3, or nickel, we got you covered. With the men on this list it doesn't matter what defense you run no one is going to score.
1. L C Greenwood (1969-81) 4x SB winner, 6x pro bowl, 2x 1st team all pro, NFL 70's all decade team, one quarter of the original Steel Curtain DL, 73.5 career sacks. There are many who feel Greenwood is the 1st victim of the Steelers curse and should have been in the HOF a long time ago.
2. Aaron Smith (1999-2011) 2x SB champion, 2004 pro bowl, SI 2000's all decade team. Is the idea 3-4 DE and unfortunately for him it has kept him from being recognized as the true great player that he was, because in this defense his job was to tie up blockers and let the players around him make the play on the ball.
3. Dwight White (1971-80) 4x SB champ, 2x pro bowl, 1/4 of the Steel Curtain. After suffering from pneumonia for a week and losing 20 lbs, White left the hospital and started SB IX the next day, scoring the 1st points in a Championship Game for the Steelers, recording a safety on Fran Tarkenton (the only points in the 1st half).
4. Keith Willis (1982-87,89-91) 59 career sacks including 14 in 1983 and 12 in '86. Willis was a good pass rushing DE that played in the down years of the 80's and therefore is often forgotten about.
Honorable Mention Brett Keisel (2002-present) 2x SB winner, 2010 pro bowl. Keisel is a true leader of his team's defense and has shown to be a true team player as he can tie up blockers for others or make the "splash" play himself.
Bill McPeak ( 1949-57 and 3 pro bowls) was a consideration at DE also, but in the end I couldn't find any games or highlights that allowed me to see him play. I looked at Ray Seals also, who in his two years with the Steelers posted 15.5 sacks, 1 int, and 3 FRs, but he just didn't stay with the team long enough for a spot on this team.
1. Joe Greene (1969-81) 4x SB champion, 1987 HOF inductee, 10x pro bowl, 5x 1st team all pro, 3x 2nd team all pro, 1969 defensive rookie of the year, 1972 & 74 Defensive player of the year, NFL 75th anniversary all time team, NFL 70's all decade team, cornerstone of the Steel Curtain. Hands down the greatest player in Steelers history, and he brought a nasty and winning attitude to Pittsburgh.
2. Ernie Stautner (1950-63) 1969 HOF inductee, 9x pro bowl, 10x all pro, NFL 50th anniversary all time team, NFL 50's all decade team. Only Steeler to have his jersey number (70) retired, and was considered on of the toughest men in the NFL by his peers.
3. Casey Hampton (2001-12) 2x SB winner, 5x pro bowl. Hampton doesn't have the big stat numbers, but he was the prototypical NT in the 3-4 and if there is any justice he will overcome the Steelers curse and find his way to Canton (Lord knows he was just as dominant as Sapp).
4. Ernie Holmes (1971-77) 2x SB champ, 1974 2nd team all pro, the last quarter of the infamous Steel Curtain. Many of Holmes' teammates have said that he could be just as dominant as "Mean Joe" when he wanted to, but weight problems and off the field issues kept him from achieving his true greatness.
Honorable Mention Gene Lipscomb (1961-62) 1961 1st team all pro, 1962 pro bowl (MVP of the game), known as "Big Daddy". Had Lipscomb played more than 2 years for the Steelers he would have been on this team.
Joel Steed and Gerald Williams were also under consideration for DT both having played the unheralded position of Nose Tackle for the Steelers. In the end, I just couldn't leave any of the players ahead of them off the list.
1. Jack Ham (1971-82) 4x SB champion, 1988 HOF inductee, 8x pro bowl, 6x 1st team all pro, 2x 2nd team all pro, NFL 75th anniversary all time team, NFL 70's all decade team, NFL record for most forced turnovers by a LB. Ham was named the best OLB by a consortium of sports writers and that was over Lawrence Taylor.
2. Andy Russell (1963-76) 2x SB winner, 7x pro bowl, 1975 1st team all pro, 3x 2nd team all pro. Once had a 93 yd pick 6 that has been jokingly called the longest timed play in NFL history. In my opinion Russell is a true victim of the Steelers curse and I only hope that he finds his way to Canton as a senior candidate, because he does belong there.
3. Greg Lloyd (1988-97) 5x pro bowl, 3x 1st team all pro, 1994 UPI AFC defensive player of the year. Lloyd brought the nastiness back to the Pittsburgh defense, he always said, "I wasn't hired for my disposition", but I disagree and think that attitude was exactly why he was hired.
4. James Harrison (2002,04-12) 2x SB champ, 5x pro bowl, 2x 1st team all pro, 2x 2nd team all pro, 2008 NFL Defensive player of the year. Harrison made the 2nd greatest play in Steelers history with his 100 yd int ret for a TD (the longest in super bowl history) in SB XVIII.
There have been numerous OLBs that have been successful with the Steelers and instead of an honorable mention for one here is the 4 that came closest to making the team, Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, Kevin Greene, and Chad Brown. Harrison's DPOY and SB XVIII int is what separated him from Gildon and Porter. In the end Greene and Brown just didn't have the longevity on the Steelers of the men ahead of them.
1. Jack Lambert (1974-84) 4x SB winner, 1990 HOF inductee, 9x pro bowl, 7x 1st team all pro, 1978 2nd team all pro, NFL 75th anniversary all time team, NFL 70's & 80's all decade teams, 1974 defensive rookie of the year, 1976 defensive player of the year. Lambert changed the way MLB was played in the NFL, before him the position was mainly just a run support, but Jack was used a lot in drop back zone defenses, sometimes being as deep as the safeties.
2. Levon Kirkland (1992-2000) 2x pro bowl, 2x all pro, 1997 NFL alumni LB of the year, NFL 90's all decade team. At his weight (listed as high as 276, but many said closer to 300) and with his speed, Kirkland was a true monster in the middle of the defense. He was a very versatile LB that could stuff the run (1029 tackles), rush the passer (18.5 sacks), and drop back in coverage (11 ints, 9 passes defensed).
3. James Farrior (2002-11) 2x SB champion, 2x pro bowl, 2x all pro, finished 2nd in the 2004 NFL defensive player of the year voting. The 2000's defensive general that called the formations and audibles for the defense and led by example making plays all over the field.
4. David Little (1981-92) 1990 pro bowl, 179 games starting 125 (including 89 straight). Little was the London Fletcher of the 80's, making plays on the field for middle of the pack team and not getting any recognition. He was the defensive leader between Lambert and Kirkland.
Honorable Mention Lawrence Timmons (2007-present) SB XLIII champ. Timmons is another playmaking inside LB for the Steelers that has yet to get his true accolades around the league.
In a few years Timmons will undoubtedly be higher on this list and the true question is how high will he go. Myron Pottios (3 pro bowls in 4 years) was a possibility but only had 4 years with the Steelers. Hardy Nickerson made his name more after he left the Steelers.
1. Mel Blount (1970-83) 4x SB winner, 1989 HOF inductee, 5x pro bowl, 4x 1st team all pro, 2x 2nd team all pro, 75th anniversary all time team, NFL 80's all decade team, 1975 defensive player of the year, 1st on Steelers int list with 57. Blount was so dominant that the NFL changed the rules to slow him down (becoming the 1st Steeler to have a rule named after him) and he still played at an all pro level.
2. Rod Woodson (1987-96) 2009 HOF inductee, 7x pro bowl, 5x 1st team all pro, 1996 2nd team all pro, 1993 NFL defensive player of the year, NFL 75th anniversary all time team, NFL 90's all decade team, NFL record holder with 12 int ret for TDS. In a Monday Night game against Buffalo in 1994, Woodson put on a show of just how good he was by making tackles all over the field, returning an int for a td, sacking Jim Kelly causing a fumble that was recovered for a td and almost breaking a punt return for another score. It was one of the greatest defensive performances I ever saw from a cornerback and cemented Woodson in my top 5 favorite Steelers of all time.
3. Jack Butler (1951-59) 2012 HOF inductee, 4x pro bowl, 3x 1st team all pro, NFL 50th anniversary all time team, NFL 50's all decade team, 2nd on Steelers int list with 52 (4 for TDs). Never having the privilege to see a full game of Butler's I have taken a look at existing highlights and he definitely comes across as a playmaker.
4. Ike Taylor (2003-present) 2x SB champion. Taylor doesn't have any pro bowls or all pros accolades what he does is shut down the opposing teams' best receivers and has been very successful at it over the years. If Ike could catch the ball when the opportunity hits him in the hands, he would rival the men above him on this list for acknowledgements. He did make key interceptions in the 05 championship game against Denver and SB XL vs Seattle.
Honorable Mention Dwayne Woodruff (1979-90) SB XIV champ. There are no accolades for Woodruff but he recorded 37 ints (5th in Steelers history) in his 12 years. He was the teams top corner between Blount and Woodson's times and that makes it easy for him to be overlooked.
The top three corners on this list was an easy decision as all of them are HOFers. After that it was a little more difficult, but I am a big fan of Taylor's ability, even if catching the ball isn't one of them. J.T. Thomas and Deshea Townsend were also both looked at for a spot. In the end, Woodruff got H.M. because he fell between Blount and Woodson and has never really gotten any recognition.
1. Troy Polamalu (2003-present) 2x SB winner, 8x pro bowl, 5x all pro, 2010 NFL Defensive player of the year, NFL 2000's all decade team, should be a 1st ballot HOF choice if he can overcome the Steelers curse. There are to many Polamalu highlights that make him #1 on this list, but my personal favorite has to be the pick 6 in the 08 championship game against the Ravens that put the team into SB XLIII.
2. Donnie Shell (1974-87) 4x SB champion, 5x pro bowl, 3x 1st team all pro, 1981 2nd team all pro, 3rd on Steelers int list with 51. Shell was a good safety that was capable of the big hit or taking the ball away, and there are many that feel he also suffers from the Steelers curse and this is why he's not in the HOF.
3. Carnell Lake (1989-98) 3x pro bowl, 1997 1st team all pro, 3x 2nd team all pro, 1997 AFC defensive player of the year, NFL 90's all decade team. Any safety that can make the move over to cornerback a couple games into a season and still play at a pro bowl level deserves to be on this team.
4. Mike Wagner (1971-80) 4x SB champ, 2 pro bowls, 1976 2nd team all pro, 1973 Pro Football Weekly 1st team all pro, 6th on Steelers int list with 36. Wagner came up with interceptions in the both of the Steelers 1st two super bowls IX & X.
Honorable Mention Darren Perry (1992-98) 1994 all pro, 7th on Steelers int list with 32. Perry was a ball-hawking safety that finished 1st or 2nd in interceptions six out of seven years with the team, and this was playing with Woodson and Lake.
Safety is my favorite position on a football team. It combines the skill of a cornerback and the toughness of a linebacker, and the Steelers have had some good ones over the years. Ryan Clark (one of my personal favorite players), Glen Edwards, Thomas Everitt, and Chris Hope were all under consideration for making the team.
1. Bobby Walden (1968-77) 2x SB winner, 1969 pro bowl, 41.1 yd avg in his 10 years with Steelers
Punter wasn't that easy of a position to fill simply because they just don't seem to stay on the team very long, and with this team they are probably only going to be needed to spot the ball on kicks. Some others that could have been considered were Josh Miller, Mark Royals, and Harry Newsome.
1. Antwan Randle-El (2002-05,10) SB XL champ, 2005 all pro, 22.3 yd KOR avg and 1 TD. In the 3 year span of 2003-05 had a 10.3 yd PR avg with 4 TDs. Electrifying return man who was always capable of making something happen when he got the ball in his hands.
Many of the Steelers successful return men are already on this team at other positions (Woodson, Lipps, Swann). Randle-El was a decent receiver, but an excellent return man.
The roster is set here with 52 men, but there are 53 players on an NFL roster. So the last man to make the team will just be called the 53rd man and would have already been on the list but I did't know where to put him because he is the original "Slash".
"Bullet" Bill Dudley (1942,45-46) 1966 HOF inductee, NFL 40's all decade team. In Dudley's rookie season he was voted all pro and led the league in rushing (Only Steeler player to accomplish this and he did it twice), but here are his total stats for that year: 162 carries for 696 yds, 35 of 94 for 438 yds 2 TDs passing, 18 punts for 32.0 avg, 20 PRs for 271yds 14.0 avg, 11 KRs for 298 yds 27.0 avg 1 TD. Then after serving in the military came back for the last 4 games in 1945 and led the Steelers in scoring. In 1946 he won the NFL MVP of the year when he led the NFL in 4 different categories, rushing (604 yds), pass attempts (90), punt returns (385 yds, 14.3 avg), and interceptions (10 for 242 yds). That means Bill Dudley played QB/HB/PR/KR/P/DB and he even attempted a few field goals. Kordell Stewart didn't have that many slashes.
Offensive Coordinator Ron Erhardt (1992-95) It would be hard to beat Ron's rushing attack (2000+ yds/season avg), but everyone should remember those 5 wideout formations in 1995. Add in the way he used Stewart and I feel Erhardt could be very creative with this team.
Defensive Coordinator Dick LeBeau (1992-96,2004-present) Imagine what "Coach Dad" could do with this defense and how much fun it would be to watch. Bud Carson ( the man behind the early 70's defense) was also considered.
Special Teams Coach Bobby April (1994-95) Known as one of the top STs coaches in the league. In 1995 his teams allowed a 17.5 KR avg, and a 8.5 PR avg (16 being the longest of the season) and who could forget the surprise onside kick in SB XXX.
In this article I have made reference to the "Steelers curse" this refers to the HOF voters (including Peter King who has admitted it publicly) that don't vote for the Steeler nominees because the feel "there are to many Steelers in the Hall of Fame. I have one thing to say to them, "The Steelers have won more super bowls and have more victories since 1970 than any other team maybe there is a connection. THINK ABOUT IT!!!"More from Behind the Steel Curtain Follow @btsteelcurtain Follow @NealCoolong
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