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Potential Steelers in the Hall of Fame

The Pittsburgh Steelers have 19 members of the family in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  Only the Chicago Bears (26) and Green Bay Packers (21) have more.  I've compiled a listing according to five different categories.  For sake of operational definition, only those players who played a majority or plurality of their careers with the Steelers are listed.  They would be "Primary" HOF members.  Kevin Greene played only three years with the Steelers so basically if he gets inducted it will be as a Ram.  Conversely, Jerome Bettis played only three years with the Rams so he will go in proudly as a Steeler.  I'd like to hear your opinions, both in agreement and disagreement and also moving individuals into different categories.  If you are new to the site or haven't commented much, we'd really like to know your thoughts as well.  Join in one and all.


Category One:  Slam Dunk, No Debate, Meet Me in Canton

Jerome Bettis:  The Bus played with us for 10 seasons, 1996 through 2005, after three seasons with the St. Louis Rams.  He didn't fit into the Rams' offense. He now fits into the yellow blazer of the Hall of Fame.  Bettis rushed for 13,662 yards and finished his career fifth on the all-time NFL rushing list.  He scored 91 touchdowns rushing and added three more receiving and another three with option passes.  The Bus made the Pro Bowl six times and ended his career in his hometown Detroit, hoisting the Lombardi Trophy as a Super Bowl Champion.

Rod Woodson:  Woodson also played with the Steelers for exactly one decade, from 1987 through 1996.  In one of those seasons he became the first player to ever come back in the same season following major reconstructive knee surgery (the Super Bowl year of 1995).  Woodson played for three more teams after leaving Pittsburgh and finished his career in 2003.  His 71 interceptions are third all-time in the NFL and incredibly, he returned 12 of those for touchdowns.  He compiled a total of 17 touchdowns, including kick, punt and fumble returns - not bad for someone who never played offense.  Woodson made the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team and played in 11 Pro Bowls.

Category Two:  Very Deserving, Shameful if Left Out 

Gary Anderson:  Anderson played 13 of his 23 NFL seasons with the Steelers (1982-94).  He is the NFL's second leading all-time scorer with 2,434 points (behind Morten Andersen), some 400 points ahead of third place.  Anderson not only made the 1980s NFL All-Decade Team, he made the 1990s All-Decade Team as well.  He has been selected All Pro five times and four times he was invited to the Pro Bowl.  In 1998 Anderson became the first kicker in NFL history to go through a perfect regular season not missing a field goal (35) nor an extra point (59).  His 164 points that year is fourth all time in the NFL and the most ever for a player not scoring a touchdown.  If Jan Stenerud, some 700 career points in the rears of Anderson, can make it in the Hall, Gary Anderson should be there also.  (Stenerud is the only pure placekicker in the Hall.  Others like Blanda and Groza kicked well after playing another primary position during their careers.)  Pittsburgh fans will never forget Anderson's 50-yard field goal in overtime at Houston in the 1989 Wildcard Game that game that gave the Steelers a stunning road playoff win over the heavily-favored Oilers.

Bill Cowher:  Cowher was the head coach of the Steelers for 15 season, from 1992 through 2006.  He became the second coach in NFL history to lead his team into the playoffs the first six years of his career.  Paul Brown was the other.  Cowher was the youngest coach (38) ever to guide his team into a Super Bowl (XXX) and during his 15-year tenure, the Steelers had the best regular-season record in football (149-90-1).  Cowher won eight division titles and earned 10 postseason berths.  The Steelers played in 15 home playoff games, averaging one per season, during his reign, and played in 21 playoff games in all.  Six times the Cowher-led Steelers made it to the AFC championship game.

Dermontti Dawson:  Dawson played with the Steelers for all 13 years of his NFL career.  He went to seven straight Pro Bowls (1992-98) and was selected as All Pro six times.  Dawson started an impressive 171 straight games for the Steelers as one of the all-time great centers.  He was named to the NFL's 1990s All-Decade Team.  The Steelers do not officially retire numbers (after Ernie Stautner), but you might have noticed that no one has worn #63 since Dawson retired after the 2000 season.

Alan Faneca:  Faneca played 10 years with Pittsburgh, from 1998 through 2007, primarily as an outstanding left guard.  Seven times Faneca played in the Pro Bowl and five times he was selected All Pro.  Faneca was voted by the Pittsburgh fans to be on the Steelers' 75th Anniversary Team.  Offensive linemen do not get opportunities to pile up statistics, but opposing defensive linemen will attest to how great Faneca was during his career with the Steelers.

Hines Ward:  Like Faneca, Ward came to the team after the 1998 draft and has been a Steeler for an exact decade.  Ward has been the team's MVP three times and was also MVP of Super Bowl XL.  Ward is now the Steelers' all-time leading receiver in yards (8,737) and touchdowns (65) and has racked up an impressive 761 yards and eight touchdowns in postseason play.  Ward was selected to four consecutive Pro Bowls (2001-04) and is a three-time All Pro.

Category Three:  Pro-Rated Possibility,  Needs Multiplied Pace

Willie Parker:  What Fast Willie has done in just three seasons (2004 hardly counts) puts his name into the discussion.  He's rushed for more than 4,000 yards in those three seasons and scored 23 touchdowns.  In 2005 Parker was the Steelers' team MVP and his 75-yard touchdown gallop in the Super Bowl following that season is an NFL record.  Parker's biggest problem at this point may be his age.  He is 27.  NFL running backs are not known for very long career-spans and he may have trouble triplicating his output thus far, which is close to what it would take for a yellow blazer.

Troy Polamalu:  Polamalu has been with the team for five years and has made the Pro Bowl four times.  If you multiply his career,  those Pro Bowl appearances alone would make a good case.  Polamalu tied an NFL record for a safety by recording three sacks in one game and is still the only safety ever drafted by the Steelers in the first round.  Polamalu plays a confusing, aggressive style of defense that commands the respect of NFL opponents.

Ben Roethlisberger:  Roethlisberger has been with the team for four years.  In three of those years his quarterback rating has been at least 98 and in 2007 he was second only to future Hall of Famer Tom Brady with a 104 rating.  Roethlisberger was an obvious selection to the Pro Bowl last season.  He maintains a career 63% of completions.  He has thrown for 11,673 yards and 84 touchdowns.  If you multiply those numbers by three, a fair projection, he will have more than 35,000 yards and more than 250 touchdown passes.  Roethlisberger is the youngest quarterback to ever lead his team to a Super Bowl victory.

Category Four:  Maybe Too Late Now, But Should Be In

L.C. Greenwood:  Greenwood played with the Steelers for 13 seasons (1969-81).  He was a six-time Pro Bowler and four times achieved All Pro status.  Greenwood stockpiled a sterling 73.5 career sacks and recovered 14 fumbles.  He also had an uncanny knack of coming up big in big games.  Greenwood batted away three Fran Tarkenton passes in Super Bowl IX and the next year sacked Roger "The Dodger" Staubach three times in Super Bowl X.  He registered sacks in all four Super Bowls in which he played.  Greenwood was selected to the NFL Silver Anniversary Super Bowl Team and was also a member of the league's 1970s All-Decade Team.

Donnie Shell:   This one baffles me more than any other.  Shell played with Pittsburgh all 14 years of his NFL career (1974-87) after being signed as an undrafted free agent.  His 51 career interceptions, as a safety no less, ranks among the elite in NFL history.  Shell made the Pro Bowl five consecutive years (1978-82) and was a five-time All Pro.  Nicknamed "The Torpedo," Shell's clean slam-to-the-ground tackle of powerful Earl Campbell broke the Houston Oiler's ribs in a critical 1978 contest knocking Campbell out of the game.  Shell was the team's MVP in 1980.  I believe the only reason Shell is being snubbed, likewise Greenwood, is that nine of their 1970s teammates have been inducted and there is a subliminal feeling that nine is enough for any one group of players.

Category Five:  Not Going to Happen, But in My Mind There is a Special Wing

Dick Hoak:  I fully understand we are talking here about the NFL Hall of Fame, not a Steelers Hall of Fame.  Still, I doubt there are many individuals around who played for a team for 10 years (1961-70) then coached the same team for another 35 years, marking 45 years all told.  Up until he retired, Hoak had been a player or coach of the Steelers for 742 of the franchise's 1,057 games, an incredible 70 percent.  Moreover, Hoak hails from nearby Jeannette and played at Penn State, taking the definition of lifelong loyalty to a whole new level.  He made the Pro Bowl once as a Steeler and finished his career as Pittsburgh's second all-time rusher behind John Henry Johnson.  Hoak will not be one of the few who achieve Hall of Fame status, but he is one of fewer who are walking around with five Super Bowl rings.

Art Rooney Jr.:  The world already believes there are enough Rooneys in the Hall of Fame, but Art Jr. is the unsung Rooney.  Two years younger than brother Dan, who is in the Hall of Fame, Art Jr. has also devoted his entire adulthood to the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers.  Currently a vice president for the Steelers, Rooney was the team's head of personnel and player acquisition from 1964 to 1986.  He was instrumental in the launching of the league's first scouting combine and he orchestrated the greatest six-year string of team drafts in NFL history.  Nine Steelers' players during that span ended up in the Hall of Fame.  So too should one of the primary architects behind that great dynasty.

Mike Wagner:  I realize if Shell can't get in then Wagner, also a safety, has no chance whatsoever.  I am still going to tout him since I saw most of his games and he played far beyond what statistics can measure.  Wagner and Shell was the smartest safety tandem in NFL history in my opinion.   For as many times as Swann and Stallworth beat the opposition for long receptions, I can barely remember the opposition ever getting behind Wagner and Shell.  Wagner played with Pittsburgh for a decade, 1971-80, and earned two Pro Bowl appearances (1975 and 1976) along with four All Pro teams.  In 1973 Wagner led the NFL in interceptions with eight and ended his career with 36.  He also recovered 11 fumbles.  Like Shell, Wagner was a great tackler and played run support as well as it can be played.

Special Category:  Already In, But Not as a Steeler

Jim Finks:  It bothers me that neither the Steelers nor the Hall of Fame acknowledge the fact that Jim Finks played his entire NFL career with Pittsburgh (1949-1955) and was an outstanding quarterback.  In the Steelers' Media Guide the team accounts for 19 Hall of Famers and then notes players like Cal Hubbard, Marion Motley and Len Dawson who played very briefly with the team, but really earned HOF credentials with other teams.  How can they not mention Jim Finks?  In 1952 he had a Pro Bowl season leading the NFL with 20 touchdown passes (the game was different back then, 20 was an outstanding milestone) and was surprisingly fourth in the league with five rushing touchdowns.  In 1955 he had yet another great season, leading the league in passes attempted (244), completed (165), passing yards (2,270) and yards-per-game (190).  All told, Finks threw 55 touchdown passes, rushed for 12, caught a TD pass and returned an interception for a touchdown.  Agreed, his career and statistics are not the primary reasons for Finks being in the Hall of Fame.  His administrative contributions to the Bears, Vikings and Saints are what propelled him into the Hall.  But his statistical and playing contributions to the Pittsburgh Steelers over his seven-year career surely deserve a secondary affiliation.  If the Steelers can mention the miniscule impact that Cal Hubbard, Marion Motley and Lenny Dawson had on the team, Jim Finks should be recognized as one of ours also.