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Pittsburgh Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider “Best of the Rest”?

Tim Worley

The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a history of fantastic seasons over the past 50 years. The “Black-and-Gold” made playoff appearances 31 times, 23 as division champions. They have been Conference Champions eight times and have hoisted six Lombardi Trophies. When we think of the greatest seasons in team history, of course we are going to recall each that ended in a Super Bowl victory. But along with those six wins of epic proportions, I recall other seasons very fondly. Although they didn’t end with a parade, they may be considered favorite seasons nonetheless for many different reasons.

In the past couple of offseasons, we at BTSC, have conducted March Madness-style brackets determining such designations like the Sour 16 (worst No.1 picks in franchise history), Playa Hatin’ (the Steelers truest enemy as an opposing player) and Best Draft Class. This time around, we will look at the Steeler team that you as a fan recall most fondly and consider the best. Super Bowl winners will not be included. The rankings will be based on the team’s regular-season record and highest advancement round. The first 14 have been determined, you will decide the 15th and 16th seeds in this first installment.

Here are the Top 14...

No. 1 Seed: 2004 (15-1)

No. 2 Seed: 2001 (13-3)

No. 3 Seed: 2017 (13-3)

No. 4 Seed: 1972 (11-3)

No. 5 Seed: 2010 (12-4)

No. 6 Seed: 1994 (12-4)

No. 7 Seed: 2011 (12-4)

No. 8 Seed: 1976 (10-4)

No. 9 Seed: 1973 (10-4)

No. 10 Seed: 1995 (11-5)

No. 11 Seed: 1997 (11-5)

No. 12 Seed: 2016 (11-5)

No. 13 Seed: 1992 (11-5)

No. 14 Seed: 2002 (10-5-1)

Let’s take a look at the teams that are competing for the remaining two spots in the bracket.

2015 (10-6)

This season was the first for the Steelers without Troy Polamalu since 2003 due to his retirement in the offseason and Heath Miller’s final year. Ben Roethlisberger suffered an injury in Week 3 in St. Louis that kept him on the shelf for four games, but No. 7 still threw for nearly 4,000 yards. Michael Vick and Landry Jones led the team to a 2-2 record during Big Ben’s absence. Another player that missed a significant amount of time was Le’Veon Bell, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 8. Deangelo Williams filled in enormously with 907 yards on the ground and 11 TDs. But the greatest performance from 2015 came from Antonio Brown. AB caught a team record of 136 balls and 1,834 yards. In Weeks 13 and 14, the Steelers earned pivotal and signature wins over Cincinnati and Denver respectively. In the Wild Card Gane, the Steelers (without Deangelo) won with great performances by Martavis Bryant and Ryan Shazier in an improbable last-second win in Cincinnati, but Roethlisberger was banged-up and AB was brutally attacked by Vontaze Burfict and was lost for the next week. Despite playing without key players, the Steelers were in position to win in Denver and advance to the AFCCG. However a Fitz Toussaint fumble late, ended the impossible dream.

Pro Bowlers: Antonio Brown, David DeCastro, Ben Roethlisberger

First-Team All Pros: Antonio Brown, David DeCastro

Team MVP: Antonio Brown

First Round Selection: Lawrence Timmons

Rookie of the Year: Alvin “Bud” Dupree

2007 (10-6)

Mike Tomlin jumped head-first into the three rivers in his inaugural season with the Steelers. After starting off 7-2, the Steelers went 3-4 down the stretch. They also lost Willie Parker to a fractured fibula in Week 16 in St. Louis. Parker was on his way to having his finest season with 1,316 yards through 14 full games before his misfortune. Also leading the way in 2007 were Ben Roethlisberger (3,154 yards and 32 TDs vs 11 interceptions), Santonio Holmes (942 yards and 8 TDs) and James Harrison (8 12 sacks). The signature win of that season came on MNF against Baltimore 38-7 in Week 9. The game featured Big Ben throwing for five scores and Deebo forcing three fumbles, recording a fumble recovery, picking off a pass and sacking the QB 3 12 times. The AFC North champs fell behind 28-10 in the Wild Card, but after a furious comeback to take the lead...Jacksonville ripped the hearts out of the Heinz Field faithful with a late FG and a 31-29 win. It was Alan Faneca’s last game as a Steeler.

Pro Bowlers: Alan Faneca, Casey Hampton, James Harrison, Willie Parker, Troy Polamalu and Ben Roethlisberger

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca, James Harrison

Second-Team All Pros: Troy Polamalu

Team MVP: James Harrison

First Round Selection: Lawrence Timmons

Rookie of the Year: Daniel Sepulveda

1989 (9-7)

The season started out without Mike Webster in a Steeler uniform after 15 seasons. It opened with the worst lost in team history, a 51-0 drubbing by Cleveland and a 42-10 loss to Cincy. In what could be the finest coaching season of his HOF career and his only Coach of the Year campaign, Chuck Noll rallied his team to the final seed and the AFC WIld Card Game against their fierce rivals, the Houston Oilers. The Steelers came from behind on that last day of the 1980s to force OT and win courtesy of a Gary Anderson FG. The next week in Denver, the Steelers almost pulled of the upset. Leading 23-17 late, Denver scored a TD with 2:22 left to ice it. But Merril Hoge’s phenomenal offseason helped the football world fall in love with the Steelers once more. Leading the way for the Steelers that season were the likes of Hoge, Bubby Brister, Tim Worley, Greg Lloyd, Tunch Ilkin, Keith Willis, Louis Limps Rod Woodson and Dwayne Woodruff.

Pro Bowlers: Tunch Ilkin, Rod Woodson

First-Team All Pros: Rod Woodson

Team MVP: Louis Lipps

First Round Selection: Tim Worley and Tom Ricketts

Rookie of the Year: Carnell Lake

1984 (9-7)

This version of the Steelers was very intriguing, as it marked the first season without both Terry Bradshaw (retirement) and Franco Harris (left in a contract dispute for Seattle). The season started with the ex-Dolphin, David Woodley, at quarterback in a loss at home to Kansas City and Jack Lambert’s infamous turf-toe injury. By mid season, Mark Malone would take over. He would lead the Steelers to their signature win, a 20-17 victory over San Francisco (their only loss that year). The season marked the debut of Louis Lipps and a triumphant comeback for John Stallworth. Because 9-7 was good enough to win the AFC Central, the young Steelers snuck into the playoff field and stunned the Broncos in a thrilling win in the Divisional playoffs. The next weekend the Cinderella story ended in the AFC Championship Game with a 45-28 loss to Miami.

Pro Bowlers: Robin Cole, Louis Lipps, Mike Merriweather, John Stallworth and Mike Webster

First-Team All Pros: None

Second-Team All Pros: Louis Lipps

Team MVP: John Stallworth

First Round Selection: Louis Lipps

Rookie of the Year: Louis Lipps

1982 (6-3)

The 50th season started off well for Chuck Noll and his Steelers as they beat Dallas on MNF and had an OT victory over Cincinnati, the reigning AFC champ, in back-to-back games to start the year. Then the strike came and knocked out the next eight weeks of the season. The Steelers were led on offense by Terry Bradshaw in his last full-season (if you could call it that) as a Steeler starter, Franco Harris and John Stallworth. On defense, Tom Beasley and Gary Dunn each had six sacks, while Donnie Shell and Dwayne Woodruff had five interceptions. 1982 marked the start of the 3-4 defense being the team’s base and Gary Anderson’s debut, while it was the farewell season for Jack Ham and Lynn Swann. The season ended in a thriller at Three Rivers in the first round of an eight-team Conference tourney, where San Diego prevailed 31-28.

Pro Bowlers: Larry Brown, Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth and Mike Webster

First-Team All Pros: Jack Lambert, Donnie Shell

Team MVP: Dwayne Woodruff

First Round Selection: Walter Abercrombie


Which Steeler team do you consider the best not to win a title and have the fondest memories of and should advance to BTSC’s "Best of the Rest" tournament?

This poll is closed

  • 40%
    2015 Steelers: Barely Walking Wounded Playoff Run
    (51 votes)
  • 10%
    2007 Steelers: Tomlin’s First Season
    (13 votes)
  • 34%
    1989 Steelers: From 92-10 to the Playoffs
    (43 votes)
  • 5%
    1984 Steelers; A 9-7 Team in the AFCCG
    (7 votes)
  • 8%
    1982 Steelers: The Strike Year and Bradshaw’s Last Full Season
    (11 votes)
125 votes total Vote Now