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Round 3 of Steelers March Madness: The Best of the Rest featuring No. 1 seed 2004 vs. No. 8 seed 1976

Bracketing the best teams in the past 50 years of Pittsburgh Steelers history never to win a title. Who do you consider the “Best of the Rest” between the 2004 Steelers and the 1976 edition?

Baltimore Ravens v Pittsburgh Steelers Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

BTSC continues to search for the best and most-memorable Steeler team to not win a title. Last time around, you voted the No. 5 seeded 2010 team that fell against a Green Bay in the franchise’s final Super Bowl over the Immaculate team that put the Steelers over as contenders. It was our closest vote to date. Here’s the final tally.

No. 4: 1972 (11-3) Immaculately sewing the seeds of a dynasty - 45%

No. 5: 2010 (12-4) Slipping on the Stairway to Seven - 55%

As we head into the semifinals, the only one-loss Steeler team in regular season history arrives with a rookie signal caller and a suffocating defense. Be sure to vote for the team that remains the most memorable to you or the one you feel is simply the “best of the rest”. Your choice. Be sure to wax poetically in the comment section below.

No. 1 Seed: 2004 (15-1) The Ben-ginning of a new era

Ben Roethlisberger’s rookie season saw Bill Cowher’s Steelers post their best regular season record in the team’s history. Ben shattered the NFL record of six wins by a QB to start his NFL career by going 13-0 in the regular season. Besides the mania surrounding the rookie phenom, this was the season that saw the debuts of Duce Staley and Willie Parker in Pittsburgh and the original last days of Plaxico Burress. We also saw James Harrison get to take advantage of a chance when Joey Porter punched William Green in Pregame of a November bout in Cleveland. The highlights of the season included beating undefeated New England (halting their 21-game win-spree) and Philadelphia in back-to-back games in Weeks 8 & 9 respectively. Leading the way that year was Roethlisberger (13-0 and a 66.4 completion percentage), Jerome Bettis (941 yards and 13 TDs), Staley (830 yards), Hines Ward (1,004 receiving yards), Aaron Smith (8 sacks), Joey Porter (7 sacks), Clark Haggans (6 sacks), James Farrior (4 interceptions, 3 sacks, 3 forced fumbles and recoveries), Polamalu (5 interceptions) and Deshea Townsend (4 interceptions). The Steelers narrowly escaped the Jets at home when Ben Roethlisberger threw two interceptions (including a pick six) and Doug Brien missed game-winning field goals for the Jets. The dream ended at home in the AFC Championship Game as No. 7 threw another pick-six and New England trounced the Steelers 41-27. The Pats went on to win the Super Bowl.

Pro Bowlers: Jerome Bettis, Alan Faneca, James Farrior, Jeff Hartings, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, Hines Ward

First-Team All Pros: Alan Faneca, James Farrior, Jeff Hartings, Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Aaron Smith, Marvel Smith, Hines Ward

Second-Team All Pros: Troy Polamalu, Joey Porter, Hines Ward

Team MVP: James Farrior

No. 1 Draft Pick: Ben Roethlisberger

Rookie of the Year: Ben Roethlisberger

No. 8 Seed: 1976 - The Steel Curtain Defense at their highest level

After winning their first two titles the previous two seasons, it seemed likely that the Steelers could three-peat as an even stronger unit. However, Chuck Noll’s team shockingly started off as a disappointing 1-4. To make matters worse, QB Terry Bradshaw was injured in a Week 5 loss in Cleveland. Bradshaw sustained the injury after the infamous Joe “Turkey” Jones slamdown. Fortunes would turn with Mike Kruczek behind center, as the rookie set a NFL record (later broken by Ben Roethlisberger in 2004) for wins to start a career. Bradshaw would return intermittently throughout the remainder of the season, but most of the Steelers success was due to a suffocating defense (five shutouts and a mere 28 points surrendered in those final nine games) and the rushing tandem of Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. Harris (1,128 yards/14 TDs and Bleier (1,026 yards/5 TDs) were basically the entire offense, as the leading receiver (Lynn Swann) had a mere 516 yards and three scores. On a defense that included five All Pros, Mel Blount and Glen Edwards led with six interceptions a piece and Jack Lambert had two picks and six fumble recoveries. In the playoffs, the Steelers pounded Baltimore 40-14. Bradshaw threw three TD passes, two of them to Swann and Reggie Harrison had two rushing scores. Harrison was in due to injuries in the game to Harris and Bleier. Unfortunately, No. 46 and the Steelers weren’t as productive without the pair of 1K rushers the next week in the AFC Championship against Oakland. The Raiders went on to play Minnesota in SB XI, while Steeler Nation saw one of their best teams in franchise history wonder what might have been.

Pro Bowlers: Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Glen Edwards, Joe Greene, L. C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, Andy Russell, Lynn Swann and Mike Wagner

First-Team All Pros: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert and Glen Edwards

Second-Team All Pros: Joe Greene and Mike Wagner

Team MVP: Jack Lambert

No. 1 Draft Pick: Bennie Cunningham

Even though the 2004 team experienced a mere one loss, they were suspect in the playoffs. The 1976 seemed poised to get three rings in three campaigns, but Bradshaw didn’t start consistently due to injury and their duo of 1K-yard rushers were too hurt to go in the playoffs. Hence, the loss in the AFCCG. Please vote and comment below.


In the semis of BTSC’s "Best of the Rest" March Madness poll, who should advance to the precipice of the honor?

This poll is closed

  • 21%
    No. 1 Seed: 2004 (15-1) The Ben-ginning of a new era
    (36 votes)
  • 78%
    No. 8 Seed: 1976 - The Steel Curtain Defense at their highest level
    (130 votes)
166 votes total Vote Now

Check back Monday for the results and the other semifinal matchup.