The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rich history with 24 players, coaches and owners having been immortalized in Canton since 1963, with at least eleven more that are currently eligible deemed Hall of Fame worthy by Steeler Nation. Now that the Hall of Fame is planning on inducting 20 new members in 2020 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the professional game, Steelers that have run out of eligibility, like L.C. Greenwood and Donnie Shell, may finally be rightfully crowned and recognized as official inductees to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio.
While players like Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown (although no longer a Pittsburgh player) are sure bets to be enshrined at least five years after their retirements, there are at least 11 black-and-gold warriors that could claim a resumé worthy of entry. BTSC has compiled list of Steelers and frank speculation on whether or not they have a chance at the esteemed honor now or in the future.
LB Andy Russell (1967-1976)
Andy Russell was a part of the greatest trio of linebackers in NFL history. Not as recognizable as Hall of Famers Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, Russell still thrived for 12 years and won two Super Bowl titles. His 93-yard fumble return in the 1975 playoffs versus Baltimore was voted by fans as the seventh best play in Three Rivers history. Russell was selected to the Pro Bowl seven times and was a four-time All-Pro.
Hall Call Probability: Very Low
A very well-respected player in league lore and with Steeler Nation. Unless the Veterans Committee thinks otherwise, Russell may never be enshrined in Canton. However, there’s a high probability that the Steelers Hall of Honor beckons No. 34.
RB Rocky Bleier (1968 and 1971-1980)
The four-time Super Bowl champion is also a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient. After his rookie season, Bleier was drafted into the U.S. Army and was sent to Vietnam where a grenade blew off part of his foot. While recovering, Bleier received a note of encouragement from the Chief, Art Rooney Sr. A year later, “the Rock” returned and became an important cog in the Steelers’ offensive machine. Bleier retired after the 1980 season with 3,865 rushing yards, 136 receptions for 1,294 yards and 25 touchdowns.
Hall Call Probability: In my mind, this guy is Hall of Fame, but unfortunately I don’t get a vote and the possibility is highly improbable.
DE L.C. Greenwood (1969-1981)
The man with the golden shoes wore them to prevent mistaken identity. PA announcers would credit Joe Greene for some of Greenwood’s tackles, so to correct that, he would lift his legs in the air every time he made a play in order to get his proper due. In 13 seasons with the Steelers, the 6’6” Greenwood was a dominant member of the Steel Curtain. He was named to six Pro Bowls and was honored twice as an All-Pro. His 73.5 sacks has him second on the Steeler career list, 4.5 of them came in one 1979 game against the Browns. L.C. is a member of the Steelers’ All-Time Team and the NFL’s 1970s All-Decade Team. He passed away at age 67.
Hall Call Probability: I can see the increase in Veterans Commitee selections to go L.C.’s way. But too many 70s Steelers may have kept the man known as “Hollywood Bags” out of the Hall of Fame and it could continue. However, he truly deserves to be honored in bronze.
S Donnie Shell (1974-1987)
In 14 seasons with the Steelers, Shell amassed 51 interceptions, which ties him for 32nd on the NFL’s all-time list. Two of those picks came in the 1984 season-finale win over the Los Angeles Raiders that propelled the Steelers into the playoffs. The undrafted safety from South Carolina State ranks third in franchise history, six behind the leader, Mel Blount.
Hall Call Probability: This year may be his best shot, but I’m still not sure it will happen.
Not only did the Steelers draft four Hall of Famers in 1974, Shell deserves to one day join them in Canton. He got Tony Dungy’s endorsement this week, but hopefully the large number of 70s Steelers don’t impede his inclusion on a list he richly deserves to be on.
K Gary Anderson (1982-2004)
The South African kicked collegiately at Syracuse and was cut by Buffalo in training camp. The Steelers picked up Anderson and he became the landslide team leader in career scoring and field goals made.Anderson ranks third all-time in scoring with 2,434 points over a 23-year career with Pittsburgh, Phily, San Fran, Minnesota and Tennessee.
Hall Call Probability: Slim, but not necessarily none
The quintessential kicker should be enshrined in Canton, but a presumed kicker-bias and the miss in the 1998 NFC Championship for the Vikings may be keeping him out.
HC Bill Cowher (1992-2006)
Pittsburgh’s Bill Cowher came back to his home in 1992 and coached the Steelers to 149 regular season wins, 20th best in NFL history. His .623 winning percentage ranks him 23rd. A passionate coach that quickly won the hearts of the city with toughness and charm, Cowher’s Steelers won a Super Bowl after the 2005 season, after losing his first appearance in the big game ten years prior. Retiring after the next season, Cowher remains in the league as a part of CBS’ studio team.
Hall Call Probability: Highly Likely, but not this go around or for a while. Coaches typically wait a while to get in and guys like Jimmy Johnson, Don Coryell, Tom Flores and Tom Coughlin May get in first.
LB Greg Lloyd (1988-1998)
The man who once wore a t-shirt that read “I wasn’t hired for my disposition” was a difference-maker on defense. The dominance of Greg Lloyd was first apparent when he three-counted out Pat Ryan, a Jets quarterback, in 1989. Lloyd, the leader of the famed “Blitzburgh” defense of the 1990s, ranks eighth among all-time team leaders with 53.5 sacks and second with 15 fumble recoveries. The five-time Pro Bowler, three-time All-Pro and two-time Steelers MVP is a member of Pittsburgh’s All-Time Team. Lloyd spent his final year in the league as a member of the Carolina Panthers.
Hall Call Probability: I’d love it, but I just don’t see it happening.
G Alan Faneca (1998-2010)
Faneca is one of the best offensive lineman in team history. In 10 seasons with the Steelers, Faneca was a seven-time Pro Bowler and first-team six times as an All-Pro. Alan also was named to the NFL All-Decade Team for the 2000s and the Steelers 75th Aniversary team. One of the defining plays of Faneca’s career was the pulling-block to spring Willie Parker on his 75-yard touchdown ramble in the 21-10 victory over Seattle in Super Bowl XL. Faneca reached his eighth and ninth Pro Bowls twice in his final four seasons as a Jet and Cardinal.
Hall Call Probability: Seems highly likely. However, Troy and a possible veteran inclusion may push Big Al back again.
WR Hines Ward (1998-2011)
With 1,000 career receptions, Ward is tops all-time when listing the best Steeler receivers. His 12,083 receiving yards ranks him 23rd in NFL history. One of the most popular players to wear the black-and-gold, Hines was a devastating blocker when he didn’t have the ball. The 14-year veteran was a four-time Pro Bowler, a three-time All-Pro, a two-time Super Bowl champ and the Super Bowl XL MVP. A member of the Steelers All-Time Team, the Dancing With The Stars-Mirror Bowl winner also wore #86 and scored a touchdown for the Gotham Rogues in The Dark Knight Rises.
Hall Call Probability: It’s possible, but it may be a long ride with many detours to Canton for Hines.
LB Joey Porter (1999-2006)
The linebacker was a whirling dervish of a pass-rusher for eight years at Heinz Field and five as a member of the Miami Dolphins and Arizona Cardinal. Porter was named a Pro-Bowler Four times and an All-Pro on one occasion. The 2002 Steelers Co-MVP was the first player in NFL history to record 70 sacks and 10 interceptions. A member of the NFL’s 2000s All-Decade Team and the Steelers’ All-Time Team, Porter was the vocal leader of the Super Bowl XL champions. He finished his Steelers career fifth all-time with 60 sacks, 10 interceptions and 8 fumble recoveries. In his brilliant career, he finished with 98 sacks in total.
Hall Call Probability: Not likely, but his speech would be so entertaining, so that would be good enough reason.
S Troy Polamalu (2003-2014)
The 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year retired as one of the most popular players in the history of the team and the league. The 8-time Pro Bowler and 5-time All-Pro was known for his kamikaze-style of play and his trademark hair. Troy is a member of the NFL’s 2000’s All-Decade team, the franchise’s All-Time team and the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and team MVP. Polamalu concluded his career after the 2014 season with 581 tackles and tallied 32 interceptions as a Steeler.
Hall Call Probability: Almost Definite
Expect Troy to get invited for enshrinement in 2020, his first time on the ballot,
We won’t know until February, but my it says Greenwood and Polamalu get the nod for 2020. But my gut isn’t exactly Hall worthy, so anything can happen. But of course, we want to hear from you in the comments section.