The Pittsburgh Steelers implemented the 3-4 defense back in 1982, and while they don't strictly run a 3-4 today they still build their defense with 3-4 style players. The defensive end, much like 4-3 defensive tackle, usually fly under the radar. However, the position can be credited in making an impact in the success of the last 38 Steelers seasons.
Disclaimer: In 1982 both Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood were retired and played it in the 4-3 scheme.
7. Kimo Von Oelhoffen 2000-2007
20.5 Sacks, 3 FF, 6 FR, 189 Tac, 34 TFL
Kimo Von Oelhoffen will always be remembered for tearing Carson Palmers ACL, PCL, and MCL on the second play of the 2005 Wild Card playoff game but he should also go down as an incredible depth player that could make plays when called upon. While Kimo is a Super Bowl champion, his inclusion on this list should represent the incredible talent and longevity of the 3-4 defensive ends in Steelers history.
6. Kevin Henry 1993-2000
14 Sacks, 1 FF, 5 FR, 235 Tac, 9 TFL
Henry helped anchor the ‘Blitzburgh’ defense and helped the Steelers reach Super-Bowl XXX. And in a bit of trivia, Kevin Henry’s Cousin is WWE Superstar Mark Henry.
5. Stephon Tuitt 2014-Current
23.5 sacks, 4 FF, 1 FR, 201 Tac, 38 TFL
When healthy, Stephon Tuitt has shown flashes of being the most dominant player on the Steelers defense. While only playing in 76 games to date Tuitt has the ability to take over games as both a skilled pass rusher and a dominating run defender.
4. Keith Willis 1982-1991
Willis, the all-time leader for sacks for a Steelers 3-4 defensive end was undrafted in 1982 and could quite possibly be the most underrated player in Steelers history. In the wake of Mean Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood’s retirements, Willis took over the reigns of the defensive line and kept the Steel Curtain alive. The only thing keeping Willis from being higher on this list is his lack of a championship ring.
3. Cam Heyward 2011-Current
54 Sacks, 6 FF, 5 FR, 397 tackles, 79 TFL
When compiling this list I seriously debated putting Heyward higher. He is one of the best leaders in the NFL today, and if it wasn't for Aaron Donald in Los Angeles he may just be the best interior D-lineman the past number of seasons. Heyward is a true Steeler. Hard-nosed, hard-working, and absolutely dominant. I would imagine he tops every statistical category for a Steelers 3-4 Defensive end in the next two seasons and if he were to win a Super Bowl I’d instantly place him No. 1.
2. Brett Keisel 2002-2014
30 Sacks, 7 FF, 9 FR, 408 Tac, 33 TFL
‘Da Beard’ is one of the most iconic Steelers of this century. A game changer, and a true leader, he is the embodiment of a Steelers defender. A two time Super Bowl Champion, Keisel was a key-piece for the 2008 Championship squad that was one of the most feared defenses in recent history. Keisel recovered the game winning fumble at the end of Super Bowl 43. He was in strong contention of being the top spot if it wasn't for his running mate.
1. Aaron Smith 1999-2011
44 Sacks, 7 FF, 9 FR, 481 Tac, 84 TFL
The best 3-4 defensive end in Steelers history was a silent-assassin that spent a career in opponent’s backfields. Smith was critically underrated because of the talents that played around him his entire career, but the stats and dominating performances don't lie, he's an all-time Steeler great. Smith is either 1st or 2nd in every statistical category for his position. On top of that, he is a 2-time Super Bowl champ.
What do you think, did I get this list right? Let me know in the comments below.