clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Who will be the next Steelers player to enter the Hall of Fame?

Jerome Bettis will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August of 2015. Who will follow him over the next decade? Here are the top candidates.

Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Jerome Bettis will enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame Aug. 8, followed by a wild black 'n gold-themed party in and around the quaint town of Canton, Ohio.

It will mark the start of a new era of Steelers' inductees, the first of the 2000s Steelers. That group may not have the same level of success of their 1970s brethren, but with plenty of key players powering the team to two Super Bowl championships, there are still a few Steelers players destined to join the Bus in Canton.

And there are still some older players who should be recognized by the Hall of Fame Senior Committee as well.

Here's a list of a few Steelers players who are currently or about to become Hall of Fame-eligible. That list does not currently include Troy Polamalu or Ben Roethlisberger.

L.C. Greenwood

Greenwood's candidacy is a topic only slightly less enjoyable to debate than Greenwood vs. Swann for the MVP of Super Bowl X. Lynn Swann's ridiculous 161 yards on four catches is hard to argue against in terms of value, but when will we ever again see four sacks in one Super Bowl game - as the Steelers recorded for Greenwood that game (sacks weren't kept as official stats until 1982)?

That's just one game, but Greenwood made six Pro Bowl games in his 13-year NFL career. He was an NFL All Decade Team member in the 70s. He led the Steelers in sacks (unofficially) six times in his career, and was a Hall of Fame finalist twice back in 2005 and 2006.

Greenwood passed away in 2013 at the age of 67, but the legacy of the Steel Curtain is survived every day.

Hines Ward

Ward will represent a paradigm shift of wide receivers in the Hall of Fame. His numbers compare very favorably with other Hall of Fame receivers from the 1990s - 1,000 catches, 12,083 yards, 85 touchdowns, all numbers that put him in line with recent inductees Andrew Reed (951-13,198, 83) and Tim Brown (1,094-14,934-100). What Ward has up his sleeve, though, is he is arguably the best blocking wide receiver in the history of the game.

He's not just the "Hines Ward Rule/Lookout-Keith-Rivers" blocker, either. Ward was technically superb with excellent coordination and strength in his blocking assignments. Even at about 200 pounds, the Steelers - a power-running team for the majority of his career - used Ward from the x-receiver position as a lead blocker to the outside.

While his numbers ring favorably in comparison to the receivers of his generation (the one before deep passing really took over the NFL), Ward's all around contributory value to the Steelers' offense can, should and hopefully will be recognized. Expect a bit of a wait for Ward (Marvin Harrison is all over the top 10 career receiving stats lists and he didn't get in on the first ballot), but from a pure football sense, he should be inducted eventually.

Donnie Shell

Only nine players who's careers started after Shell's ended in 1987 have recorded more than 51 interceptions. And none of them, with the exception of Ed Reed (sure-fire first-ballot Hall of Fame player), Eugene Robinson (a free safety) and Darren Sharper (never an All Pro player) played safety their entire careers and had more than 51 picks.

Rod Woodson played cornerback before moving to safety. So did Charles Woodson. Ronnie Lott is the only pure strong safety with more interceptions than Shell, who also happened to anchor the back end of one of the greatest defenses of all time.

Shell's never climbed higher than the semifinalist position, and with so many other members of those 1970s Steelers defenders already there, odds are long. But taken in context, what strong safeties are doing today against far more pass attempts, Shell begins to stand out again over his peers.

Alan Faneca

Big Nasty was the dominant guard of the NFL right before the position started getting paid on the same level as tackles. An excellent athlete with power and grace combined, Faneca powered every Steelers' 1,000 yard rusher in his 10 years in Pittsburgh - seven of them in that span. Along with Bettis, he helped pave the career of "Fast" Willie Parker, and also helped throw a key block that sprung Parker for a Super Bowl record 75-yard touchdown run against Seattle in February, 2006.

Faneca is one of the most decorated Steelers players in history. He was a six-time first team All Pro, and was selected to nine Pro Bowls. From 2001-07, the only season he wasn't named All Pro was in 2003, when injuries forced him to play left tackle.

And he played pretty well.

Faneca ended his career with the Arizona Cardinals after having left Pittsburgh in 2008 for a big-money deal with the Jets. This will be his first year of eligibility. He will get in eventually, but the selection committee isn't quick to put in interior offensive linemen. Vikings center Mick Tinglehoff will be enshrined this summer after waiting 37 years, and he's considered one of the best centers in the history of the game.

Chiefs guard Will Shields will join Tingelhoff and Bettis, and he waited three ballots to get in.

Faneca will be in the Hall of Fame. It's just a question of when.

Kevin Greene

Of the top 11 players in recorded NFL history in sacks (remember, the stat wasn't kept officially until 1982), two of them, Chicago's Jared Allen and Arizona's John Abraham, are active players. One other, Jason Taylor, isn't yet Hall-eligible (and is a strong bet for induction). Seven others are in the Hall of Fame.

The only one who isn't and is eligible is Greene, who is third among a very distinguished list with 160.

He averaged 10 sacks a season for a decade and a half.

The only valid argument that Greene is not yet in the Hall of Fame is voters not wanting Greene to enter before Charles Haley, who had 100.5 sacks in a career recognized more as the only player with five Super Bowl championships.

Greene's best bet may be in 2016, now that Haley is in, Taylor's first year of eligibility.

Casey Hampton

There may not have been a better zero technique nose tackle in the 2000s than Hampton. On the same token, there were so few of them playing as often as he did, he really doesn't have a great comparable off which to render a Hall of Fame opinion.

Because of that, we're left with just the sheer dominance of the Steelers' run defense during his era. And that speaks volumes.

The Steelers finished in the top 10 in yards allowed every season Hampton was in Pittsburgh. That's 11 years, from 2001-12. They led the league six times, and finished in the top five nine times.

There were seasons in which teams simply could not run the ball against the Steelers, and Hampton was a big part of that. When discussing the decade as a whole, the prominence of the 4-3 defense and the pass rushing ability of the top defensive tackles in the league will be part of the conversation. It wasn't until teams began emulating much of what the Steelers were doing that the nose tackle position began rising.

The four All Decade defensive tackles, Warren Sapp, Richard Seymour, La'Roi Glover and Kevin Williams, three of them were 3-technique players. Seymour only played the zero partially. Hampton only ever played the far less prestigious nose tackle role, and his stats show that. His contributions to the Steelers' defense is without question or parallel.

Odds of Hampton getting in are low, and if Steelers fans should rally around the induction of any player, it's Big Snack.