Few franchises in any sport have been blessed with so many great players in their history as the Pittsburgh Steelers have. Only legendary teams like the NHL’s Montreal Canadiens, baseball’s New York Yankees, and the NBA’s Boston Celtics have seen a comparable number of legends grace their rosters. Want to see if any players from the current roster made the cut? Read on as I count down the top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers of all time:
10 – Ben Roethlisberger – Okay, so that ended the mystery in a hurry. Yes, Big Ben managed to squeak onto the list, and might be the most controversial selection. Still, few quarterbacks in NFL history have the size, strength, versatility and the ability to make the clutch plays at crucial times that Ben Roethlisberger has. He already has two Super Bowl rings, including one from 2005 when he became the youngest starting QB to ever win a Super Bowl. Though he is still building his body of work he already ranks 1st or 2nd in many all time Steelers categories, and is the only quarterback in NFL history to have 2 perfect passing games in the same season.
9 – Rod Woodson – Though this guy only played about half of his career in Pittsburgh that shouldn’t disqualify him from recognition as one of the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers players ever. In my opinion this guy is the greatest cornerback of all time, and though his greatest accomplishments may have come after his days as a Steeler, his achievements in Pittsburgh were spectacular enough to earn him a worthy spot on this list.
8 – Mel Blount – Another cornerback makes this list of the top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers of all time, and though I have already stated that I thought Rod Woodson was better throughout his career, I give Mel Blount the nod on this list because he played his entire career with the Steelers. Blount was there in the glory days of the Steel Curtain, and was a member of all 4 Super Bowl winning teams from that era. He was named to 5 Pro Bowls during his career, and in 1975 was named the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year.
7 – Jack Ham – This 8 time Pro Bowler is considered by most who follow the sport to be one of the greatest outside linebackers in NFL history. He was one of only 9 players to have more than 20 sacks (25) and 20 interceptions (32). He too was a member of all 4 Super Bowl championship teams from the Steel Curtain era, and was a key cog in the defense that great team was known for.
6 – Lynn Swann – Wow, talk about a who’s who of incredible NFL players. Looking back it is hard to believe any franchise had this many great players on their team at the same time. Though the Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were much heralded for their defense, their offense wasn’t too shabby either, and Lynn Swann was hall of fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw’s favorite target. Swann also has 4 Super Bowl rings on his fingers, and became the first wide receiver ever to be named Super Bowl MVP when he was given the nod in Super Bowl X.
5 – Jerome Bettis – Well, I had to break up the Steel Curtain streak at some point, and there is no better player to do so than the man known as “The Bus”. Though he spent his first few seasons with the Rams this powerfully built running back spent the bulk of his incredible career with the Steelers, right up to the moment he announced his retirement on the podium immediately after winning Super Bowl XL. Bettis finished the game of football as one of the most prolific running backs in its history with 13,662 yards rushing, and 94 touchdowns. Though only a few years removed from the game this Steeler is already a legend and merits the high spot I’ve accorded him on this list of the top 10 greatest Steelers of all time.
4 – Franco Harris – Well, after that little break we are back to the glory days of the 70s. Like Bettis, Franco Harris was another great Steelers running back. He was yet another member of the team to win 4 Super Bowls, and following Super Bowl IX he became the first African-American ever named Super Bowl MVP. He finished his Football Hall of Fame career with over 12,000 yards rushing and exactly 100 touchdowns, and his number 32, though not officially retired, will almost certainly never be worn by any other Pittsburgh Steeler player.
3 – Jack Lambert – One of the most devastating hitters in the history of the game makes the number 3 spot on this list of the top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers of all time. Along with Mean Joe Greene, Jack Lambert terrorized opposing offenses during the 1970s as he snarled toothlessly at them across the line of scrimmage. He enjoyed 9 Pro Bowl selections to go along with his 4 Super Bowl rings, and succeeded teammate Mel Blount when he won the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1976.
2 – Terry Bradshaw – Wow, this was a tough one. Many people would have this guy in top spot on the list of the greatest Pittsburgh Steelers ever, but in my humble opinion he didn’t quite make the cut. Still, number two isn’t bad. Not only is he the greatest quarterback to ever don a Pittsburgh Steelers uniform, he is arguably one of the greatest players to ever play the position of QB period. Pretty high praise considering how many legendary quarterbacks have suited up in the history of the NFL. Though Bradshaw’s arm was often erratic (he threw only 2 more TDs than INTs in his career) it always seemed to get steadier when the big game was on the line. Bradshaw is one of the greatest clutch quarterbacks in history, and in the Steelers 4 Super Bowl wins he was twice named Super Bowl MVP.
1 – Mean Joe Greene – It is astonishing that so many Hall of Fame NFL players all played on the same team at the same time. It is almost as astonishing to imagine that this team actually lost from time to time. Despite how many great defenders they had, however, make no mistake “Mean” Joe Greene was the linchpin and the undisputed leader of that great Steel Curtain defense. He would not tolerate losing and had a fearsome temper that made even his teammates tiptoe quietly around him. He was twice named the defensive player of the year, and appeared in 10 Pro Bowls, and, like nearly everyone else on this list, he has 4 Super Bowl rings to his credit from those dominant years. As good as offensive players like Bradshaw and Swann were during that era it was unquestionably the Steelers’ incredible defense that won them all those Super Bowls, and Mean Joe Greene was the best of the best. In my book there can be no other choice for the number 1 spot on the list of the top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers of all time.