Pittsburgh Steelers  


Terry Bradshaw, Troy Polamalu make all-time Steelers squad


No franchise has had more Super Bowl success than the club Art Rooney Sr. built with racetrack money 81 years ago, and picking an all-time team for the "Sixburgh" Steelers is no small feat.

This organization has two Hall of Famers at every level of defense, from the front line to the linebackers to the secondary. Oh, and the offense has quarterbacks, running backs, wideouts and offensive linemen in the Hall as well, plus a ton of "Hall of Very Good" players.

So how do we do it? Very carefully, with an eye toward how these Steelers legends stack up with other NFL icons. Remember, this is the best starting lineup, not a list of the best 25 players in Steelers history. Share your thoughts at the usual place: @HarrisonNFL.

Let's get to it ...


Quarterback: Terry Bradshaw

Yeah, we know ... Ben Roethlisberger's numbers are better. It's also a different game now than it was in the 1970s, and Bradshaw is one of just two quarterbacks -- along with Joe Montana -- to have won four Super Bowls.

Running back: Franco Harris

One of the best players of the 1970s, Harris seems to have been slightly forgotten about, at least in terms of his being great. He is remembered more for the Immaculate Reception and, by some, for a slow end to his career. He rushed for more than 12,000 yards in Pittsburgh.

Fullback: Jerome Bettis

Bettis was not technically a fullback for the vast majority of his career, but we're overlooking this slight inconsistency because, with his size, he could have played the position. Bettis is sixth among the NFL's all-time leading rushers, with 13,662 yards.

Wide receiver: John Stallworth

When you count everything -- numbers, championships, big-game catches -- Stallworth, who could go deep or be a possession guy, is the greatest Steelers wideout of all-time. His over-the-shoulder grab in Super Bowl XIV is among the best ever.

Wide receiver: Hines Ward

Sorry, Lynn Swann; Ward was a better overall player for a longer period of time. Yes, Swann has a spot in the Hall of Fame, but we can thank NFL Films for that. Ward might never join Swann in the Hall, but he's still the franchise leader in catches (1,000), receiving yards (12,083) and touchdowns (85).

Tight end: Heath Miller

This just might be the easiest choice on this list. Miller has been the consummate pro: a great teammate, a tough, functional blocker, a guy with soft hands. He's also the best red-zone threat on the team. Through nine seasons, Miller has 466 catches and 5,273 yards -- all-time highs among Steeler tight ends -- plus 40 touchdowns.

Offensive tackle: Jon Kolb

Considered one of the strongest men in the NFL during his era, Kolb started at tackle for the Steelers' magical run in the 1970s, including all for Super Bowl victories in that decade. Kolb was named All-Pro by the Newspaper Enterprise Association (NEA) in 1979.

Offensive tackle: Frank Varrichione

OK, we realize you might never have heard of Frank Varrichione. Alas, football was played prior to the 1970s. From 1955 to 1960, Varrichione suited up at tackle in Pittsburgh, playing in every game and missing the Pro Bowl just twice during that six-season stretch.

Offensive guard: Alan Faneca

Faneca is quite simply the greatest guard in Steelers history. As a six-time first-team All-Pro, he was a key reason the club could run the football so effectively with Jerome Bettis. Faneca and Troy Polamalu were the best players on the Steelers team that won Super Bowl XL.

Offensive guard: John Nisby

Nisby was a fine player who made two Pro Bowls in five years at guard for the Steelers. He was also a community leader in the civil rights movement in both Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C. Nisby, Bobby Mitchell and Leroy Jackson were the first black players to play in a regular-season game for the Redskins.

Center: Mike Webster

Webster was a phenomenally strong player whose durability and excellence were unmatched at the center position. He played 17 seasons in the NFL and won four Super Bowls with the Steelers. He narrowly edges another Hall of Famer, Dermontti Dawson.


Defensive end: L.C. Greenwood

The tall, lanky Greenwood did not carve an imposing figure in the 1970s, but his athleticism and ability to play the position made him the top defensive end in Steelers history. He also earned six Pro Bowl berths.

Defensive end: Aaron Smith

No defensive end played the run better than Smith. Pittsburgh's defense dominated the league in 2005 and 2008, ultimately pushing the Steelers to two more Super Bowl titles. Smith was a leader and dominant force as a 3-4 defensive end in both seasons.

Defensive tackle: Joe Greene

"Mean" Joe, as he came to be known, was the fourth overall pick of the 1969 NFL Draft. He was also the first selection of the Chuck Noll era. Greene dominated opposing guards in the 1970s and was ultimately named to the NFL's all-time team.

Defensive tackle: Ernie Stautner

Better known as the Dallas Cowboys' defensive coordinator under Tom Landry, Stautner was a force for the Steelers in the 1950s and 1960s, the consummate tough guy who always played at a high level. His No. 70 is the franchise's only retired number.

Outside linebacker: Jack Ham

Ask a longtime Steelers fan -- or the Rooney family -- and you might hear that the greatest player in franchise history wore No. 59. A Hall of Famer who was a part of four Super Bowl winning teams, Ham was perhaps the most complete linebacker ever to play in the NFL.

Outside linebacker: Greg Lloyd

The personality -- that is, the tough personality -- of the Steelers in the '90s was personified by Lloyd. No player showed up to play harder or more physically than this outside linebacker. A three-time first team All-Pro, Lloyd is still revered in Pittsburgh.

Middle linebacker: Jack Lambert

Is this even a choice? Lambert was The Man at middle linebacker in the 1970s, much like Dick Butkus was in the decade before. Lambert imposed his will on games and opponents; he made players pay for roaming in his area. Lambert made nine Pro Bowls in a row.

Cornerback: Rod Woodson

It might sound crazy, but from a pure talent and achievement standpoint, Woodson might be the greatest Steeler of them all. The best corner in the AFC in his era, Woodson made the NFL's all-time team prior to his eighth season in the league. He's in the Hall of Fame.

Cornerback: Mel Blount

A huge corner during his day, Blount was the kind of shutdown guy that all of the premier all-time defenses have. The Steel Curtain was able to rely on Blount to blanket the opposition's top receiver for 14 seasons. His bust resides in the Hall of Fame.

Safety: Troy Polamalu

I know you're shocked ... OK, obviously Polamalu was going to make this list one way or another. There might not have been a better defensive player in football -- much less in Pittsburgh -- from 2004 to 2008. This guy is a first-ballot Hall of Famer in waiting.

Safety: Jack Butler

It was difficult leaving Donnie Shell off this list, but Butler was just too good. The Hall of Famer played corner and safety, intercepting a phenomenal 52 passes in 103 games ... that's one pick every other game! He made the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1950s.


Kicker: Gary Anderson

This is an easy choice. Anderson is the Steelers' all-time leading scorer with 1,343 points, having kicked for the franchise from 1982 to 1994. He was named to two Pro Bowls while in Pittsburgh, and he's also second in NFL history in points scored (2,434).

Punter: Bobby Walden

Walden was named to the Steelers' all-time team in 2007 after putting together a distinguished career with the franchise from 1968 to 1977. Walden punted on two Super Bowl-winning teams while averaging 41.1 yards per punt in Pittsburgh. He made the Pro Bowl in 1969.

Returner: Ray Mathews

Mathews was a stud, whether he was playing on offense, returning punts or bringing back kicks. Perhaps the most versatile weapon in Steelers history, Mathews averaged 12.8 yards per punt return with three touchdowns and 25.5 yards per kick. He also made the Pro Bowl twice.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.



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