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Published: Dec. 4, 2013 at 12:19 p.m.
Updated: Dec. 4, 2013 at 07:40 p.m.

Hall of Fame cases for. . .

The Pro Football Hall of Fame recently trimmed its list of 126 modern-era nominees for the Class of 2014 to 25 semifinalists. NFL Media historian Elliot Harrison will judge cases for induction in a recurring feature on With a list of such notable players, there are sure to be disagreements, so hit up Elliot on Twitter @Harrison_NFL to share your opinion. Today, we look at the eight defenders who have been named semifinalists.

8 Photos Total

  • Steve Atwater 8

    Barry Sweet/Associated Press

    Steve Atwater

    Let's get straight to the pudding on this deal: Atwater is one of the hardest hitters to ever play the safety position, which is the sole reason he's on this list. Yes, he earned eight Pro Bowl selections, and the two Super Bowl rings toward the end of his career were nice additives. However, Atwater was at his best early, in 1989 and the early '90s. Unfortunately, what the former All-Pro safety doesn't have is numbers -- 24 interceptions is a career total that just doesn't compare to, say, Darren Sharper's 63. Tell you what, though: Atwater's hit on Christian Okoye on "Monday Night Football" remains legendary.

    Hall probability: Slim to none.

  • Derrick Brooks 7

    Paul Sancya/Associated Press

    Derrick Brooks

    Give Derrick Brooks one inch and he'd take your inch. A true student of the game who took pride in immense film study, Brooks provided a devastating concoction of speed and instincts. He could play weakside 'backer in coverage or man the middle. He could stop the run or get depth in coverage. In my book, he's an all-time great. Five first-team All-Pro nods and six pick-sixes go quite well with the Lombardi Trophy that his defense secured.

    Hall probability: Lock.

  • Kevin Greene 6

    Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

    Kevin Greene

    Said it before and I'll say it again: Kevin Greene is Canton-worthy material. He got more pocket action than the guys in the Cialis commercials, notching 160 sacks, with nearly 100 of them coming in his 30s. The unique aspect to Greene's 15-year career was his ability to excel for multiple franchises. He went to conference championship games and logged double-digit-sack seasons for the Rams, Steelers, Panthers and 49ers. He was a couple Neil O'Donnell tosses away from earning a Super Bowl ring. With the third-most sacks of all time, he should get to Canton someday.

    Hall probability: Moderate to very good.

  • Charles Haley 5

    Ron Heflin/Associated Press

    Charles Haley

    Tired of hearing about Haley's five Super Bowl rings? All right, well, he posted 100.5 career sacks and didn't play on a losing team until his final season. He excelled as a hybrid linebacker/defensive end (the "Elephant" position) in San Francisco, and also flourished in a classic edge-rushing role as a 4-3 end in Dallas. The guy could play the run, too. He has fellow players' respect across the board; I've never spoken to anyone who doesn't think Haley is a Hall of Famer. Oh, and I forgot to mention: Haley is the only player to have five Super Bowl rings.

    Hall probability: Very good to lock.

  • John Lynch 4

    Chris O'Meara/Associated Press

    John Lynch

    Often considered the best safety of the 1990s, Lynch was a fierce hitter and smart overall football player. He could come down into the box like a linebacker and also could cover early in his career. Like Atwater, he might not have been a complete player, in that he wasn't a ballhawk (just 26 career picks), but he was a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time first-team All-Pro. He also was part of a triumvirate of Hall of Fame-level defenders (alongside Warren Sapp and Derrick Brooks) who spearheaded the Bucs' rise to prominence -- and defensive dominance -- from 1997 to 2002. A major hurdle for Lynch, like Atwater, is the invisible barrier that seems to confront safeties at the Pro Football Hall of Fame's front door. Only eight true safeties have been enshrined.

    Hall probability: Moderate to very good.

  • Karl Mecklenburg 3

    National Football League

    Karl Mecklenburg

    This is a tough call. All the numbers and logic point to Mecklenburg not being a Hall of Famer. But if you watched football in the 1980s, you know what a good player this guy was. He was Mr. Versatile, as Denver played him on the line with his hand in the dirt, at outside linebacker and at inside linebacker -- this guy really could do it all. The Broncos probably don't go to Super Bowls in 1986, '87 and '89 without him. The issue for Mecklenburg is he has just 79 sacks and five interceptions to his name. Voters like numbers and will only vote on general impact to a point. Mecklenburg had a great career, but he didn't substantially alter the game in a tangible way, which likely puts him in the Hall of Very Good category.

    Hall probability: Slim to none.

  • Michael Strahan 2

    Stephan Savoia/Associated Press

    Michael Strahan

    Everyone knows Strahan is a Hall of Famer. His induction is really a matter of when, not if. The New York legend owns 141.5 career sacks, the single-season sack record (22.5) and a Super Bowl ring. The fact that he's still in the public eye certainly doesn't hurt, either. Going a step further, the fact that color analysts mention his name every time a pass rusher is on a torrid sack pace makes him synonymous with the greats of the game, which is exactly what the Pro Football Hall of Fame is all about. It was a surprise when Strahan didn't make it last year. He is the biggest lock in 2014 in my book.

    Hall probability: Lock.

  • Aeneas Williams 1

    Dave Kennedy/Associated Press

    Aeneas Williams

    Williams has a tough road. Being a premier cover corner in the 1990s was like being a power hitter in the Babe Ruth era of baseball: It was Deion Sanders and everybody else. Sanders' career tends to blot out Williams' fine NFL tenure. As does that of Rod Woodson. The perception is that Williams didn't make the game-changing plays those guys did, but Williams picked off 55 balls and took nine to the house, which is tied for fourth all time with Sanders and Ken Houston (both of whom, by the way, are in Canton already).

    Hall probability: Moderate. I think he makes it in 2017.

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