A few months ago, the NFL Network did a special on the top-10 all-time Pittsburgh Steelers and their choices drew some ire from this columnist.
I try to keep this column timely, but a NFL 16-week season and subsequent run to Super Bowl XLV is a long ordeal and as time got away from me so did this column.
The NFL Network’s top-10 all-time Steelers went like this (in order, from No. 1 to No. 10): Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Rod Woodson, Jack Lambert, Mel Blount, Troy Polamalu, Hines Ward, Lynn Swann and Jerome Bettis.
I’m not going to lie to you that list made me extremely angry. My wife was very confused as she listened to me yell some nasty words at the TV screen (this normally only occurs during Steeler games).
As I attempted to explain my anger, she gave me that look only wives can give their husbands when they don’t agree with the husband’s logic and told me to stop.
Being the reasonably logical guy that I am, I am choosing to vent in this space rather get banished to my Steelers’ themed man cave by my wife.
With all frustrations aside, let’s get back to the list.
All 10 players the NFL Network and its panel picked are worthy of selection of all-time best Steelers, but a few of them were outshined by other players who donned the Black and Gold during their playing days and a couple players were placed higher than they should have been.
While I have absolutely no issue with Greene being the best Steeler ever, my problem starts at No. 2 with Bradshaw.
Even that’s not because of anything he did during his career, I just think Jack Lambert should’ve been No. 2 not No. 5. He’s arguably the best linebacker to have ever played the game and I think that merits a higher spot on the list. For the record, I’d put Bradshaw at No. 3 and push Harris back to No. 4.
Next, I’d move Mel Blount up to No. 5 on the list. Blount, who at 6-foot-3 is still physically imposing to this day, single-handedly changed the way defenses cover receivers, causing the NFL to institute rules changes midway through his career.
Despite the rules changes, Blount adapted and still managed to make the Pro Bowl in three out of the next five years.
At No. 6, I’d put Jack Ham on the list. Ham gets lost in the shuffle because of all the great Steelers defenders of the 1970s, but he was just as important as Greene, Lambert and Blount.
Woodson, who is the first player on this list that I actually watched in his prime, slides from No. 4 on the NFL Network’s list to No. 7 on my list. Woodson was the best player to have played in Pittsburg between the dynasty of the ’70s and the current crop of Steelers. He was able to do so much for the Steelers whether it was return kicks and punts to locking down the opponents’ top receiving option.
At No. 8, I’d put Mike Webster, who is considered by many to be the top center in the history of the NFL and is the measurement that all future Pittsburgh centers - including Dermontti Dawson, Jeff Hartings and Maurkice Pouncey - are compared to.
My favorite all-time Steeler Jerome Bettis comes in at No. 9 and it was hard for me to not put him higher, but with the players ahead of him where was I going to put him? The Bus WAS the Pittsburgh offense for many years and had perhaps the greatest retirement party ever with the Steelers’ Super Bowl XL title in his hometown of Detroit.
The final slot was perhaps the hardest spot for me to fill with a trio of hall of fame - or soon to be hall of fame - receivers in John Stallworth, Lynn Swann and Hines Ward, safety Troy Polamalu, linebackers James Farrior and James Harrison, guard Alan Faneca and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger.
In my first round of cuts, I’m axing Faneca and Harrison. Faneca’s actions in his final year in Black and Gold eliminates him, because he didn’t exemplify a true Steeler and while Harrison’s story is truly awesome, the outside linebacker tradition in Pittsburgh undermines his ultimate greatness in my mind.
Next, I get rid of Farrior basically because someone has to be cut from the process and his resume doesn’t compare to the remaining candidates.
I also have to eliminate Swann, because he’s best known for his acrobatic catches in big games. Granted, the Steelers definitely would’ve had a difficult time winning any of their four Super Bowls in the ’70s without Swanny, but on second thought, the same could be said about Stallworth, which leads us to the only three active candidates on my list: Polamalu, Roethlisberger and Ward.
I think it’s still too early to include Roethlisberger and Polamalu on the list - two Super Bowl rings be darned.
By process of elimination, that leaves us with Ward at No. 10. With Stallworth and Swann firmly entrenched in the Steelers’ history books, Ward has risen out of the relative obscurity of a third round pick to erase both Stallworth’s and Swann’s names from the No. 1 spot in virtually every Pittsburgh receiving record and will soon join them in Canton.
Agree or disagree? Corey Corbin can be reached at email@example.com.