The Pittsburgh Steelers, the seventh oldest NFL franchise, begins the 2016 season as won of the favorites to win Super Bowl 51 and capture their record 7th Lombardi Trophy.
In all, they already have a record 8 AFC Championships, 21 division titles (AFC Central & AFC North), 23 Pro Football Hall of Famers, A NFL record 34 playoff victories,
595 games won (629 combined regular & postseason) over the course of 82 years for third most in League history.
And if they made a Mount Rushmore to honor the men who helped build such an impressive trophy case, these would be the four guys who’d arguably be on it and are the most influential in the story of the most successful franchise in NFL history.
With a franchise that has so many legends, this was a difficult exercise, but here goes.
- No owners, unless they were also coaches, and their place on this list is based on their contributions as coach. No General Managers or Personnel executives. Just those who directly affected the games on Sunday. I will make a separate list for them soon.
- Key contributors to the team’s history and success, not just fan favorites or box office draws.
- Can you tell the franchise’s story without them?
Chuck Noll (1969-1991) leads this list because he changed the culture in the Steel City that led to what Steeler Nation is today.
He was the head coach of the 70s dynasty, and the first coach to win four Super Bowls. In the 36 years before Coach Noll took over, the Pittsburgh franchise played in only one playoff game, and lost 21-0. He finished his twenty-three year career with a record of 209-156-1 (193 in the regular season) in regular season and playoffs combined.
Many younger Steelers fans may not know that Coach Noll won three NFL Championships, two as a player with his hometown Cleveland Browns and one with the Baltimore Colts as defensive coordinator. Coach Knoll was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1993, in his first year of eligibility.
Joe Greene (1969-1981) was the face of those 70s Steelers. “Mean Joe” was Chuck Noll’s first draft pick and became the leader of their dynasty and the “Steel Curtain” defense. NFL.com ranked the 4-time Super Bowl Champion as the 13th best NFL player of All-Time. He’s a 10-time Pro Bowler, 5-time 1st-team All-Pro, three-time 2nd team All-Pro, and a member of the Steelers All-Time and 50th Anniversary teams, the NFL 75th Anniversary All-Time team, and NFL 1970s All decade team.
Green was the 1969 NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year, and a two-time Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He is the only player to have his number (#75) officially retired by the organization. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.
Jack Lambert (1974-1984) and his toothless snarl, to go along with his “Lambert Lunatics” are as symbolic of the Steelers dynasty of the 70’s as is their four Lombardi Trophies.
In his career, he intercepted 28 passes, made 1,479 tackles (1,045 solo) and 23.5 sacks. He was a Pro Bowl selection for the first nine years of his career (1974-1983), a 7-time All-Pro (1975, 1976, 1979-1983), the 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year, and 2-time Steelers team MVP.
Very impressive when you think of the number of Hall of Famers he played with. Lambert is a member of the Steelers All-Time and 50th Anniversary Teams. He was also selected to the NFL’s 75th Anniversary, 1970s and 1980s All-Decade teams. He was inducted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990, and his number 58 jersey is one of a few that has been unofficially retired.
Hines Ward (1999-2011) was to the younger generation of Steeler fans what “Mean Joe”, Coach Noll and Lambert were to their father’s and grandfather’s.
He set the tone for what this generation of Steelers fans expect from a Steeler.
This may be my most controversial name on this list, but the 4-time Pro Bowler (2001-2004) and 3-time All-Pro (2002-2004) is the face of the Steelers teams that won a fifth and a NFL record sixth Super Bowl (XL, XLIII) for the franchise. The Super Bowl XL MVP is the Steelers all-time leader in receptions (1,000), receiving yards (12,083) and receiving touchdowns (85). Ward is a member of the Steelers All-Time Team and the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame. The team has taken his jersey number 86 out of rotations, and he ranks 12th in NFL history in receptions.
Let me hear you Steeler Nation. Agree or disagree? Who would be your top four Steelers?