Pittsburgh Steelers: 7 Most Despised Villains of All Time
The Pittsburgh Steelers have a lot of bitter enemies—some of whom will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy on Super Bowl Sunday.
The Baltimore Ravens are far from the only villains in the Steelers' universe, though. Let’s take a look at some of the worst offenders when it comes to breaking the hearts of Steeler Nation.
The Criteria for Selection
In order to make the cut, candidates had to satisfy three prerequisites.
First, the candidate must have done something terrible to the Pittsburgh Steelers. We're talking statistical embarrassment, showboating or playoff elimination just for starters.
Second, the candidate must be a repeat offender of serious crimes against Steeler Nation. One-hit wonders don't count.
Third, there must be a strong emotional reaction to the candidate from Steelers fans. Every time they see this person, they must feel something. Dread or white-hot anger are the preferred emotions here.
With this checklist in mind, let's get things rolling.
Honorable Mention: Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas
These two teamed up to wreck the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl hopes in the 2012 playoffs.
In the first round matchup between the Steelers and the Denver Broncos, Pittsburgh badly underestimated Denver quarterback Tim Tebow. They dared him to pass the entire game, opting to take away his running abilities.
Tebow made them pay. On just 10 completions, Tebow racked up 316 yards and two touchdowns. When he wasn’t passing, he was busy ignoring the Steelers’ efforts to shut down his rushing prowess—adding 50 yards and another touchdown. It was painful to watch for Steelers fans, as the Broncos’ game plan was fairly obvious by the second quarter.
Throw the ball to Demaryius Thomas.
Even though Tebow had only 10 completions on the day, four of them landed in the hands of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket. Thomas made the most of the limited opportunities, collecting 204 yards and a touchdown.
Never did Thomas gouge the Steelers more deeply than on the first play of overtime. Thomas embarked on an 80-yard catch-and-run that sent Pittsburgh home early, and sent the Broncos onward to in the divisional round.
Of course, rubbing dirt in the wound, DT kicked off the following season with an encore performance. This time, he took a Peyton Manning screen pass 71 yards and wove through the Steeler defense for a crucial score. The Broncos would go on to win by a 31-19 margin, and Thomas would forever be entrenched as a villain in Steelers history.
7. Fred Taylor
For much of their history, the Pittsburgh Steelers mantra on defense has been simple—stop the run. For the most part, it’s worked out pretty well. However, in Week 12 of the 2000 season, Jacksonville running back Fred Taylor threw that out the window.
All Taylor did was come into Pittsburgh and rush for 234 yards, the most that the Steelers have ever surrendered in their history, per The New York Times. To add insult to injury, according to NBC Sports, Taylor said that he could have done even more damage had he not partaken in a long night of partying earlier that weekend.
Taylor was far from a one-hit wonder against Pittsburgh, rushing for 934 yards and seven touchdowns. He added 154 yards and two touchdowns receiving for his career, per Yahoo Sports. In his 11 games against the Steelers, he was as damaging as any back that has ever played against them.
6. Tom Brady
It’s pretty rare when the Pittsburgh Steelers indisputably end up on the wrong end of a rivalry. However, Tom Brady has been a cold-blooded assassin hell-bent on crushing the Steelers’ hopes and dreams from the moment that he took the field against them.
According to Yahoo Sports, in Brady’s six career games against the Steelers, he has tallied a passer rating of 103.7. He averages 314 yards through the air and has posted 14 touchdowns versus just three interceptions. In a word, Brady has been brutal.
His statistics against the Men of Steel in the postseason haven’t been nearly as staggering, but he’s still undefeated against them—with both victories coming on the road.
Plus, who could forget when he victimized this poor guy?
5. Carl Pickens
Cincinnati Bengals wide receivers historically haven’t burned the Pittsburgh Steelers much. Even Chad Johnson and T.J. Houshmandzadeh haven’t had much success in the new, pass-happy league.
However, back in the 1990’s, one weapon in the Bengals’ arsenal was a true thorn in the Steelers’ sides. Carl Pickens always got up for games against Pittsburgh, doing a ton of damage when the Bengals took to the air.
The banner game for Pickens against the Steelers was in 1998, when he put on quite the aerial display. According to Chuck Finder of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Pickens’s 204 yards and 13 catches almost single-handedly downed the Steelers that day.
His final catch came off of a fake spike (thrown by just-missing-the-nemesis-cut Neil O’Donnell) for a 25-yard touchdown that gave the Bengals a rare victory that year.
Yahoo Sports shows us that Pickens’s 1151 career receiving yards against the Steelers are nearly twice the total he posted against the next-closest team, the Tennessee Titans. He was always in the zone when it came to playing against Pittsburgh, and Steeler Nation doesn’t miss seeing him running wild in the secondary.
4. Terrell Suggs
No one else on this list relishes his role as villain as much as T-Sizzle.
Wait a minute—he was the one who said that: "I like to think that I exist because they need someone to stop Big Ben," Suggs said. "So, yeah, we like Smith and Neo from ‘The Matrix’. Co-exist for each other—Joker and Batman."
No one hypes up the Ravens-Steelers rivalry quite like Suggs, and he takes his game to another level when he sees Pittsburgh on the schedule.
From sacks alone, he’s cost the Steelers 105 yards in field position in his career.
3. Rashean Mathis
Just writing that name sent chills creeping down my spine and terrible images running through my mind. I won’t be doing it again.
This guy is just an absolute menace whenever he plays the Pittsburgh Steelers. I’m honestly wondering why the Steelers would even consider testing him anymore. Let’s check out the rap sheet, provided by Tania Ganguli of the Florida Times-Union.
In 2005, he picked off Tommy Maddox in overtime and took it to the house.
In 2006, he victimized Ben Roethlisberger twice in the fourth quarter of their matchup.
The next year in the AFC wild-card round, he matched the feat—only this time he also returned one of them 63 yards for a score.
In 2008, this guy only had one pick against the Men of Steel, but (of course) he also had reservations for six. 72 yards later the Jags put a touchdown on the board.
This Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback was an absolute nightmare who ratcheted his game up several notches when it came time to sink the spirits of the Steelers.
2. Al Davis
Hate is an ugly word, and I honestly believe that "sports hate” is in no way similar to “real-world hate”. “Sports hate” is one of the best things about sports—it adds intrigue, emotion and legacy to the experience of being a fan. “Real-world hate” is one of the ugliest phenomena on the planet, and is the cause of way too many problems in the world.
Homer J. of Behind the Steel Curtain has a detailed account of some of the more unsavory Davis moments. Let’s examine the highlights.
In the 1975 AFC Championship, the Raiders’ George Atkinson concussed Steelers wideout Lynn Swann so badly that he was admitted to the hospital.
The following year, Atkinson delivered a forearm shiver to the back of Swann’s neck in the season opener. Swann suffered another concussion, leading Steelers coach Chuck Noll to proclaim Atkinson as part of a “criminal element” that should be kicked out of the league.
Backed by Davis, Atkinson sued Noll for defamation of character.
Nothing came of the lawsuit, but it was enough of a distraction that the Steelers were not at their best early in the year, even losing to Denver in the first round of the playoffs.
Al Davis was so focused on sabotaging the Pittsburgh Steelers that he even used the legal system to achieve his goal.
In a word, that’s hateful.
1. Steve McNair
This one, honestly, wasn’t all that close. The late Tennessee Titans and Baltimore Ravens quarterback made a habit of giving the Pittsburgh Steelers fits every time he crossed paths with them.
Steve McNair retired in 2008 with an 11-5 record against Pittsburgh, and that includes a rough final season when he was a shell of his former self. He gashed them for nearly 3000 yards passing, added 300 yards on the ground, and posted a passer rating of over 100 six times in 16 games.
However, stories mean more than stats with McNair.
For instance, in 2000 when the Steelers were leading the Titans by four late in the fourth quarter, the Steelers made a crucial mistake, according to Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They took that opportunity to exact revenge on pseudo-nemesis Neil O’Donnell, knocking him out of the game with an injury.
In hobbled Steve McNair, who was visibly injured and considerably less than 100 percent. Three perfect passes, 75 yards and 35 seconds later, the Titans were on their way to a 23-20 victory.
The Steelers have enjoyed an advantage at the quarterback position over most teams since Ben Roethlisberger took the reins. However, McNair took it as a personal challenge to defeat the Steelers.
More often than not, he did.