Pittsburgh Steelers All-Decade Team: Defense/Special Teams
With the new year in full swing and resolutions set, it's time to take one last look back at the past decade.
Time flies by too quickly, but with reflection, we can preserve it in our minds like it was yesterday.
Last week, I focused on the offensive side of the ball selecting the Pittsburgh Steelers' All-Decade team.
Now we take a look at defensive and special teams to complete this look back at the decade in Steelers' history.
A history, in fact, that was quite good for the Steeler Nation.
To review, two Super Bowl titles and six division crowns gave the Black and Gold their best decade since the team of the seventies ruled the NFL.
So, for your enjoyment and discussion, my version of the Steelers' All-Decade team: Defense and special teams.
Nose Tackle: Casey Hampton
The five-time Pro Bowler has been a staple at the nose since his rookie year in 2001.
Casey Hampton, the ultimate run stuffer, has started 106 games with career totals of eight sacks and 299 tackles.
The big man from Texas was voted to the Pro Bowl this season after missing it in 2008.
Look for the Steelers to slap the franchise tag on the free agent to be if negotiations fall through in the offseason.
Defensive End: Aaron Smith
One of the most underrated players in the NFL.
Aaron Smith is the consummate pro and a perfect example of what a 3-4 defensive end should look and play like.
Smith went down in the fourth game of the season, and the Steelers defense was never the same.
A stalwart run defender, the 2004 All-Pro has racked up 44 sacks and 437 tackles in his 11-year career.
Defensive End: Kimo Von Oelhoffen
Kimo Von Oelhoffen was a hard-nosed, rugged player. The perfect compliment to Aaron Smith on the right side.
Oelhoffen was also versatile enough to slide into the nose during the 2006 season for the Jets.
Kimo started 94 of a possible 96 games between 2000-2005 for the Steelers, finishing his black and gold career with 183 tackles and 20.5 sacks.
This was a tough decision between Von Oelhoffen and current starter Brett Keisel. In the end, it was Von Oelhoffen's equal effectiveness at getting to the quarterback and stopping the run that got him the nod over Keisel.
Outside Linebacker: Joey Porter
This was the hardest position to decide because of all the great outside backers the Steelers had in the decade.
Jason Gildon and LaMarr Woodley were left off the team and believe me, you could state a case for both of them. Woodley was left off because he hasn't played long enough and Gildon, despite being a three-time Pro-Bowler, didn't make it because most of his outstanding play was in the nineties.
One who did was Joey Porter.
Porter has been a four-time Pro Bowler, three times with Pittsburgh, and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2002.
Porter was a starter for seven of his eight years in the Steel City, racking up 60 sacks, 10 interceptions, and 452 tackles. He was loud and cocky, but backed it up on the field.
Outside Linebacker: James Harrison
James Harrison was a late bloomer, but when his head finally caught up to his ability, the results were nothing short of spectacular.
The three-time Pro Bowler and 2008 first-team All-Pro has had an incredible run the past three seasons. From 2007-2009, Harrison has collected 34.5 sacks, 270 tackles, two picks, and a safety.
There hasn't been a more dominant outside linebacker in the NFL the last three seasons than Harrison.
Inside Linebacker: James Farrior
James Farrior is the ageless wonder and the quarterback of the Pittsburgh defense since 2002.
The two-time Pro Bowler and 2004 first-team All-Pro has 22 sacks, eight interceptions, and 896 tackles in his Steelers' career.
Farrior is one of the most consistent and most respected NFL performers of the decade.
Inside Linebacker: Larry Foote
Some may have expected to see Kendrell Bell here, but in all honesty, "The Bell Wringer" had a brief two years of brilliance before fading away.
On the other hand, Larry Foote has been a consistent, but unappreciated player for seven or eight years now.
Harrison, Porter, and Farrior may have gotten the press and the accolades, but Foote was the best tackler on the team. His excellence against the run was something Pittsburgh missed in 2009.
In his seven-year Steelers' career, Foote recorded 14.5 sacks, 433 tackles, and three picks. He is a high energy player who's motor never stops. A big reason he made the All-Decade squad.
Cornerback: Chad Scott
Chad Scott was a first-round draft pick in 1997 and played eight years for the Steelers.
Scott battled through injury problems to start in 86 games for Pittsburgh finishing with 19 interceptions.
Scott was a rare breed, a corner who liked contact. He ended his Steelers' career in 2004 with 415 tackles.
Cornerback: Deshea Townsend
The 12-year pro from Alabama was drafted in the fourth round of the 1998 draft and has been a Pittsburgh Steeler his entire career.
Townsend was a starter from 2003-2007. His career numbers are impressive as well with 21 interceptions and 439 tackles.
His 15.5 sacks are the most in history by a Pittsburgh CB and second all-time by a Steelers DB. S Carnell Lake finished his career with 21.5 sacks.
Strong Safety: Troy Polamalu
A no-brainer selection here.
SS Troy Polamalu was one of the two best safeties of the decade—the other being Baltimore's Ed Reed.
Off the field, he is a very humble and quiet man. On the field, a wrecking ball of hair and intensity.
The five-time Pro Bowler and two-time, first-team All-Pro has 20 interceptions, seven sacks, and 455 tackles in his stellar seven-year career.
Polamalu missed 11 games this season, and the Pittsburgh defense suffered for it. One of the all-time greats at his position and a definite first ballot Hall of Famer.
Free Safety: Brent Alexander
This was the toughest position to decide on. In the end it came down to Chris Hope, Ryan Clark, and Brent Alexander.
Hope has been to the Pro-Bowl but that was with the Titans. I eliminated him because he only started two seasons for Pittsburgh.
The process of elimination continued and when you compared Clark and Alexander's stats, Clark lost.
Alexander was a four-year starter in the Steel City (2000-2003) and put up decent numbers with 15 interceptions, 5.5 sacks, and 301 tackles.
He also had solid seasons for Arizona, Carolina, and the New York Giants.
Kicker: Jeff Reed
Another easy selection to make.
Jeff Reed has been the Steelers place kicker for eight seasons and currently ranks second all-time in franchise history in points (855), second in field goals made (189), and third in extra points (288).
He also holds the record for the longest field goal ever at Heinz Field (51 yards).
Reed is an unrestricted free agent and may have played his last game in a Pittsburgh uniform, however, even if he leaves, his contributions to the Steelers will not be forgotten.
Punter: Josh Miller
I know the Steeler Nation was expecting Mitch Berger...just kidding.
Josh Miller gets the nod here over Daniel Sepulveda simply because he hasn't played enough to qualify for the All-Decade team. Look for Sepulveda on the next team in 2020.
Miller played in 122 games from 1996-2003, which is second in team history by a punter, with a 42.9 yard average during his Pittsburgh tenure.
His 24,547 yards punting are second in team history, behind only Bobby Walden's 29,462.
Kick Returner: Stefan Logan
The Steelers had trouble finding a kick returner during the decade, going through eight different players before finding Stefan Logan in 2009.
Logan, a 5-6 dynamo from the CFL, didn't score a touchdown this season, but set a single-season franchise record with 1,466 kick return yards.
His 26.7 average was the second best in Steelers history behind Rod Woodson's 27.3 average in 1989.
Despite only one season, he's done enough to be on this list.
Punt Returner: Antwaan Randle El
In his four years in a Pittsburgh jersey from 2002-2005, Antwaan Randle El was a very dangerous punt returner.
His 1,547 punt return yards are second in team history and his four punt return touchdowns are No. 1 all-time by a Steeler.
Randle El was also a threat as a slot receiver and kick returner, where he averaged 22.3 yards with one score. His five return touchdowns are the most in Steelers history.