Nine Pittsburgh Steelers That Should Never Have Left Pittsburgh
There are a lot of great top ten lists in the Steelers section of Bleacher Report, but I thought I would do something a little different. On this list are a group of players whose careers significantly changed for the worse after they left the Steel City.
Some left by choice, while others did not. No matter the conditions of their leaving, the results were all the same and not for the better.
A couple of these are just sad. Players just trying to hang on for that last year at the end of a great career. A few of these guys went for the big bucks and in hindsight may have regretted thinking in the short term.
I'm sure that there are some I've missed and looking forward to hearing you comments.
Now, on to the list...
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I wanted to start this list off with a bang (get it)?
Yes, Plaxico shot his mouth off to the media a bit too much, and dropped some critical passes during his tenure in Pittsburgh. However, there is no denying that he was a big part of the Steelers offense during the early 2000s.
During the 2004 season he averaged an astounding 19.9 yards per reception. That's big play. He parlayed his success in the Steel City into a six-year, $25 million contract with the New York Giants. While in New York he continued his success and became a more reliable receiving target for Eli Manning than he had been in Pittsburgh.
So why is he on this list? In 2008, Burress suffered a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the right thigh while in a New York City nightclub from a pistol tucked in the waistband of his sweatpants. He continues to serve a two year prison sentence on gun charges. Brilliant.
You can only wonder what his life might of looked like if he hadn't left Pittsburgh for the big city lights and nightlife of New York.
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Playing in the same linebacking corps as Earl Holmes, Joey Porter, and Jason Gildon, Kendrell Bell burst onto the scene with a great rookie season including 9 sacks and being named AP Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001.
Afterwards he played another very respectable two years in Pittsburgh, but spent most of his fourth year plagued by injuries. When his contract expired in 2005, he was released by Pittsburgh and went on to take big money from the Kansas City Chiefs - to the tune of more than $5 million a year with $10 million in guarantees.
While a starter during his three seasons with the Chiefs, Bell recorded a total of 2.5 sacks and was out of football by 2008.
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During his ten years with the Steelers Jason Gildon was a 3-time Pro Bowler. He racked up 77 quarterback sacks in the black and gold, enroute to becoming the team's all-time sack leader.
With the beginning of the 2004 season, Gildon found himself in the Buffalo Bills training camp where he was cut two weeks later. Mid-way through that same season, Gildon was able to sign on with the Jacsonville Jaguars where he added three more sacks, getting him to a career total of 80.
Gildon retired from football after the 2004 season.
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Neil O'Donnell had himself a nice career going in Pittsburgh, leading them to a berth in Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys.
After a disastrous performance in that game he went into the off-season where he cashed in with the New York Jets, signing a huge five year deal for $25 million that included a $7 million signing bonus. I am going to refrain from editorializing that he probably just added it to the money he won on the Super Bowl.
Things were never the same for O'Donnell, and the Jets released him after two years and only 20 starts.
After a one year stint with the Cincinnati Bengals, he was able to hang around as a backup for five more years as a Tennessee Titan until 2003. While in Tennessee, O'Donnell started a total of eight games.
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Greg Lloyd spent 10 of his 11 seasons in the NFL with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Over that time he became on of the League's most feared pass rushers, amassing 53.5 sacks for the Steelers.
After the 1997 season, the Steelers let Lloyd go under rumors (and on the field evidence) that accumulated knee injuries had taken their toll on Lloyd.
The next season, Lloyd signed with the Carolina Panthers where he started 14 games, recording only one sack.
This was one of the sad cases, as I would have loved to see him end his career in the black and gold.
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Before he was an ESPN football analyst, Merril Hoge was a fan favorite in the Steel City where he played as a running back from 1987 to 1993.
He turned in one of the greatest single performances that I had ever seen, carrying a Bubby Brister led Steelers team on his back in a narrow 24-23 loss to John Elway's Denver Broncos in the 1989 season's AFC Divisional Playoffs.
Hoge's impact went far beyond statistics, but in his seven year Steelers career he amassed 3,115 yards rushing and 21 touchdowns.
After the 1993 season, Hoge signed with the Chicago Bears where he started five games rushing for 24 yards on six carries. A victim of frequent concussions, Hoge retired from football in 1994.
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Louis Lipps was the 1st round draft pick (23rd overall) of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1984 NFL Draft. Over the eight years he spent in Pittsburgh, he was selected for two Pro Bowls and amassed 6,019 recieving yards.
In addition to playing wide receiver, Lipps was a return specialist and his career total of 42 touchdowns includes three touchdowns from punt returns.
In 1992, Lipps left the Steelers for the New Orleans Saints. During his one season in New Orleans, he appeared in two games, catching one ball for a one yard gain.
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Bear with me on this one. After backing up Terry Bradshaw for the first five years of his career, Cliff Stoudt became the starting quarterback for the Steelers in 1993 guiding them to an AFC Central title with a 10-6 record.
No too bad, right? So clearly the best career move would be to sign with the Birmingham Stallions of the United States Football League (USFL). Stoudt played a very solid two years for the Stallions, throwing 60 touchdowns against 26 interceptions for a passer rating near 95.
The bad news was that after the USFL folded in 1985, he never landed another staring job in the NFL. Over the next four seasons, Stoudt bounced around from the St. Louis Rams to the Phoenix Cardinals, ending his career with the Miami Dolphins in 1989.
Near the end of his career Franco Harris only needed three or four more good games to eclipse what was then the NFL career yardage rushing record of 12,312 yards held by Cleveland's Jim Brown.
At the end of the 1983 season, the Steelers decided to move forward with a youth movement creating the backfield tandem of Walter Abercrombie and Frank Pollard. Oh boy.
The effectively ended Harris' time in Pittsburgh, and in 1984 he signed on with the Seattle Seahawks.
Franco added a 170 yards to his total while in Seattle, but never reached Brown's mark, finishing just 192 yards short with 12,120 yards.
As a kid, seeing Franco in that hideous Seahawks uniform bummed me out to no end.