Everyone knows by now if they have turned on ESPN or any other sports network in the past week that if the Steelers win Super Bowl XLV, a little more than few players will boost their chances of becoming immortalized in the Hall of Fame one day.
What members of the Steelers organization stand the best chance?
LaMarr Woodley is one of the most terrorizing sack masters in the league. I've been following Woodley for years now dating back to his freshman season at Michigan, and can say that this was one of his most impressive seasons ever.
With that said, Woodley is in a contract year, and with the uncertain CBA environment, the fact of the matter is that it is not a guarantee that Woodley will play for the Steelers next season. That combined, with being overshadowed by James Harrison's dominance, means that Woodley's chances are relatively low. It would take an unworldly performance in Super Bowl XLV and at least one Defensive POY award to even get him in the conversation.
Hall of Fame Chances - 5 percent
Most non-Steelers fans (and possibly even the majority of Steelers fans) are probably tired of the constant talk over Pouncey's high ankle sprain/broken ankle. What all of this coverage has shown though is that the media can drill anything into the ground and Pouncey is an excellent player that deserves this constant coverage.
Although Pouncey is only a rookie, he was 2nd team All-Pro and was one of only four rookies to make the Pro Bowl. He has shown signs that he will be a dominant center in the NFL for the next 10 years. On the other hand, one of the greatest centers ever, Dermontti Dawson, has yet to make it to the HOF and he was a perennial pro bowler. Super Bowl championships could make the ultimate difference, and Pouncey is on his way to his first.
Hall of Fame chances - 10 percent
Tomlin came to the Steelers as a relative unknown that many fans were up-in-arms about after Bill Cowher retired. Many viewed it as the Rooney family's way of justifying the Rooney Rule for hiring minority candidates.
Steelers fans have been blown away by Tomlin's command of the team, his player's-coach persona, and the way he has handled adversity. I would argue that there is not another coach out there right now that we would rather have. Plus two Super Bowl appearance in four years isn't too shabby.
The only reason Tomlin is this low is because it is considerably harder to make the HOF as a coach, but given Tomlin's age, he could quickly shoot up the list.
Hall of Fame Chance - 15 percent
Farrior is the definition of consistency and the Steelers workman-like approach. Playing ILB in the Steelers 3-4 scheme lacks glamor, but he has never complained about not getting the spotlight.
Farrior has lead the Steelers in tackles nearly every year (he was overtaken by Lawrence Timmons this season), but he still is the emotional leader of the defense.
He is getting up there in age (he played against Tomlin in college), but Farrior still has gas left in the tank. A third Super Bowl would boost his chances, but the lack of the spotlight and eye-popping stats will ultimately hurt his chances.
Hall of Fame Chances - 15 percent
Big Hamp has been the reason the Steelers have reemerged as the running stopping Steel Curtain of the 1970's. Never a player to amass huge stats, Hampton commands a constant double team. Teams converting to 3-4 defenses have looked to find a player that fits Hampton's mold (Raji for the Packers, Ngata for the Ravens, etc.).
While Hampton has played an integral role in the Steelers success, he plays the unsung hero. A lack of stats will hurt his candidacy against other DTs, but a third Super Bowl ring could counter that pretty nicely.
Hall of Fame Chances - 25 percent
Aaron Smith has been the definition of the prototypical 3-4 defensive end. He maintains the outside edge and forces runners inside to the Steelers linebackers. Smith was often overlooked at the beginning of the decade, but now is widely regarded at the best 3-4 DE in the NFL.
Smith has battled injuries the past few seasons and doesn't rack up the sacks like other DEs from this era, which will hurt his candidacy. Also, Ziggy Hood has stepped in nicely and helped smooth over the transition.
Needless to say, without Smith, the Steelers defense would not have had the dominant persona it has maintained over the last decade.
Hall of Fame Chances - 25 percent
Now we are getting to the most realistic possibilities of the list.
Harrison has been purely dominant the past four seasons. He is held nearly every play, yet still is able to be near the top of the league in sacks and forced fumbles.
Also, I'm not sure if you turned on the TV or read the newspaper in the past three months, but he is also the most fined player in the NFL and has increased the NFL's awareness of helmet to helmet hits.
Furthermore, Harrison is the owner of possibly the most exciting play in Super Bowl history (100 INT return in Super Bowl XLIII) and was defensive POY in 2008.
To think, all of this from a guy that was cut three times, and was considered too small coming out of Kent State.
The only thing hurting his candidacy is that he got a late jump on his career and may not have the longevity to make it to the Hall.
Hall of Fame Chances - 45 percent
Ward's career is reaching its end, but what a career it's been. He was initially drafted out of Georgia, where he played quarterback, and will retire as the Steelers all-time leader in nearly every receiving category. He is now overshadowed by Mike Wallace's big play ability, but he still is the most consistent threat on the team.
Ward is widely regarded as the best blocking WR in NFL history, but he faces stiff competition from the likes of Terrell Owens, Marvin Harrison, Torry Holt, Reggie Wayne, etc., not to mention Cris Carter and Tim Brown.
What sets Ward apart is the fact that he is a Super Bowl MVP, possible three-time Super Bowl champion, and that both John Stallworth and Lynn Swann are in the HOF, setting precedence.
Hall of Fame Chances - 75 percent
Polamalu is the ultimate game changer. His style is so unorthodox that it creates phenomenal plays (or leaves blatant coverage gaps as any Steeler fan has seen). He has changed the safety position forever along with Ed Reed, making it a team focal point, rather than a place that declining corners play at the end of their career.
Polamalu will be remembered for the numerous key plays he has made over the years (Joe Flacco probably sees Polamalu in his nightmares). He is a silent, but great leader on the team.
His ultimate contribution is that you never hear a bad word about him from anyone. Never will you see him go on TV and bad mouth a teammate or someone from the other team. He is the ultimate lead-by-example player.
Not to mention, his jersey lead the NFL in sales this season (previously unthinkable for a safety).
Hall of Fame Chances - 95 percent
He may be one of the most controversial figures in the NFL today, but Ben Roethlisberger wins football games (you may have heard that one before).
I'll be the first person to admit that I did not like Roethlisberger as a person as early as 2005, when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL. He has changed his ways, and is much more visible in the community. He has said and done all of the right things to rebuild his image.
Ultimately, the NFL is a Quarterback driven league. Teams rarely succeed without a top flight QB, and the Steelers are no exception.
He will never match the statistical outputs of Brady, Brees, or Manning. He'll never win the MVP awards because of the way the Steelers offense is built. You may rather have Brady, Brees, or Manning, but give me Roethlisberger any day over those three.
Plus, only Jim Plunkett has won more than one Super Bowl and not made it to the HOF. Roethlisberger has two, and a third would make him a virtual lock.
Hall of Fame Chances - 95 pecent
Obviously, this is open to debate. Feel free to comment and let me know what order you think the current roster should be in, or if there is someone else that I left off that you feel could make it.
Most importantly though, let's take care of business on February 6th and bring home a 7th Lombardi.