There's no greater achievement in the career of a football player than putting on the gold jacket in Canton. Millions have played the game as a child. A lucky some play at the college level. An extremely rare minority make an NFL roster. At the end of it all, an extremely rare, elite group of players see their bronze heads in the NFL Hall of Fame.
One of the NFL's most recognized and storied franchise, the Pittsburgh Steelers, are well represented in this legendary place. Many Steelers have been selected, but just as many have been snubbed. Due to the high number of Steelers in Canton, it has become extremely difficult for many of its alumni to get the call.
The 2011 roster of Pittsburgh Steelers have put together an impressive resume. In the past decade, they've won numerous division titles, they've assembled some of the game's best defenses and they've appeared in multiple AFC title games. Most importantly, they've been to three Super Bowls and have brought home the title twice. Many great players and coaches have made this all possible.
These are the players who have the potential to make this elite group. Some of these players already have a place reserved, some are well on their way, others are young with the potential to be there.
Starting this list with best cases first, Troy Polamalu is the Steelers' most obvious choice. To any Steelers fan, or simply NFL fan, I could not write anymore than this, and nobody would argue. The reigning Defensive MVP is an icon. Many of his 27 career interceptions have been the most outstanding, clutch, crucial plays ever witnessed. The man is a highlight waiting to happen.
On almost any other team, the quarterback is the most important factor for a team's success or failure. In Pittsburgh, that man is Troy Polamalu. When present, the sky is the limit. When absent, the team is almost hopeless. Troy Polamalu is the most recognized player on the field. He'll cover, he'll sack quarterbacks, he'll score touchdowns, he'll force fumbles, he'll tackle running backs deep in the backfield; Troy will make the impossible, possible.
Troy Polamalu even has the resume to back it up. He's won two Super Bowls, Team MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, six Pro Bowls and three All Pro selections.
Outside football, Polamalu is a decent actor, avid gardener and a talented piano player.
When it's all said and done, they might vote Troy Polamalu in the Hall of Fame within five years before he's even eligible; that's how iconic Troy Polamalu is.
Hines Ward isn't just a wide receiver, Hines Ward is a football player. Known for his toughness, his run blocking, his hard hitting and his iconic smile, Hines Ward is one of the most feared and respected players in the game.
If you want an example of what the Pittsburgh Steelers are all about, you point to Hines Ward. For Hines, his statistics do not tell the whole story. He does lead the team in almost all WR categories, but there is much more to the player. Hines Ward is a leader, a teacher and a very unselfish teammate. What he's done for the organization is difficult to measure.
Hines Ward has been the team's go-to guy. He's made some important catches in his career. Ward has been an integral part of the team's two Super Bowls, winning Super Bowl MVP honors in 2006. He's been to the Pro Bowl four times, however he's deserved many more.
I don't believe you can tell the story of the NFL and the Steelers without Hines Ward. Some may argue his chances, but Hines Ward should, and most likely will, be in the NFL Hall of Fame.
Love him or hate him, few would argue how accomplished and talented Ben Roethlisberger is. His off-the-field problems are well publicised. So far, he's done a great job of rebuilding his image and over time, he can hopefully be able to improve it. On the field, Ben Roethlisberger has been a winner.
Since his first start in Week 3 of his rookie season, Big Ben Roethlisberger has done nothing but succeed. His .704 regular season winning percentage ranks fourth amongst all NFL QB's. He's led game-winning drives, thrown game-winning touchdown passes and has taken the Steelers to the promise land twice.
Considered one of the more unorthodox quaterbacks in the league, Big Ben could almost be viewed as a football player than just a quarterback. Other quarterbacks may appear more polished or more prototypical, but few get the job done better than Ben Roethlisberger. When people speak of a player having "it," Ben Roethlisberger is one of those people that have "it."
Players like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Peyton Manning may be seen as better quarterbacks, but when a team is behind in the Super Bowl and needs a touchdown drive to win; Ben Roethlisberger is your man.
Ben Roethlisberger is magical. He's one of those few players you can count on that when the game is on the line, he'll make that perfect 40-yard pass, late in the fourth quarter, through a window, the size of a loaf of bread. When you think of magical players, you don't think of Peyton Manning, you think Ben Roethlisberger.
Little more needs to be done before, two-time Super Bowl winning, Ben Roethlisberger is assured a spot in Canton.
The perfect example of underrated Pittsburgh Steelers, Casey Hampton has been one of the most crucial players on the Steelers' defense. I would argue that after Troy Polamalu, Casey Hampton is the most important player on the defense.
One of the most unexciting players, Hampton's role doesn't allow him to build gaudy stats. Statistics do not define the work Casey Hampton does. Offensive line penetration and yards against the run are a better measure of Hampton's success. With the exception of 2003, the Pittsburgh Steelers have ranked in the top five in running yards against since Casey Hampton was drafted in the first round of 2001 to anchor the defense. Last year, it became impossible to run against Pittsburgh. Last year, the team allowed a mere 1,004 (about 400 yards better than second place) yards rushing all of last season.
Each year, Casey Hampton has done his job better than anyone can imagine. The key to Pittsburgh's success on defense is to remove the running game from the opposing teams arsenal. Casey Hampton is the key.
If the decision was up to me, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel would be first-ballot Hall of Famers and have their faces carved into the side of a mountain in Pittsburgh. It's unfortunate that these three players don't receive enough credit. It's sad to say Aaron Smith and Brett Keisel will not be featured in Canton, but I do believe Casey Hampton has a chance. It will be a well-deserved bid but it could be a while, if at all, before Casey Hampton is recognized in the Hall of Fame.
With the money James Harrison has been fined, and probably will get fined in the future, James Harrison could end up buying a portion of the NFL Hall of Fame. James Harrison is an interesting story. He went undrafted out of Kent State. He's been cut from the Ravens and Steelers multiple times, mostly from the practice squad. He made a name for himself on special teams for Pittsburgh. He body slammed an unsatisfied Cleveland Browns fan. He shined in limited opportunities filling in for injuries.
Since becoming starter, James Harrison has made everyone forget about Joey Porter. Although he started late, Harrison's short career has been stellar. It's a good thing he never worked out in Baltimore. James Harrison seems to be piling up a long 13-year career's worth of work into his short-lived one. He's already made multiple Pro Bowls, won two Super Bowls and won a Defensive Player of the Year Award.
James Harrison is a scary man. He reminds of Greg Lloyd in some ways, he's nuts. I'd rather get caught in bed with Mike Tyson's wife (is he even married?) than even look at James Harrison the wrong way.
Due to his short career as a starter, James Harrison may have to continue at this level to have a chance for Canton. It will be interesting to see how he recovers from surgery as well as handle the new rule changes. Honestly, I don't think James Harrison could care less if the NFL recognizes him or not.
The rest of the roster either won't be heading to Canton or has a long way to go.
A player like Heath Miller will get snubbed due to being a complete tight end.
Maurkice Pouncey obviously has a long way to go but is off to a great start. However, if a player as great as Dermonti Dawson has to wait this long who knows what Pouncy will have to go through.
Rashard Mendenhal, I feel, will have good career, but he doesn't seem to be the kind of player who will leave his mark as a Hall of Famer.
Ike Taylor doesn't have a chance because of his lack of interceptions.
Actually, there is one Steeler who isn't on this list who will most likely make it in the Hall of Fame...