The Pittsburgh Steelers have a rich tradition of excellence which is punctuated by 23 Hall of Fame inductees and a record six Super Bowl trophies. Trying to narrow down to 50 the list of great players who've played in the Pittsburgh uniform is not an easy task. There are so many great names out there.
In compiling a list of the 50 greatest Steelers of all time, I chose to include coaches and owners in the list. All of the people on this list contributed to the franchise's greatest successes, but not all of the Hall of Famers made this list (some spent great portions of their career elsewhere with more notable success).
Here's a list of the 50 greatest Steelers of all time.
50. Jeff Hartings
Played six seasons in Pittsburgh and proved to be one of the best and most steady centers in the NFL during that time. He was unheralded much of the time, but his retirement gave everyone a clue of just how valuable he was.
49. Ike Taylor
Has played his entire career thus far with Pittsburgh and has proven to be one of the better cover men in the NFL. His lack of highlight-reel plays aside, he's still on of the best corners to put on the Steelers' uniform.
48. Norm Johnson
Replaced the excellent Gary Anderson and proved to be just as steady. He seems to fall between the cracks, but he was one of the best kickers the Steelers ever had, with a strong leg and excellent accuracy helping the Steelers to many victories.
47. Joey Porter
Played for Pittsburgh from 1999 until 2006, and during that time, was the vocal leader of the team and the soul of the Steel Curtain defense. He was, during his time in Pittsburgh, one of the top outside linebackers in the game.
46. Jason Gildon
Played 10 of his 11 years in Pittsburgh, made three Pro Bowl rosters and was a feared member of the Steel Curtain. Broke the Steelers' career record for sacks by notching 77 during his 10 seasons in black and gold and was considered the best pass rusher the team had since Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene.
45. Mike Wagner
Part of all four Super Bowls in the 1970s, Wagner was an excellent safety for Pittsburgh and led the league in interceptions in 1973, made two Pro Bowls and intercepted key passes in Super Bowl IX and X. He also played his entire career in Pittsburgh (1971-1980).
44. Roy Gerela
Gerela kicked for the first three Super Bowl teams, made two Pro Bowl rosters and led the AFC in scoring in both 1973 and 1974. He ranks third in scoring for the Pittsburgh Steelers all time and was the darling of the fan group "Gerela's Gorillas."
43. Bennie Cunningham
He played his entire career (1976-1985) in Pittsburgh and was part of the last two of the Super Bowl teams in the 1970s. He caught 20 touchdowns during his career and was one of the best tight ends in team history.
42. Bobby Layne
Layne came over from Detroit in 1958 and legitimized the Steelers' offense during his five years with the franchise. He is credited with being one of the most clutch players in the league and also with creating the two-minute offense.
41. Gary Anderson
Played for Pittsburgh from 1982 to 1994 and was one of the most accurate kickers in league history. He's the all-time leader in scoring for the Steelers with 1,343 points and was the best kicker the Steelers have ever employed.
40. Elbie Nickel
He played 11 seasons for Pittsburgh and was the best tight end in team history. He notched over 5,000 receiving yards and 37 touchdowns, made three Pro Bowls and was also one of the few pre-1970s players selected to the Steelers' all-time roster for their 75th Anniversary.
39. Jack Butler
Butler was a four time Pro Bowl player for Pittsburgh from 1951-1959. He was one of the best defenders to play in Pittsburgh, and in 1953, made nine interceptions and returned three for touchdowns. He was one of the last two-way players for the Steelers.
38. Carnell Lake
Played in Pittsburgh from 1989 to 1998 and recently returned to coach the secondary. He was also a four-time Pro Bowl player during his Steelers career and, as a rookie, recovered five fumbles to lead the team. He also played excellently at both corner and safety during his career.
37. John Henry Johnson
The recently-passed Johnson currently is fourth on the team's all-time rushing list and was one of the best runners in the NFL during his long career. He played six seasons in Pittsburgh and was one of the first of the team's long list of great running backs.
36. Casey Hampton
Has been a mainstay on the Pittsburgh defensive line since he was drafted. Hampton is one of the best defensive linemen the team has had, and his value can best be measure by the number of excellent seasons turned in by the team's linebackers.
35. Alan Faneca
Recently retired, Faneca had the best years of his lengthy career in Pittsburgh, where he became one of the league's best interior linemen and made seven consecutive Pro Bowl appearances from 2001-2007. Faneca was best known for his ability to pull, something the Steelers sorely miss today.
34. Bill Dudley
Although he played only parts of three seasons in Pittsburgh, Dudley made quite the impact as the team's leading scorer in 1945 and the NFL's rushing leader in 1942 and 1946. Also during 1946, he became the only player in NFL history to lead the league in four different statistical categories (including rushing and interceptions).
33. Dwight White
White finished his Pittsburgh career with 46 quarterback sacks (before they were an official stat) and two Pro Bowl selections to go with four Super Bowl championships. At defensive end, he was one of the anchors of the original Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s.
32. Dick Hoak
Not only was Hoak an impressive player (3,965 yards, 25 touchdowns), he was one of the longest-tenured assistant coaches in league history. He was the team's running backs coach from 1972 until 2007 and during that time, oversaw the careers of rushing greats from Franco Harris to Jerome Bettis.
31. Ernie Stautner
A defensive tackle from 1950 to 1963, Stautner is the only Steeler to have his number officially retired by the team. He made the 1950s All-Decade team for the NFL, nine Pro Bowls and was a 10-time All-Pro selection. He was selected to the Hall of Fame in 1969, the first time he was eligible.
30. Art Rooney II
The Steelers' current President and grandson of the legendary Art Rooney, the younger Rooney has overseen the team since 2003. During that time, the team has won two Super Bowls and won three AFC titles. Rooney has also managed to keep the Steelers in the family; not an easy task in today's times.
29. Dan Rooney
Father of Art Rooney II and son of Art Rooney, the current Ambassador to Ireland oversaw operations of the franchise from 1975 to 2002 (the second longest tenure in team history) and was in charge during three Super Bowl titles. He's one of the most recognizable owners in the game today.
28. Mike Tomlin
Tomlin emerged from nowhere in 2007 to earn the head coaching job. Since then, he's put together playoff teams in all but one season, won a Super Bowl and two AFC titles and has also won the AFC North three times. He certainly could climb much higher on this list.
27. Aaron Smith
One of the NFL's great unsung heroes, Smith has manned one side of the defensive line for Pittsburgh since 1999. During that time, he's opened holes for some of the best linebackers in the NFL and made a name for himself as one of the steadiest defensive linemen in the league.
26. James Farrior
Farrior came over from the New York Jets in 2002 and has been a mainstay in the middle of the linebackers every since. He's made the Pro Bowl twice and was a major part of both Super Bowl teams during this decade.
25. L.C. Greenwood
Greenwood was a charter member of the Steel Curtain defense and played in Pittsburgh from 1969 through 1981. He started in all four Super Bowls and also made six Pro Bowls. Greenwood, known for bright yellow shoes, also notched 73.5 sacks for Pittsburgh.
24. Bill Cowher
The "Chin" coached in Pittsburgh from 1992 through 2006, and during that time, was one of the winningest coaches in the league. Cowher won a Super Bowl, two AFC titles and 161 games overall. The Steelers also won more games than any other team during Cowher's tenure, and he is one of only six men to win seven or more division titles.
23. Donnie Shell
When Shell retired, he led the NFL with 51 career interceptions. He was selected to the team's All-Time roster and started 11 years in a row for Pittsburgh. Shell is among the best safeties in NFL history and arguably the best to wear black and gold.
22. Rocky Bleier
Perhaps the most interesting part of his stellar career is that he put up great numbers after a gruesome foot injury in Vietnam took part of one foot from him. Bleier was a great blocker and runner and was a huge part of Franco Harris' success in Pittsburgh. He also was a good receiver, catching a key touchdown in Super Bowl XIII.
21. Mel Blount
Blount played for Pittsburgh from 1970 to 1983, and during that time, won a Defensive MVP (1975), four Super Bowls and was named to five Pro Bowls. He made a key interception in Super Bowl XIII and had a reputation for clutch defensive plays.
20. Andy Russell
Russell played in Pittsburgh from 1963 through 1976 and was one of the best linebackers in team history. Russell won two Super Bowls during his time in Pittsburgh and played in seven Pro Bowls. He was the first of the famed Steel Curtain players to arrive in Pittsburgh.
19. James Harrison
Harrison went from being an undrafted player bouncing around for several years on practice squads to becoming an NFL superstar. His interception in Super Bowl XLIII is the longest play in Super Bowl history and arguably was one of the game-winning plays. Harrison has potential to climb this list with more Pro Bowl performances (he already has made four squads).
18. Ernie Holmes
Holmes was another member of the Steel Curtain, winning two Super Bowls during a Pittsburgh career that spanned from 1971 to 1977. Holmes notched 40 sacks in his career and led the team with 11 in 1974. He was often considered the most feared man on the Steelers' defense.
17. Greg Lloyd
One of the greatest linebackers in team history, Lloyd was one of the most-feared players in the NFL during his time with Pittsburgh. He made five Pro Bowls during his Steelers career (1988-1997) and was known to have tutored young Jason Gildon after his playing days became numbered.
16. Dermontti Dawson
Dawson was the second greatest offensive lineman in team history and seems like a lock to someday be enshrined in Canton. During his career (1988-2000), started 181 of 184 games and made seven Pro Bowl rosters.
Big Ben has the potential to be the best quarterback in team history. He currently only is chasing Terry Bradshaw for the honor. One of the most clutch players in the NFL, his placement on this list is more reflective of who's above him than on any lack of skill. Roethlisberger is one of the elite NFL quarterbacks of his generation and could climb higher on this list in the near future.
14. Jack Ham
Ham was one of the feared linebackers of the 1970s, notching eight Pro Bowl selections, was labeled as one of the greatest linebackers of all time, recovered 21 fumbles and made 25 sacks in a career that spanned from 1971 until 1982.
13. Troy Polamalu
Polamalu is the most feared safety in the NFL today thanks to his game-changing speed and instincts. He has been a part of six Pro Bowls and two Super Bowl championships and has emerged as one of the best safeties in both team and NFL history.
12. Hines Ward
Ward has become of the best blocking receivers in NFL history and also has worked his way to the top of Pittsburgh record books for receivers in virtually every category. During 2011, he will likely notch his 1,000th reception and perhaps will even reach 100 touchdowns before the end of his career.
11. Jerome Bettis
"The Bus" ran in Pittsburgh from 1996 through 2006, and during that time, he was one of the team's greatest leaders. He's the NFL's fifth leading rusher all-time and is second on the team's all-time list. He also made four Pro Bowls and helped the team win Super Bowl XL.
10. Chuck Noll
Noll coached the Steelers from 1969 until 1991, the longest tenure in team history and one of the longest in NFL history. During that time, the Steelers won four Super Bowls (Noll is the only coach with four titles with the same team) and 209 games. His unprecedented success went largely unnoticed due to his quiet demeanor, but he's unquestionably one of the greatest coaches in Steelers history.
9. Mike Webster
The greatest lineman in team history and one of the greatest in NFL history, Webster played for Pittsburgh from 1974-1988, earned nine Pro Bowl selections and won four Super Bowls. Webster also was selected to two all-decade teams and both the Steelers all-time team and the NFL's 75th Anniversary all-time team.
8. John Stallworth
Stallworth was most notable for his Super Bowl accomplishments, but also amassed 63 touchdowns and over 8,700 yards during a career that spanned from 1974 through 1987. Stallworth earned four Pro Bowl nods and caught an amazing 75-yard touchdown in Super Bowl XIII.
7. Lynn Swann
Swann was Super Bowl MVP for Super Bowl X and was one of the most graceful receivers in NFL history. He made three Pro Bowls during his career (1974-1982) and also caught 51 touchdowns during his career. One of the most recognizable faces in team history, Swann also made the all-decade team for the 1970s.
6. Rod Woodson
Woodson is one of the greatest defensive backs of all time. He spent the first part of his career (1987-1996) with Pittsburgh and notched seven of his 11 Pro Bowl appearances during that time. A star at both corner and safety, Woodson was the Troy Polamalu or Ed Reed of his day, a true shutdown defensive back.
5. Terry Bradshaw
For now, Bradshaw ranks as the greatest quarterback in team history and one of three to win Super Bowl MVP more than once (with Bart Starr and Joe Montana). Bradshaw won four Super Bowls and put up impressive numbers in a run-oriented offense during his career (1970-1983).
4. Jack Lambert
Lambert, with his missing teeth and high motor, was one of the league's most fearsome players during his playing days and is one of the faces of the NFL for the 1970s. Lambert notched 28 interceptions during his career (1974-1984). He was selected to nine Pro Bowls and was also selected to the NFL's all-time roster as well as two all-decade teams.
3. Joe Greene
"Mean Joe" was the face of the Steel Curtain from 1969 through 1981. Famous for his violent style of play, Greene notched 78.5 career sacks and was, with Lambert, one of the most feared and vicious players of the 1970s. Greene later went on to spend 16 years as an assistant coach in the NFL and also has rings for all six championship teams in Pittsburgh. He also famously coined the saying "one for the thumb," a Pittsburgh battle cry until 2005.
2. Franco Harris
Harris is the greatest running back in team history and one of the best in the history of the NFL. One of the most identifiable players in team history, Harris made the team's all-time greatest play when he famously scooped a deflected pass into his hands just as it was about to hit the turf. Harris is the league's sixth leading rusher in history and also is the team's leading rusher. Of all the players in team history, perhaps no one is greater than Harris.
1. Art Rooney, Sr.
No list of the greatest Steelers of all time can be complete without the man who started it all, Art Rooney. Rooney, who put the Steelers into the NFL in 1933 (as the Pittsburgh Pirates), waited many years to taste success, but oversaw the Steelers until his death in 1988. By that time, the team had won four Super Bowls and had been continuously successful since 1972.
While players have made contributions more famous than any owner, there would be no Pittsburgh Steelers without Art Rooney. The "Chief" is number one and always will be because he's the man who created the team that has become such an integral part of professional football and the city of Pittsburgh.