The 100 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Steelers History

Mike Batista@Steel_TweetsContributor IMay 24, 2013

The 100 Greatest Players in Pittsburgh Steelers History

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    What better time to compile a list of the 100 greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history?

    The Steelers were founded on July 8, 1933, according to Steelers.com. That's almost exactly 80 years ago.

    The last 40 years were a lot different than the first 40. The Immaculate Reception clearly demarcates the turning point in the franchise's fortunes.

    More players from the last four decades are on this list of the 100 greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history, because Super Bowl rings carried a lot of weight in the selection process.

    Pro Football Reference was used as the source for statistics, Pro Bowl and first-team All Pro information unless otherwise noted.

100-96: Walden, Cunningham, von Oelhoffen, Thomas, Steed

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    No. 100, Bobby Walden, P, 1968-1977: The list of 100 greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history begins with the obligatory punter. Walden made the Pro Bowl in 1969 and won two Super Bowls with the Steelers.

    No. 99, Bennie Cunningham, TE, 1976-1985: Cunningham is third all-time among Steelers tight ends with 202 receptions, 2,879 receiving yards and 20 receiving touchdowns.

    No 98, Kimo von Oelhoffen, DL, 2000-2005: von Oelhoffen (pictured) is 20th on the Steelers' all-time list with 20.5 career sacks. He had a sack in the Steelers' stunning 21-18 win over Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in the 2005 playoffs. The Steelers went on to win their first Super Bowl in 26 years.

    No. 97, Clendon Thomas, DB, 1962-1968: Thomas' 23 interceptions are 13th all-time on the Steelers list. He made the Pro Bowl in 1963.

    No. 96, Joel Steed, NT, 1992-1999: Steed made 224 career tackles and was a Pro Bowler in 1997.

95-91: Hinkle, Williams, Smith, Gary, Pollard

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    No. 95, Bryan Hinkle, OLB, 1982-1993: Hinkle played his entire career with the Steelers and had 22.5 sacks.

    No. 94, Gerald Williams, DL, 1986-1994: Williams is sixth 15th on the Steelers' all-time list with 24.5 career sacks.

    No. 93, Marvel Smith, OT, 2000-2008: Smith (pictured) started out at right tackle but in 2003 moved over to the blind side, where he played the rest of his career. He was a Pro Bowler for the 15-1 Steelers in 2004.

    No. 92, Keith Gary, DE, 1983-1988: Gary recorded all 25 of his career sacks within a five-year span from 1983 to 1987.

    No. 91, Frank Pollard, RB, 1980-1988: Pollard's 3,989 rushing yards are fifth on the Steelers' all-time list.

90-86: Jefferson, Little, Mathews, Hoge, Mendenhall

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    No. 90, Roy Jefferson, WR, 1965-1969: A two-time Pro Bowler, Jefferson led the NFL with 1,074 receiving yards in 1968. He also led the league with 24.1 yards per reception in 1966.

    No. 89, David Little, ILB, 1981-1992: Little made the Pro Bowl in 1990. He played 89 games in a row at one point, according to the Associated Press via NBC Sports.

    No. 88, Ray Mathews, HB-E, 1951-1959: Mathews is eighth all-time among Steelers pass catchers with 34 touchdowns and 10th with 3,919 receiving yards. He made two Pro Bowls.

    No. 87, Merrill Hoge, RB, 1987-1993: Hoge was just as effective catching the ball as he was running with it. He's 12th on the Steelers' all-time list with 3,115 rushing yards and 21 rushing touchdowns. As a receiver, he cracks the top 10 in the Steelers' record books with 241 catches.

    No. 86, Rashard Mendenhall, RB, 2008-2012: Despite the inglorious end to Mendenhall's career in Pittsburgh, he is fifth on the Steelers' career list with 29 rushing touchdowns. He ran for 1,273 yards in 2010 and was one short of the Steelers' single-season record with 13 rushing touchdowns.

85-81: McPeak, Maddox, Bell, Nickerson, Randle El

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    No. 85, Bill McPeak, DE, 1949-1957: McPeak made three Pro Bowls in his career.

    No. 84, Tommy Maddox, QB, 2001-2005: Maddox always will have a place in Steelers lore. He went from being a career backup to the XFL to throwing 20 touchdown passes in 2002. Maddox took over for Kordell Stewart after the Steelers started that season 0-2. He threw 20 touchdown passes and led the Steelers to the divisional round of the playoffs.

    No. 83, Kendrell Bell, ILB, 2001-2004: Bell was the Associated Press Defensive Rookie of the Year in 2001 with nine sacks, but injuries cut his career short.

    No. 82, Hardy Nickerson, ILB, 1987-1992: None of Nickerson's five Pro Bowl seasons came in Pittsburgh, so that wasn't considered. But Nickerson does rank 10th on the Steelers' all-time list with 426 tackles. Nickerson had 114 tackles in 1992, when the Steelers posted their first double-digit-win season in nine years.

    No. 81, Antwaan Randle El, WR, 2002-2005; 2010: Randle El is the Steelers' all-time leader with four punt returns for touchdowns. He also threw a touchdown pass on a gadget play in Super Bowl XL.

80-76: Pouncey, Timmons, Anderson, Fuqua, Brown

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    No. 80, Maurkice Pouncey, C, 2010-Present: The Steelers went to the Super Bowl in 2010 with Pouncey starting at center as a rookie. Pouncey has made the Pro Bowl in all three of his NFL seasons.

    No. 79, Lawrence Timmons, ILB, 2007-Present: Timmons had five sacks as a backup for the Super Bowl-champion Steelers in 2008. His 23 career sacks rank 16th all-time on the Steelers list, and he just turned 27.

    No. 78, Gary Anderson, K, 1982-1994: Anderson holds the Steelers' record for points scored with 1,343, according to SI.com. He made three Pro Bowls as a Steeler.

    No. 77, John "Frenchy" Fuqua, RB, 1970-1976: Fuqua was leveled by Jack Tatum of the Oakland Raiders during a 1972 playoff game, and it was the best thing that ever happened to the Steelers because that play turned into the Immaculate Reception.

    Fuqua played on Super Bowl-winning teams in 1974 and 1975. He ran for a career-high 691 yards in 1970 and caught a career-high 49 passes in 1971.

    No. 76, Antonio Brown, WR, 2010-Present: Brown set the Steelers' record for all-purpose yards in a season with 2,211 in 2011, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That earned him the team's Most Valuable Player award and a Pro Bowl berth.

No. 75: Robin Cole, LB, 1977-1987

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    Robin Cole was a member of the Steelers' 1978 and 1979 championship teams.

    Cole had a sack in the Steelers' 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV. He's tied for 10th all-time among Steelers defensive players with 14 forced fumbles and made the Pro Bowl in 1984 when the Steelers reached the AFC championship game.

No. 74: Yancey Thigpen, WR, 1992-1997

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    Yancey Thigpen holds the Steelers record for receiving yards in a single season with 1,398 in 1997.

    A Pro Bowler in 1995 and 1997, Thigpen caught 85 passes in 1995 for the AFC champion Steelers. He joins Hines Ward and John Stallworth as the only Steelers to catch 80 or more passes in a season.

No. 73: John Reger, LB, 1955-1963

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    John Reger is tied for fifth all-time among Steelers defensive players with 17 fumble recoveries in his career.

    He made the Pro Bowl in 1959, 1960 and 1961.

No. 72: Sam Davis, OG, 1967-1979

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    Sam Davis was an offensive co-captain for nine years, according to SI.com, and a member of four Super Bowl-winning teams.

    Davis started at left guard for the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII and Super Bowl XIV.

No. 71: Myron Pottios, LB, 1961-1965

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    A three-time Pro Bowler, Myron Pottios intercepted seven passes and forced two fumbles as a Steeler.

No. 70: Dick Hoak, RB, 1961-1970

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    A Pro Bowler in 1967, Dick Hoak is sixth in Steelers history with 3,965 rushing yards. He also caught 146 passes in his career.

No. 69: Mike Wallace, WR, 2009-2012

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    With the book closed on Mike Wallace's career in Pittsburgh, he has his place on the list of greatest players in Steelers history.

    Wallace is ninth on the Steelers' career list with 4,042 receiving yards and 32 receiving touchdowns.

    As a rookie in 2009, Wallace led the NFL with 19.4 yards per reception. He caught 60 passes at 21 yards per reception as the Steelers reached the Super Bowl in 2010.

    Wallace made the Pro Bowl in 2011 with a career-high 72 receptions.

No. 68: Ryan Clark, S, 2002-Present

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    Ryan Clark was part of the Steelers' 2008 championship team and earned a Pro Bowl berth in 2011.

    A leader on the Steelers' defense, Clark is 13th on the Steelers' all-time list with 385 career tackles.

No. 67: Keith Willis, DL, 1982-1991

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    Keith Willis is fourth all-time with 59 sacks as a Steeler.

    Willis had 14 sacks in 1983 and 12 in 1986. He'd be ranked higher on this list, but he never played in a Super Bowl.

No. 66: Neil O'Donnell, QB, 1991-1995

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    In 1995, Neil O'Donnell quarterbacked the Steelers to their first Super Bowl in 16 years.

    However, his ranking on this list is hurt by the infamy of throwing two interceptions right at Larry Brown in Super Bowl XXX. The Steelers lost that game 27-17 to the Dallas Cowboys and had to wait another 10 years before finally winning One for the Thumb.

    O'Donnell made the Pro Bowl in 1992 and is fourth on the Steelers' all-time list in quarterback victories (39), touchdown passes (68) and passing yards (12,867).

No. 65: John Jackson, OT, 1988-1997

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    John Jackson's ranking matches his uniform number. He was the Steelers' primary starter at left tackle from 1989 to 1997. He was the blind-side protector for seven playoff teams and one Super Bowl team.

No. 64: Kordell Stewart, QB, 1995-2002

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    Kordell Stewart and Neil O'Donnell are partners in Steelers history.

    Both quarterbacks couldn't win the big one and thus their time in Pittsburgh ended in unceremonious fashion.

    Stewart ranks third all-time among Steelers quarterbacks in victories (46), passing yards (13,328) and touchdown passes (70).

    Stewart threw 72 interceptions, almost twice as much as O'Donnell. He was 0-2 in AFC championship games. O'Donnell was 1-1.

    However, Stewart never had a moment of infamy quite like O'Donnell's Super Bowl XXX gaffes.

    And O'Donnell was no Slash.

No. 63: Brett Keisel, DE, 2002-Present

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    Brett Keisel has won two Super Bowl rings. He had two sacks in the 2005 AFC championship game, a 34-17 win at Denver that led to the Steelers' victory in Super Bowl XL.

    Keisel's 25 career sacks ties him for 13th on the Steelers' all-time list. He made the Pro Bowl in 2010, a season highlighted by a 79-yard touchdown return on his only career interception.

No. 62: Frank Varrichione, OT, 1955-1960

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    Frank Varrichione is one of four Steelers offensive linemen to be named to at least four Pro Bowls.

No. 61: J.T. Thomas, CB, 1973-1981

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    J.T. Thomas was part of all four Steelers championship teams in the 1970s and made the Pro Bowl in 1976.

    Thomas had 19 career interceptions. He had an interception in the 1974 AFC championship game to help the Steelers defeat the Oakland Raiders 24-13 before winning their first championship in Super Bowl IX.

    Thomas also picked off a pass in the Steelers' win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.

No. 60: Dwayne Woodruff, CB, 1979-1990

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    Dwayne Woodruff, who later became a judge, was a rookie on the Steelers' Super Bowl-winning team in 1979.

    He made the first of his 37 career interceptions that year and ranks fifth on the Steelers' all-time list in that category.

No. 59: Larry Foote, ILB, 2002-2008; 2010-Present

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    Larry Foote has been a vital defensive cog for two Super Bowl champions. He's 11th on the Steelers' all-time list with 408 career tackles.

    At age 32 last season, Foote matched his career high with four sacks and was one short of his career high with 75 total tackles.

No. 58: Glen Edwards, S, 1971-1977

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    A Pro Bowler in 1975 and 1976, Glen Edwards is 11th on the Steelers' all-time list with 25 interceptions.

    Edwards was a member of two Super Bowl champions. His hit on John Gilliam in Super Bowl IX allowed Mel Blount to make an interception, and the Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 for their first Super Bowl victory.

No. 57: Clark Haggans, LB, 2000-2007

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    Clark Haggans might have been lost in the shuffle while other Steelers linebackers received more notoriety, but he's ninth on the Steelers' all-time list with 32.5 sacks.

    Haggans had a career-high nine sacks for the Steelers in 2005, and they won Super Bowl XL that year.

No. 56: Jeff Hartings, C, 2001-2006

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    Jeff Hartings upheld the Steelers' proud tradition at center and won a Super Bowl ring in the process.

    Hartings was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro in 2004 and a Pro Bowler again in 2005 when the Steelers won Super Bowl XL.

No. 55: Tunch Ilkin, OT, 1980-1992

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    The Steelers might have been mediocre in the 1980s, but Tunch Ilkin wasn't.

    Ilkin was a mainstay on the Steelers' offensive line and made the Pro Bowl in 1988 and 1989.

No. 54: Buddy Dial, SE, 1959-1963

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    Buddy Dial is a two-time Pro Bowler and fourth on the Steelers' all-time list with 51 receiving touchdowns.

    Dial is sixth on the Steelers' all-time list with 4,723 receiving yards.

    Dial's success wasn't limited to the gridiron. He's also a recording artist.

No. 53: Mike Merriweather, LB, 1982-1987

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    Mike Merriweather had 15 sacks, a franchise record at the time, as the Steelers reached the AFC championship game in 1984.

    A three-time Pro Bowler, Merriweather is tied for 10th all-time with 31 sacks as a Steeler.

No. 52: Dale Dodrill, LB, 1951-1959

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    A four-time Pro Bowler and first-team All-Pro in 1954, Dale Dodrill had 10 interceptions and 11 fumble recoveries in his career.

No. 51: Plaxico Burress, WR, 2000-2004; 2012-Present

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    Only a player's accomplishments in Pittsburgh are considered for this list. So even though Plaxico Burress' finest hour came when he won a Super Bowl as a New York Giant, he is among the greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history because of what he did in Pittsburgh.

    Burress is eighth on the Steelers' all-time list in both receptions with 264 and receiving yards with 4,206. He turned in career highs with 78 catches and 1,325 receiving yards in 2002.

    With Burress as a deep threat, the Steelers reached the AFC championship game in 2001 and 2004. Burress was second in the NFL with 19.9 yards per reception in 2006.

No. 50: Jerry Shipkey, FB-LB, 1948-1952

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    Jerry Shipkey is among the top 50 greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history because of his prowess on both sides of the the ball.

    Shipkey ran for eight touchdowns in 1948, second in the NFL. He became a three-time Pro Bowler and a two-time first-team All Pro on defense.

    In 1951, Shipkey intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown.

No. 49: Chad Brown, LB, 1993-1996

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    Chad Brown was a Steeler for only four years, but his postseason performances gave him the final push he needed to get into the top 50 on the list of greatest Steelers.

    Brown had five postseason sacks for the Steelers, including three in their 42-14 AFC divisional playoff win over the Indianapolis Colts in 1996. He was a Pro Bowler and a first-team All-Pro that year with 13 sacks, two interceptions and two fumble recoveries.

    Brown is 10th on the Steelers all-time list with 31 career sacks.

No. 48: Ray Mansfield, C-DT, 1964-1976

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    The Pittsburgh Steelers' rich tradition at center began with Ray Mansfield in 1966.

    Mansfield was a defensive tackle in his first two years with the Steelers. He moved to center in 1966 and initiated four decades of stability at the position.

    Mansfield played in 182 consecutive games, a Steelers record at the time, and he won two Super Bowl rings.

No. 47: Barry Foster, RB, 1990-1994

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    Barry Foster owns the Steelers' single-season record for rushing yards with 1,690 in 1992. He was second in the NFL that season and earned Pro Bowl and first-team All-Pro honors. Foster made the Pro Bowl again in 1993.

No. 46: Darren Perry, S, 1992-1998

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    Darren Perry's arrival as an eighth-round pick in the 1992 draft coincided with the Steelers' resurgence from the mediocrity of the 1980s.

    Perry is tied for seventh with 32 career interceptions as a Steeler, including six in 1992 and seven in 1994.

No. 45: John Henry Johnson, RB, 1960-1965

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    Who says running backs break down in their 30s?

    John Henry Johnson hit his prime on the north side of 30. The Steelers were the third of his four NFL teams. He made the Pro Bowl in 1962, 1963 and 1964. He earned his last Pro Bowl berth as a 35-year-old.

    At 33, Johnson ran for a career-high 1,141 yards in 1962. He ranks fourth on the Steelers' all-time list with 4,381 rushing yards and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.

No. 44: Elbie Nickel, TE, 1947-1957

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    Not only is Elbie Nickel the Steelers' all-time leader for receiving yards among tight ends, he also was a significant defensive contributor early in his career.

    Nickel led the NFL with 24.3 yards per reception in 1949 and made the Pro Bowl in 1952, 1953 and 1956. His 5,131 receiving yards are fifth on the Steelers' all-time list.

No. 43: Louis Lipps, WR, 1984-1991

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    Louis Lipps burst onto the scene in Pittsburgh as the 1984 Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year. He caught 45 passes, nine for touchdowns, on a team that reached the AFC championship game.

    Lipps was a Pro Bowler in 1984 and again in 1985. He posted career highs with 59 receptions, 1,134 yards and 12 touchdowns.

    The consistent Lipps caught exactly 50 passes every year from 1988 to 1990. Then in 1991, he caught 55 passes in his final year with the Steelers.

    Lipps' 6,018 receiving yards as a Steeler is third on the franchise's all-time list. His 358 receptions are fourth. Lipps also is tied for second all-time among Steelers with three touchdowns on punt returns.

No. 42: Ernie Holmes, DT, 1972-1977

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    Ernie Holmes was part of the famed front four of the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s.

    Holmes won Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in 1974 and 1975. He'd be ranked higher if he was with all four championship teams of the 1970s.

    Holmes didn't earn the accolades of other Steelers during that era. But Dwight White, who played next to him at defensive end, told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he was comparable to Mean Joe Greene.

    "Ernie was a tremendous football player. Not taking anything away from Joe -- we know where he is -- Ernie was as good, and, in some cases, even better."

No. 41: Larry Brown, TE-OT, 1971-1984

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    No, not THAT Larry Brown.

    This Larry Brown was no Super Bowl villain in Pittsburgh. Not only did he help the Steelers win four Super Bowls, but he did it at two different positions.

    Brown started at tight end for the Steelers' Super Bowl championship teams in 1974 and 1975. He caught three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers' 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

    In 1977 Brown moved to the offensive line. He started at right tackle in the Steelers' Super Bowl XIV win over the Los Angeles Rams.

    Brown made the Pro Bowl in 1982.

No. 40: Santonio Holmes, WR, 2006-2009

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    Santonio Holmes is one of five Steelers with Super Bowl Most Valuable Player on their resume. That puts him in the top 40 among the greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

    With 35 seconds left in Super Bowl XLIII, Holmes caught a 6-yard pass from Ben Roethlisberger in the corner of the end zone for the winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

    Holmes caught nine passes for 131 yards as the Steelers won their sixth Super Bowl.

    Holmes led the NFL with 18.1 yards per reception in 2007 and caught a career-high 79 passes in 2009.

No. 39: Kevin Greene, OLB, 1993-1995

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    Kevin Greene would be ranked higher on the list of the greatest players in Pittsburgh Steelers history if he played more than three years in Pittsburgh.

    Greene had 35.5 sacks, eighth on the Steelers' career list, in those three seasons. He led the NFL in 1994 with 14 sacks. Greene was a Pro Bowler in 1994 and 1995 and a first-team All Pro in 1994.

    In 1995, Greene contributed to the Steelers' Super Bowl XXX run with a team-leading nine sacks.

No. 38: Carnell Lake, S, 1989-1998

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    Carnell Lake made the Pro Bowl every year from 1994 to 1997, and the Pittsburgh Steelers reached the AFC championship game in three of those four seasons.

    Lake intercepted 16 passes in his career, returning three for touchdowns, and forced 15 fumbles.

    Although primarily a safety, Lake played some cornerback in 1997. He had a career-high six sacks that year and was a first-team All Pro.

No. 37: Willie Parker, RB, 2004-2009

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    Willie Parker's signature moment as a Pittsburgh Steeler came when he ran for a 75-yard touchdown run in Super Bowl XL, the longest run in Super Bowl history.

    Parker also owns the Steelers record for rushing yards in a single game. He gained 223 in a 27-7 win over the Cleveland Browns in 2006. He ran for a career-high 13 touchdowns that year and caught three TD passes.

    A two-time Pro Bowler, Parker is third on the Steelers' all-time list with 5,378 career rushing yards.

No. 36: Ike Taylor, CB, 2003-Present

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    Ike Taylor is the Steelers' all-time leader with 119 passes defended, a stat that wasn't kept in the 1970s.

    Taylor might not get Pro Bowl recognition because he has just 14 career interceptions, but since becoming a starter in 2005, he's been a shutdown corner for two Super Bowl champions.

    Taylor does have three postseason picks. He had one in the 2005 AFC championship game, a 34-17 win at Denver. He also intercepted a pass in Super Bowl XL to help the Steelers defeat the Seattle Seahawks 21-10 for their fifth championship.

No. 35: Heath Miller, TE, 2005-Present

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    Heath Miller is the Steelers’ all-time leader among tight ends (and third among all pass catchers) with 408 career receptions.

    Miller was an immediate contributor as a rookie, catching 39 passes with six touchdowns for the Super Bowl XL champions in 2005. He caught 48 passes during the Steelers' 2008 championship season.

    Miller caught 76 passes in 2009 and 71 passes in 2012, earning Pro Bowl honors both years. Because of a knee injury that could force him to miss the beginning of 2013, Miller couldn't play in the Pro Bowl that followed the 2012 season.

No. 34: Mike Wagner, S, 1971-1980

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    A four-time Super Bowl winner who played his entire career in Pittsburgh, Mike Wagner is sixth on the Steelers' all-time list with 36 career interceptions.

    Wagner led the NFL with eight interceptions in 1973, and was a Pro Bowler in 1975 and 1976.

    In the 1975 AFC championship game, Wagner had two interceptions as the Steelers defeated the Oakland Raiders 16-10 at Pittsburgh. The Steelers went on to win their second Super Bowl two weeks later.

No. 33: Aaron Smith, DE, 1999-2011

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    Aaron Smith was one of the Steelers' main run stuffers in the first decade of the 21st century.

    Smith became a starter in 2000. According to the Denver Post, the Steelers ranked in the top three against the run nine times between 2001 and 2010.

    In 2010, teammate Ryan Clark said Smith was the best 3-4 defensive end in the NFL.

    A 2004 Pro Bowler, Smith had at least two sacks every season from 2000 to 2009 and ranks seventh on the Steelers' all-time list with 44 in his career.

No. 32: LaMarr Woodley, OLB, 2007-Present

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    LaMarr Woodley is 28 and he's already sixth in Steelers history with 52 career sacks.

    He's the only player to record at least one sack in his first seven postseason games. He had two sacks in each of his first four postseason games, including the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII win over the Arizona Cardinals.

    Woodley recorded double-digit sacks every year from 2008 to 2010, including a career-high 13.5 in 2009. He earned his only Pro Bowl berth that year.

    Woodley rung up nine sacks in the first eight games of the 2011 season, but has been hampered by injuries and had just four sacks since then.

    The disappointment of the last year and a half lends an air of unfinished business to Woodley's career, which is why he doesn't make the top 30 on the list of all-time greatest Steelers.

No. 31: Jason Gildon, OLB, 1994-2003

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    Jason Gildon is the Steelers' all-time leader with 77 sacks, although players from the Steel Curtain era are excluded because sacks weren't officially recorded until 1982.

    Gildon made three straight Pro Bowls from 2000 to 2002. He had 13.5 sacks in 2000 and 12 in 2001. Gildon was a first-team All Pro that year for the 13-3 Steelers, helping revive a franchise that had endured three straight non-playoff seasons.

No. 30: Levon Kirkland, ILB, 1992-2000

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    Levon Kirkland helped the Steelers reach Super Bowl XXX in 1995.

    Kirkland's 18.5 career sacks don't come close to Jason Gildon's career total. He ranks ahead of Gildon, however, because he's fifth in Steelers history with 639 tackles. Gildon had just 372.

    Kirkland was a Pro Bowler in 1996 and 1997 and a first-team All-Pro in 1997.

No. 29: Rocky Bleier, RB, 1968-1980

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    Rocky Bleier overcame the odds both as a 16th-round draft pick and a Vietnam veteran trying to overcome rifle and grenade wounds to his legs.

    After missing two years, Bleier returned to the Steelers in 1971 and won four Super Bowl rings.

    Bleier ran for a career-high 1,036 yards and caught a career-high 24 passes in 1976. He averaged 4.2 rushing yards for his career.

    In Super Bowl XIII, Bleier caught a 7-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw to give the Steelers a lead they wouldn't relinquish in their 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

No. 28: Jon Kolb, OT, 1969-1981

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    Jon Kolb protected Terry Bradshaw's blind side for all four Steelers championship teams of the 1970s. He started all but five games at left tackle for the Steelers from 1971 to 1979.

    Pro Football Weekly named Kolb all-AFC in 1975 and 1978. According to SI.com, Kolb was one of the first linemen to incorporate weight training into his routine.

No. 27: Joey Porter, LB, 1999-2006

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    Joey Porter had 10.5 sacks for the Steelers' Super Bowl XL champions in 2005. He also had 10.5 sacks in 2000.

    Porter was named first-team All Pro when he had nine sacks and a career-high four interceptions in 2002.

    A three-time Pro Bowler as a Steeler, Porter is third all-time in franchise history with 60 sacks since sacks became an official statistic in 1982.

No. 26: Casey Hampton, NT, 2001-2012

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    It's hard to quantify Casey Hampton's accomplishments with statistics. It was his job to occupy blockers so other defenders could fill up the stat sheet.

    Hampton ranks ahead of someone like Joey Porter, however, because he won multiple Super Bowl rings and as of the spring of 2013, he hasn't made his mark with any other team.

    Hampton made five Pro Bowls and was a rock in the middle of the 3-4 defense for two Steelers championship teams.

No. 25: James Farrior, ILB, 2002-2011

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    James Farrior is one of the top 25 greatest Pittsburgh Steelers of all-time because of his leadership role on defense for two Super Bowl champions.

    If this were a list of Steelers' free-agent acquisitions, Farrior might be No. 1. He came to the Steelers in 2002 after five years with the New York Jets.

    Since tackles were officially recorded in 2001, Farrior is the Steelers' career leader with 742. His 30 sacks is 12th on the Steelers' all-time list.

    Farrior was a first-team All Pro in 2004 and a Pro Bowler in 2004 and 2008. In 2005, Farrior had 2.5 sacks in the Steelers' monumental 21-18 playoff upset at Indianapolis. That performance helped fuel the Steelers' improbable run from the No. 6 seed to their first Super Bowl victory in 26 years.

No. 24: Jack Butler, DB, 1951-1959

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    Jack Butler didn't win any Super Bowl rings, but he dominated his era.

    Butler who died in 2013 a year after being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, is second on the Steelers' all-time list with 52 career interceptions. At the time, it was the second-most in NFL history according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    Butler led the NFL with 10 interceptions in 1957. He was a Pro Bowler every year from 1955 to 1958 and a first-team All Pro every year from 1957 to 1959.

No. 23: Greg Lloyd, LB, 1988-1997

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    After the mediocrity of the 1980s, Greg Lloyd made opponents fear the Steelers again in the 1990s.

    Lloyd's legendary hits produced 34 forced fumbles, the most in Steelers history. Since sacks became an official stat in 1982, Lloyd is second fifth on the Steelers' all-time list with 54.5  53.5, including 10 in 1994, the fourth of his five straight Pro Bowl seasons to go with his three first-team All Pro honors.

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No. 22: James Harrison, LB, 2002-1012

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    James Harrison's career in Pittsburgh ended this spring, but not before he won two Super Bowl rings, and made arguably the best play in Super Bowl history.

    Harrison intercepted a Kurt Warner pass and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown in the Steelers' Super Bowl XLIII win over the Arizona Cardinals.

    Harrison helped power the Steelers' championship run that year with 16 sacks, a Steelers' single-season record. He was named the 2008 NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

    Since sacks became an official statistic in 1982, Harrison is second on the Steelers' all-time list with 64. He's also second in team history with 29 forced fumbles.

    Harrison made five Pro Bowls and was named first-team All Pro twice.

No. 21: Dwight White, DE, 1971-1980

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    Dwight White was part of the front four of the Steel Curtain defense of the 1970s and a member of all four Steelers championship teams of that era.

    Sacks weren't officially recorded until 1982, but according to SI.com, White had 43 in his career. That would have placed him in eighth place, ahead of Kevin Greene, on the Steelers' all-time list.

    White made the Pro Bowl in 1972 and 1973 and has the distinction of scoring the first Super Bowl points in Steelers history.

    Despite a case of pneumonia and a lung infection, White left the hospital, according to the Associated Press via ESPN.com, and played in the Steelers' 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

    He tackled Fran Tarkenton in the end zone to give the Steelers a 2-0 lead.

No. 20: Dermontti Dawson, C, 1988-2000

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    Dermontti Dawson cracks the top 20 on the list of the greatest Steelers because he so ably carried the torch at center.

    Dawson is one of four players who ensured that the Steelers wouldn't have to worry about the center position between 1966 and 2006.

    Beginning in 1992, Dawson made this first of seven consecutive Pro Bowls. The following year, he earned the first of his five straight first-team All Pro honors.

    Dawson played in 170 consecutive games, the second-longest streak in Steelers history, and entered the Pro Football Hall of Fame last year.

No. 19: Donnie Shell, S, 1974-1987

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    Despite being undrafted, Donnie Shell earned four Super Bowl rings and remained productive well into the 1980s.

    Shell is third on the Steelers' all-time list with 51 career interceptions. According to SI.com, he was the first strong safety in NFL history to intercept 50 passes.

    His 19 recovered fumbles is fourth all-time among Steelers defensive players.

    Shell made five straight Pro Bowls beginning in 1978 and is a three-time first-team All-Pro.

No. 18: Jerome Bettis, RB, 1996-2005

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    Jerome Bettis, nicknamed "The Bus," was a factor in the Steelers' drive to their long-awaited fifth championship in 2005.

    He might not quite match Shell's resume, but he ranks ahead of Shell because he's more iconic in Steelers lore.

    Bettis arrived in Pittsburgh in 1996 after three years with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and was named the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year with 1,431 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns. Bettis was named first-team All-Pro that year and earned the first of his four Pro Bowl berths with the Steelers.

    His 1,665 yards the following year is second all-time among Steelers running backs for a single season. It was the second of six straight 1,000-yard seasons.

    Bettis' 10,571 rushing yards and 78 rushing touchdowns as a Steeler is second in team history.

    Bettis' role was diminished by 2005, but he gained 101 of his 368 yards in a 21-9 win over the Chicago Bears at snowy Heinz Field. That victory was the first of eight straight that culminated in a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL, where Bettis rode into the sunset in his hometown of Detroit.

No. 17: Andy Russell, LB, 1963-1976

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    Andy Russell already had Pro Bowls on his resume when Jack Lambert and Jack Ham joined him to form a linebacking corps that helped the Steelers win their first two championships.

    The last of Russell's seven Pro Bowl seasons came in 1974 and 1975, when won their first two Super Bowls.

    Russell recovered a fumble and returned it 93 yards for a touchdown to secure the Steelers' 1975 AFC divisional playoff win over the Baltimore Colts at Pittsburgh.

    That highlight-reel play helped pave the way to the Steelers' second title.

No. 16: Lynn Swann, WR, 1974-1982

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    Lynn Swann was the first-round pick in the Steelers' 1974 draft, which the NFL Network ranks as the best draft class in NFL history.

    Swann didn't disappoint. He caught the winning touchdown pass in the 1974 AFC championship game at Oakland, and the Steelers went on to win their first Super Bowl.

    Swann had a breakout year in 1975 with 49 receptions and a league-high 11 touchdown catches. He was the MVP of Super Bowl X that year, catching four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers' 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys. Swann is the first wide receiver to be named Super Bowl MVP.

    In Super Bowl XIII, Swann caught seven passes for 124 yards and a touchdown, including the winning score in the Steelers' 35-31 win over the Cowboys.

    Swann caught five passes for 79 yards, including a 47-yard TD grab that gave the Steelers a lead in the second half of Super Bowl XIV, when they defeated the Los Angeles Rams 31-19 and became the first team to win four Super Bowls.

    A 2001 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Swann made four Pro Bowls and earned a first-team All-Pro honor in 1978 when he caught 61 passes for 880 yards and 11 touchdowns, all career highs.

No. 15: Ernie Stautner, DL, 1950-1963

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    Ernie Stautner is the greatest Steeler of the pre-Super Bowl era. His No. 70 is the only Steelers uniform number to be retired.

    Stautner became a Hall of Famer in 1969, and the Pro Football Hall of Fame website called Stautner "a veritable folk hero with long-suffering Steelers fans."

    One of five Steelers to be named to nine or more Pro Bowls, Stautner is the Steelers' all-time leader with 23 fumble recoveries and tied for the franchise lead with three career safeties.

    Stautner was a defensive lineman, but he had the versatility to play on the offensive line as well. He was a Pro Bowl guard in 1955.

No. 14: Alan Faneca, G, 1998-2007

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    Believe it or not, there was a time when the offensive line was one of the Steelers' strengths.

    That was when Alan Faneca was a part of it.

    Faneca is one of four Steelers to be named first-team All-Pro six times. He ranks ahead of fellow offensive lineman Dermontti Dawson on his list because he has a Super Bowl ring as a Pro Bowler with the 2005 Steelers.

    That was the fifth of nine straight Pro Bowl berths for Faneca. He earned the first seven in a Steelers uniform.

    Faneca missed just one start for the Steelers between 2000 and 2007.

No. 13: John Stallworth, WR, 1974-1987

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    John Stallworth was the Steelers' all-time leader with 537 receptions, 8,723 receiving yards and 63 receiving touchdowns at the time of his retirement.

    Stallworth was chosen from Alabama A&M in the fourth round of the Steelers' 1974 draft, which the NFL Network ranks as the best draft in NFL history.

    In Super Bowl XIII, Stallworth caught the Steelers' first two touchdowns in their 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys.

    He earned the first of his four Pro Bowl berths and was named first-team All-Pro the following year when he caught 70 passes for 1,183 yards and eight touchdowns. Stallworth earned his fourth Super Bowl ring by catching the winning touchdown pass for 73 yards in the Steelers' 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.

    A 2002 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Stallworth was still a force even after the Steelers' glory days of the 1970s faded away. In 1984, he caught 80 passes for 1,395 yards and 11 touchdowns, all career highs.

No. 12: Hines Ward, WR, 1998-2011

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    Hines Ward rewrote the Steelers’ record books as a wide receiver.

    He’s the Steelers’ all-time leader in receiving yards with 12,083, receptions with 1,000 and receiving touchdowns with 85.

    John Stallworth is second in all those categories, but it’s not even close. Ward might be the product of an era that emphasizes the pass a lot more, but his statistics are so superior that he's ahead of Stallworth on the list. Also, Stallworth wasn't a starter on either of the Steelers' first two Super Bowl teams.

    Ward, meanwhile, has a Super Bowl MVP performance on his resume.

    He caught five passes for 123 yards and a touchdown in the Steelers’ 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. His MVP performance helped the Steelers win their long-awaited One for the Thumb.

    Ward amassed more than 1,000 receiving yards in six seasons and made the Pro Bowl every year from 2001 to 2004. He played in 217 games, second most in franchise history.

No. 11: Troy Polamalu, S, 2003-Present

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    For Steelers fans too young to remember The Immaculate Reception, Troy Polamalu has impacted Steelers history with a few jaw-dropping moments of his own.

    There was his interception of Joe Flacco that he ran back for a touchdown in the 2008 AFC championship game.

    The Steelers were clinging to a two-point lead with less than five minutes left. The Baltimore Ravens were in position to drive for the game-winning field goal until Polamalu picked off a Flacco pass and returned it 40 yards for the touchdown and a 23-14 Steelers lead.

    The Steelers won that game and went on to defeat the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII for their sixth championship.

    In 2010, the Steelers were trailing the Ravens 10-6 with less than four minutes to go in a December game at Baltimore. Polamalu strip-sacked Flacco and LaMarr Woodley returned it to the Ravens’ 9-yard line. The Steelers scored the go-ahead touchdown and won 13-10.

    That victory helped the Steelers win the AFC North and paved the way for their trip to Super Bowl XL. With a first-round bye, the Steelers won two home playoff games and reached their eighth Super Bowl.

    Polamalu was named Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and made the sixth of his seven Pro Bowls. He’s been named first-team All-Pro four times.

    Polamalu’s 30 interceptions ranks ninth on the Steelers’ all-time list. He intercepted seven passes in a season twice, in 2008 and 2010. The Steelers reached the Super Bowl in both of those seasons.

    Injuries in two of the last four seasons keep Polamalu out of the top 10. He missed 11 games in 2009 and nine games in 2012. The Steelers missed the playoffs in both seasons. Because of that, a what-might-have-been element creeps into Polamalu's body of work.

No. 10: L.C. Greenwood, DE, 1969-1981

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    L.C. Greenwood gets into the top 10 on the list of the greatest all-time Steelers because of his role on the Steel Curtain defense.

    Although sacks weren’t officially recorded until 1982, Greenwood had 73.5 in his career, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. That would rank him second on the Steelers’ all-time list. Jason Gildon is the franchise’s career leader with 77.

    Greenwood recovered 14 fumbles in his career and was named to six Pro Bowls. He was a first-team All-Pro in 1974 and 1975. According to Pro Football Reference, Greenwood had four sacks in the Steelers’ 21-17 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl X.

    Not bad for a 10th-round draft pick from Arkansas-Pine Bluff.

No. 9: Ben Roethlisberger, QB, 2004-Present

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    Ben Roethlisberger is the top active player on the list of greatest Steelers. He has a spot in the top 10 because before he arrived, the Steelers were a perennial playoff team but not quite good enough to win that elusive fifth Super Bowl.

    After Bill Cowher became head coach in 1992, the Steelers reached four AFC championship games over the next decade, but won just one of them.

    Roethlisberger was the quarterback the Steelers needed to bring the Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh. He led the Steelers to a 15-1 record in his rookie year in 2004. They lost another AFC championship game that year, but finally won One for the Thumb the following year. 

    Three years later, in the most clutch Super Bowl performance by a Steelers quarterback, Roethlisberger threw the winning touchdown pass in the final minute of the Steelers’ 27-23 win over the Arizona Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII.

    Roethlisberger is the Steelers’ all-time leader with 29,844 passing yards. He leads all Steelers quarterbacks with at least 23 passes with a 63.1 completion percentage and is second with 87 wins, 10 postseason wins and 191 touchdowns.

    The Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year in 2004 and a Pro Bowler in 2007 and 2011, Roethlisberger has an opportunity to move up this list.

No. 8: Mike Webster, C, 1974-1988

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    Mike Webster is the heart and soul of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ proud lineage at the center position.

    Webster played in 220 games, more than any other Steeler, and was a member of all four Steelers championship teams in the 1970s. He became a full-time starter in 1976 and made 150 consecutive starts, a streak that lasted until 1986.

    The Steelers’ fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in their historic 1974 draft, Webster is one for four Steelers with nine or more Pro Bowl berths. He also was named first-team All-Pro six times in his career.

    Webster is a member of the NFL’s 75th Anniversary All-Time Team as well as the All-Decade Team of the 1970s and 1980s. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.

No. 7: Terry Bradshaw, QB, 1970-1983

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    Terry Bradshaw was the first quarterback to win four Super Bowls.

    It’s funny to think that in this day and age, Bradshaw never would have been given the time he needed to develop.

    Bradshaw was the first overall pick in the 1970 NFL draft, but didn’t win the starting quarterback job permanently until his fifth season. Once he did, however, he led the Steelers to their first championship in 1974.

    Bradshaw threw for more than 2,000 yards with 18 touchdowns and nine interceptions as the Steelers repeated their championship in 1975.

    The Associated Press named Bradshaw the NFL’s Most Valuable Player in 1978 when he threw for 2,915 yards and a league-high 28 touchdowns. Bradshaw also won the Bert Bell Award as the NFL’s Player of the Year and led the Steelers to their third championship with his MVP performance in Super Bowl XIII.

    Bradshaw completed 17-of-30 passes with four touchdowns and an interception in the Steelers’ 35-31 victory over the Dallas Cowboys. He was Super Bowl MVP again the following year, completing 14-of-21 passes for two touchdowns and three interceptions in the Steelers’ 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl XIV.

    A three-time Pro Bowler, Bradshaw was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

    Bradshaw still holds the Steelers record for quarterback victories with 107, postseason quarterback victories with 14 and touchdown passes with 212.

    Those records are within Ben Roethlisberger’s reach, but Bradshaw still ranks ahead of Roethlisberger on the list of greatest Steelers simply because he’s won four Super Bowls and Roethlisberger has won two.

No. 6: Rod Woodson, CB, 1987-1996

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    Rod Woodson is by far the highest ranked Steeler on this list who didn’t win a championship in Pittsburgh. Perhaps he might have if he had remained with the Steelers for his entire 17-year career, but his accomplishments in his 10 years with the Steelers are enough to make him the sixth greatest Steeler of all time.

    The 10th overall pick in the 1987 draft, Woodson became an elite cornerback and kick returner.

    Woodson is the Steelers’ all-time career leader with five touchdowns on interception returns. His 38 interceptions as a Steeler are fourth on the franchise’s all-time list and his 779 interception return yards are second.

    Nowadays, Woodson would be a guy who makes a lot of “splash” plays on defense. He forced 16 fumbles for the Steelers, fourth all-time and first among non-linebackers, and is tied for second among Steelers defenders with 21 recovered fumbles in his career.

    As a returner, Woodson tops the Steelers’ career list with 2,362 punt return yards and 4,894 kickoff return yards.

    Woodson’s last seven years with the Steelers all were Pro Bowl seasons, and he was named first-team All-Pro five times.

    In 1992, the Steelers rose from more than a decade of mediocrity and made the playoffs with an 11-5 record. Part of the reason for that was Woodson’s career-high six sacks and 100 tackles.

    The 1993 Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year, Woodson had a career-high eight interceptions, two sacks, 28 passes defended, two forced fumbles and a blocked field-goal attempt, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

    The Steelers reached Super Bowl XXX in 1995, but Woodson missed the entire season with an injury. He recovered in 1996 and intercepted six passes, returning one for a touchdown. He also recovered three fumbles and returned one for a touchdown in his final year with the Steelers.

    Woodson was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Fifteen years earlier, he joined Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Reggie White and Ronnie Lott as the only active players on the NFL’s 75th Anniversary team.

No. 5: Jack Ham, LB, 1971-1982

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    Jack Ham is one of four Steelers to be named first-team All-Pro six times and one of six Steelers to earn eight or more Pro Bowl berths.

    Ham is tied for seventh on the Steelers’ career list with 32 interceptions. He had at least one in each of his 12 seasons. He’s also tied for second among Steelers defensive players with 21 fumble recoveries.

    That resume, along with his vital role in all four championships of the 1970s, makes Ham one of the top five greatest Steelers of all time.

    Taken out of Penn State in the second round of the 1971 draft, Ham started right away and made the first of eight straight Pro Bowls in 1973.

    In 1974, Ham helped spark the Steelers’ run to their first championship with two interceptions in the AFC championship game at Oakland. His second one, which he returned to the Raiders’ 19-yard line, set up the Steelers’ go-ahead touchdown. The Steelers won that game 24-13 and went on to beat the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX.

    Ham intercepted a pass, recovered two fumbles and had a sack in the 1978 AFC championship game, a 34-5 win at home over the Houston Oilers. The Steelers defeated the Dallas Cowboys 35-31 in Super Bowl XIII for their third championship that year.

    Sacks weren’t officially recorded until 1982, but the Pro Football Hall of Fame website says Ham had 25.5 sacks in his career.

    Ham became a Pro Football Hall of Famer in 1988.

No. 4: Franco Harris, RB, 1972-1983

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    Franco Harris was at the right place at the right time for the biggest turning point in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

    In their first-ever playoff game, the Steelers trailed the Oakland Raiders 7-6 with 22 seconds left. On fourth-and-10 from the Pittsburgh 40, Terry Bradshaw threw a pass to Frenchy Fuqua, who was hit by Jack Tatum. The impact of the blow sent the ball backwards. Harris scooped it out of the air and ran 58 yards for a touchdown, and the Steelers won 13-7.

    That stroke of luck changed the Steelers’ fortunes after 40 years of futility, but Harris’ place in Steelers history is based on far more than a single moment. He’s the Steelers’ all-time leader with 11,950 rushing yards and 100 touchdowns.

    In 1976, Harris led the NFL with 14 rushing touchdowns. He was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl IX, helping the Steelers win their first championship with 158 rushing yards in a 16-6 win over the Minnesota Vikings.

    Taken in the first round of the 1972 class from Penn State, Harris was just the fourth rookie in NFL history to rush for 1,000 yards, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website. He was the AP NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year and made the first of nine straight Pro Bowls.

    Harris broke the 1,000-yard barrier eight times in his career. His last 1,000-yard season came in 1983, when at age 32 he gained 1,007 yards. Harris ran for 100 yards or more 47 times in his career, and five more times in the postseason.

    He scored two touchdowns in Super Bowl XIV, including the clinching TD in the final minutes of the Steelers’ 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

    Harris was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990.

No. 3: Mel Blount, CB, 1970-1983

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    How good was Mel Blount?

    He made the NFL change a rule.

    Blount is the Steelers’ all-time leader with 57 career interceptions, which is tied for 12th on the NFL list. It’s because of Blount that defensive backs aren’t allowed to bump receivers more than five yards beyond the line of scrimmage, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

    The Steelers’ first playoff berth in franchise history coincided with Blount’s rise to full-time starter in 1972.

    In 1975, Blount had a breakout year. He led the NFL with 11 interceptions and was named AP NFL Defensive Player of the Year. The Steelers won their second Super Bowl that year and Blount earned the first of his five Pro Bowl berths and the first of his two All-Pro selections. The other came in 1981, when he turned in his third six-interception season.

    A third-round pick from Southern in the 1970 draft, Blount had at least one interception in each of his 14 seasons and recovered 13 fumbles in his career.

    Blount rose to the occasion in the postseason. He intercepted a Fran Tarkenton pass in Steelers territory late in the first half of Super Bowl IX. The Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 and hoisted their first Lombardi Trophy.

    In Super Bowl XIII, Tarkenton picked off Roger Staubach to set up a go-ahead touchdown for the Steelers in the first half. The Steelers defeated the Cowboys 35-31 for their third Super Bowl title.

    Blount was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1989.

No. 2: Jack Lambert, MLB, 1974-1984

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    The final piece of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ championship puzzle came in the second round of their famed 1974 draft.

    Jack Lambert was the AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1974. He was the Steelers' only rookie to start that year. In Super Bowl IX, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website, Lambert made four tackles and broke up two passes as the Steelers beat the Minnesota Vikings 16-6. It was the first of six titles for the Steelers.

    In 1975, Lambert earned the first of nine straight Pro Bowl berths. The following year, he was named AP Defensive Player of the Year. Lambert led the NFL that year with eight fumble recoveries. He was named All-Pro in 1976 and is one of four Steelers to be receive that honor six times.

    Lambert was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and is fifth all-time among Steelers defensive players with 17 fumble recoveries and 10th with 28 interceptions, including six in both 1979 and 1981. He led the Steelers in tackles every year except his last year, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

    In Super Bowl XIV, Lambert made 10 tackles and in the fourth quarter intercepted a pass in Pittsburgh territory with the Steelers clinging to a five-point lead. That sealed the Steelers’ 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams and an unprecedented fourth Super Bowl title.

No. 1: Joe Greene, DT, 1969-1981

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    The first stitches in the fabric of the Steel Curtain defense were woven when Chuck Noll made "Mean" Joe Greene his first draft pick as Pittsburgh Steelers coach in 1969.

    Noll took Greene from North Texas with the fourth overall pick. Greene was named AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969 and made the first of his 10 Pro Bowls. He's the only Steeler to be named to the Pro Bowl 10 times.

    The Steelers went 1-13 in Greene's rookie season, and Greene wasn't happy about it. He was so angry he threw a football into the stands during one game, according to John Mehno of the Altoona Mirror.

    "Greene helped change the culture of the Steelers," Mehno wrote.

    The Steelers improved to 5-9 in 1970 and 6-8 in 1971. Then in 1972, Greene helped the Steelers reach the playoffs for the first time in their four-decade existence.

    Even though sacks weren't kept as an official statistic in those days, Greene had 11 sacks in 1972, according to the Pro Football Hall of Fame website.

    Greene was named AP Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and again in 1974, the year the Steelers defeated the Minnesota Vikings 16-6 in Super Bowl IX for their first championship.

    In that game, Greene had an interception and a fumble recovery at the Pittsburgh 5-yard line.

    Greene recovered four fumbles that year and five fumbles in 1978. He also forced a fumble, had a sack and broke up a pass in the Steelers' 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII.

    A member of all four Steelers championship teams of the 1970s and a five-time All-Pro, Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987.