The Pittsburgh Steelers’ official website is posting an interesting series over the next couple of weeks ramping up to training camp.
Steelers.com will be posting little by little their Steelers “All-Modern Era” team, meaning only players that contributed to the team after 1992 (The beginning of the Bill Cowher era) will be eligible.
It’s an interesting debate, because modern Steelers fail to get recognition in the context of the Steelers’ history very often, because the 70’s teams were so dominant.
They are choosing 11 players on offense, 11 on defense, and 4 special teamers, so we’ll do the same here. I look forward to seeing where the two might differ.
QB: Ben Roethlisberger (2004-present)
3X Pro Bowler; 2004 OROY; 2X Superbowl Champ
Some of these are a no brainer. At this point the question is whether or not Ben is the best Steelers QB of all time. When your franchise has a QB with 4 rings, and you’re in the conversation that’s pretty amazing.
RB: Jerome Bettis (1996-2005)
6X Pro Bowler; 2X First-Team All-Pro; 1X Second Team All-Pro; 1X Superbowl Champ
Even “The Bus” himself has said that the young Le’Veon Bell may pass him (and every other great RB) in time… but right now Bell isn’t even close. Bell’s been amazing for a season and a half. Bettis took a beating for 12 years. Jerome was never a homerun threat, but he was a model of consistency.
RB: Willie Parker (2004-2009)
2X Pro Bowler; 1X All Pro; 2X Superbowl Champ
This was one of the the tougher picks. Le’Veon Bell is tempting here, but Bell hasn’t reached that level yet. I’m not sure if the Steelers.com list will go with a 2nd RB, or a fullback. I’ll admit “Fast” Willie’s career numbers were better than I remembered. The undrafted kid out of North Carolina trails only Bettis and Franco Harris on career rushing yards by a Steelers player. Willie wasn’t a typical Steelers running back, and will never be in the Hall of Fame, but he was effective and a very good Steelers player.
WR: Hines Ward (1998-2011)
4X Pro Bowler, 3X Second Team All-Pro; 2X Superbowl Champ; 1X Superbowl MVP
This is another easy choice, and another potential Hall of Famer on the list. Hines was tough as nails, and his numbers are by far the most impressive by a Steelers wide receiver in franchise history. Hines was never the physical freak that some of his contemporaries like Randy Moss or Terrell Owens were, but he was the ultimate “big moment” receiver, often finding a way to keep drives alive on 3rd downs. No moment was bigger than his play that earned him the MVP award in Superbowl 40.
WR: Antonio Brown (2010-Present)
3X Pro Bowler; 1X First-Team All-Pro; 1X Second Team All-Pro
The Steelers have had a lot of really good receivers since 1992. The fact that Antonio Brown is already surpassing the likes of Yancey Thigpen, Plaxico Burress, Antwaan Randle El and Santonio Holmes is impressive. Hines Ward is my favorite player ever, but I think that when it’s all said and done there’s a good chance that Brown shatters his franchise records. It’s time to get this guy a Superbowl ring.
TE: Heath Miller (2005-present)
2X Pro Bowler; 2X Superbowl Champ
Heath Miller became the best Steelers tight end of all time pretty much by the time his rookie contract expired. The Steelers haven’t historically had great tight ends, but that doesn’t mean Heath hasn’t had a great career. In fact, Heath is currently 3rd all time is receiving yards by a Steelers player, behind Hines Ward and John Stallworth.
LT: Marvel Smith (2000-2008)
1X Pro Bowler; 2X Superbowl Champ
Marvel was one of the bright spots along some pretty bad offensive lines that won 2 Superbowls. I think that Kelvin Beachum might be close to taking this spot, despite not being a prototype left tackle. Marvel was a pretty good tackle, but struggled with back injuries for much of his career. Had he been healthy, Marvel might be a bigger name in Steelers franchise history.
LG: Alan Faneca (1998-2007)
9X Pro Bowler; 6X First Team All Pro; 2X Second Team All Pro; 1X Superbowl Champ
Faneca has one of the most impressive resumes on this list as an individual. While it can be difficult for a guard, Faneca deserves to eventually be in the Hall of Fame. The Steelers are known for pulling their guards and that’s only because they had an all pro that did it to perfection.
C: Dermontti Dawson (1988-2000)
7X Pro Bowler; 6X First Team All Pro
The Steelers have historically been blessed with great center play. In this modern era alone they’ve had 3 greats in Dawson, Hartings, and Pouncey. This 2012 Hall of Fame inductee held down the position for the Steelers for over a decade. This was an easy selection.
RG: Maurkice Pouncey (2010-present)
4X Pro Bowler; 2X First Team All Pro; 2X Second Team All Pro
This pick might be cheating, considering Pouncey is actually a center. I struggled to think of a pure guard that felt deserving on this selection though. Chris Kemoeatu had some solid seasons for the Steelers, but Pouncey has played some guard and felt more deserving of this list. Following the retirement of Jeff Hartings, the Steelers had a few years of sub-par center play, luckily they found the Maurkice to pick up the torch.
RT: Max Starks (2004-2012)
2X Superbowl Champ
Starks is the only man on this list to never make a pro bowl, but he was an important part of two championship rosters. It seemed every year the team was supposed to replace him in the starting lineup, and then he’d come to camp and win the job year after year. He’ll never be remembered as one of the best ever, but Big Max was a great locker room guy that played multiple positions and showed a lot of resiliency over his career.