Home Steelers History Top 50 Steelers of the 21st Century (20-11)

Top 50 Steelers of the 21st Century (20-11)

by Ian

It’s the offseason and there’s not much happening in the NFL world. In fact, as we like to say around these parts, the only news is bad news. That can take the form of player injuries, arrests, suspensions, etc. But since it’s the offseason and there isn’t much going on, we figured we’d have some fun. There have been some lists floating around on Twitter of “Who was this team’s best non-QB player this century?” While the SCB crew was debating that question, we wound up with a list of our Top 50 Steelers of the century.

The one prerequisite to this list is that the player had to play at least three seasons with the Steelers since the year 2000. So that means that recent additions like Najee Harris and Kenny Pickett are not eligible, along with one-year wonders like Flozell Adams. Since the Steelers Hall of Honor also uses the three-year timeframe as a guide for elections, we also thought it was a good parameter. You could also look at this list as our power rankings of players worthiness to be in the Hall of Honor.

So far we have gone through some Honorable Mentions and #50-41, #40-31 and #30 to #21. Today we enter the Top 20 and we’ll wrap it up tomorrow with the Top 10.

20. David DeCastro

DeCastro of the Steelers

DeCastro was the Steelers first round pick in 2012. While many draft scouts had him as a Top 10 pick, he fell the Steelers at 24th overall. The oversight of 23 teams was the Steelers boon. After a preseason injury caused him to miss the first half of the 2012 season, DeCastro stepped into a full-time starting role at right guard in 2013.  He was a consistent piece on the Steelers line throughout the middle of the decade and did not miss a game in three years between 2014 and 2016. DeCastro was a first team All Pro in 2015, second-team in 2016, and first team again in 2017. He made the Pro Bowl in 6 straight seasons from 2015 until 2020 when he retired. DeCastro played in 125 regular season games and 8 playoff games during his 9-year Steelers career. Only 13 Steelers in history have made more Pro Bowls than DeCastro’s 6 and only 15 Steelers have made more than 2 All Pro teams.

19. Brett Keisel

Keisel was a 7th round pick in 2002 who started his career as a backup through the 2005 Super Bowl run. He had 2 sacks in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game against Denver on consecutive plays to end the Broncos comeback attempt. With the departure of Kimo von Oelhoffen after the Super Bowl, Keisel stepped into a starting role in 2006 and held that spot for 9 years until his retirement. Keisel was a solid and consistent player along the defensive line, accounting for a handful of sacks and TFLs each year. One of his career highlights came in 2010 when he returned an interception 79 yards for a touchdown in the scorching heat of Tampa Bay. The story of Brett Keisel’s Pittsburgh career can not be told without discussing his work off the field. In 2010 he began growing his iconic beard. “Da Beard” became a hallmark of the Steelers of the early 2010s and Keisel used it as an opportunity to have beard-shearing events to raise money for Children’s Hospital. Keisel spent 13 years with the Steelers, appearing in 156 regular season games and 16 more playoff games as well as making the Pro Bowl in 2010. Over his career he tallied 30 sacks, 33 TFLs, and over 400 tackles. He also had 2 interceptions, forced 7 fumbles and recovered 9, with none bigger than the one he recovered to secure the victory in the closing seconds of Super Bowl XLIII.

18. Ike Taylor

Ike Taylor came to the Steelers as a 4th round pick out of Louisiana Lafayette who was a long and fast corner that was very raw. Taylor proved the doubters wrong over his 12-year career in Pittsburgh where he appeared in 174 games, starting 140. While he was used mostly as a backup his first two seasons, Taylor contributed on special teams, putting his speed to use as a kick returner. Ike took over the starting cornerback role in 2005 and made a name for himself by shutting down the Bengals Chad Johnson (who had posted a list in his locker of the CBs he thought couldn’t cover him that season). This led to his infamous “Face Me, Ike” hand waive celebrations. Ike came up big in the run to Super Bowl XL with interceptions in both the AFC Championship Game and Super Bowl. His best statistical year came in Mike Tomlin’s first season (2007) when Taylor posted 3 interceptions (including a pick-six), 80 total tackles, 1 sack, and 16 passes defended. The running joke was that if Ike had hands he would be a Hall of Famer, and he did have a knack for being around the ball with 134 career passes defended and 14 interceptions. Ike came up with a huge play in the 2010 AFC Championship game. With the Jets trying to mount a 2-minute drive at the end of the first half, Taylor came off the edge and strip-sacked Mark Sanchez. William Gay scooped it up and scored to give the Steelers a 24-0 lead. Those would be the decisive points in the game a the Steelers did not score in the second half and won 24-19. While Ike never made a Pro Bowl, he played at a high level and would follow the opponents top receiver all over the field. He was incredibly durable and was a key part of the secondary that won two Super Bowls and three AFC Championships.

17. Lawrence Timmons

Timmons was the first pick of the Mike Tomlin era. A rangy linebacker out of Florida State, he split time with Larry Foote early in his career before taking over as the primary signal-caller in the middle of the defense. Timmons was the model of consistency over 10 years with the Steelers. He did not miss a game over his final 6 seasons in Pittsburgh and recorded over 100 tackles in all but one season – 2011 when he was forced to play snaps at outside linebacker because injuries decimated that position. In 2014 he recorded a career high 132 tackles and was selected to the Pro Bowl. That was the same year as the infamous “puke and rally” game on Monday night against the Texans where the Steelers entered a paltry 3-3 and trailed 10-0, Timmons started blowing chunks all over the field. The yakking would turn around the Steelers fortunes, and they would rally to take a 24-13 lead into halftime, putting up all 24 points in the 8 minutes after Timmons threw up on the field. He would return to the game and post a season-high 11 tackles. Over his 10-year Steelers career, Timmons played in 158 games, made 983 tackles, 71 TFLs, 35.5 sacks, 83 QB hits, 12 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles, 7 fumble recoveries, and scored a touchdown on a pick-six in 2012. He also appeared in 14 postseason games, recording 90 tackles and winning Super Bowl XLIII. Timmons was everything you could want out of a first round pick. A reliable, consistent, durable player and strong leader you can build your team around for a decade.

16. Minkah Fitzpatrick


Minkah was originally drafted by the Dolphins but after a falling out with the Dolphins tumultuous coaching staff and front office, he was traded to Pittsburgh for a first round pick two games into the 2019 season. Fitzpatrick had an immediate impact on the Steelers secondary. In the year without Ben Roethlisberger, Minkah’s play on defense (5 interceptions, a pick-6, a fumble return TD) kept the Steelers competitive. He was selected as a first team All-Pro and Pro Bowler in his first two seasons in Pittsburgh as well as last year. The only year he did not make first team All-Pro and the Pro Bowl was in 2021 when due to horrendous linebacker play, Minkah was forced to play the run much more and led the team with 124 tackles, which detracted from his play-making against the pass. In 4 years with the Steelers he has appeared in 61 games, recorded 17 interceptions (3 pick-sixes), 3 forced fumbles, 4 fumble recoveries (and a touchdown). Minkah has three first team All-Pro selections, tied for the most of any current Steeler and tied for 10th all-time on the team. Fitzpatrick just signed a long-term deal with the Steelers, the highest contract in the league for a safety, so he could finish among the legendary (and potentially Hall of Fame) Steelers by the end of his career.

15. Joey Porter

Peezy played 8 years for the Steelers from 1999 until 2006, departing after Bill Cowher’s retirement. He stepped into the starting role in 2000 and immediately made an impact with 10.5 sacks, a fumble recovery for a touchdown, and 12 TFLs. He had a quick burst off the edge and a relentless motor. Peezy played with an edge and was a relentless competitor, intent on kicking the ass of anyone and everyone wearing opposing colors (including the entire Baltimore Ravens bus after a game, once). Porter was first team All-Pro in 2002 and second-team All-Pro in both 2004 and 2005. He made the Pro Bowl in all three of those seasons. He was instrumental in the Steelers playoff run to Super Bowl XL, absolutely terrorizing Peyton Manning in the divisional round against the Colts. In his 8-year Steelers career he played in 122 games, had 60 sacks, 10 interceptions, and scored 3 defensive touchdowns. In 10 career playoff games he had 6 sacks and won a ring in Super Bowl XL. After his playing career, he had a brief stint as an Assistant Linebackers Coach where he famously tried to confront the Bengals entire defense on the field during a playoff game which led to multiple personal fouls against the Cincinnati defenders.

14. Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith was a 4th round pick in 1999 out of Northern Colorado. He was a stalwart on the Steelers defensive line throughout the decade. His ability to two-gap against offensive linemen freed up space for linebackers behind him to range and make plays against the run as well as those outside of him to get favorable pass rushing matchups. Smith never put up gaudy statistics but was so integral to the Steelers run defense that the unit took a complete nosedive when he wasn’t on the field. Smith stepped into the starting role in 2000 and did not miss a game over the next 7 seasons. The best year of his career came in 2004 when he posted a career high 8 sacks and was elected to the Pro Bowl. He was a key piece of the Steelers run defense in both the 2005 and 2008 Super Bowl runs. Unfortunately, the tail end of his career was marred by injuries and Smith played just 15 games over his final 3 seasons. He suited up 160 times (plus 13 playoff games) for the black and gold over his 13-year career and won two Super Bowl rings. He posted 44 career sacks and 84 tackles for loss in a role where his job was mostly gap control, very respectable numbers for a two-gapping defensive lineman. Smith was recognized by Sports Illustrated as a member of their 2000s All-Decade team.

13. Maurkice Pouncey

Pouncey was the Steelers first round pick in 2010 and is one of the most decorated players in Steelers history. He made an immediate impact in the middle of the Steelers line, helping to improve a struggling run game and bolster the pass protection in front of Ben Roethlisberger. With some of the fastest hands I’ve ever seen for a center, Pouncey was able to control the middle of the line. Pouncey was elected to the Pro Bowl his first year and selected as a second-team All Pro. Unfortunately, a foot injury in the AFC Championship Game would keep him out for the playoffs and he was sidelined for Super Bowl XLV. Over his 11-year career Pouncey had two lost seasons. In 2013 his knee was rolled up on in the first game and he played just 6 snaps. Two years later a preseason injury cost him the entire 2015 campaign. Other than those two seasons, he made the Pro Bowl every year. He was first team All-Pro twice and second-team All-Pro twice. Pouncey was also a member of the Hall of Fame’s All-Decade Team for the 2010s. Pouncey’s 9 Pro Bowl selections are the second-most by a player in Steelers history, behind only Mean Joe Greene (10). The Steelers already have two Centers in the Hall of Fame, and Pouncey may eventually be the third.

12. Casey Hampton

Big Snack was the Steelers first round pick in 2001. He immediately came in and was a plug in the middle of the defense. While Hampton was known for his massive body (and also known for traditionally failing Mike Tomlin’s training camp run tests), he was surprisingly quick-footed. Hampton was able to control the point of attack better than any nose tackle the Steelers had this century. He was powerful and could toss linemen aside to smother any running play that came through either A gap. Hampton’s play in the middle freed up the inside linebackers to roam around and make plays all over the field. While he was not the pass rushing interior lineman of today’s age, he generally was able to get a sack or two per year as well as a handful of TFLs. But his biggest asset was the strength and power of his base, essentially an immovable object in the middle of the defense. Hampton was selected to five Pro Bowls in his 12-year career, winning two Super Bowls and reaching a third.

11. Heath Miller

The greatest tight end in Steelers history was drafted in 2005 in the first round and immediately established a rapport with Ben Roethlisberger. Heath was the rare combination of an all-around tight end, a capable in-line blocker that helped pave the way and seal the edge in the running game as well as being a receiving threat. Heath had the innate ability to always be on the same page as Ben Roethlisberger and was always a favorite target when Ben went into scramble mode. As an in-line tight end who could maul in the trenches, Heath was also very durable, missing just 8 games over his 11-year career. He had a knack for knowing where the first down sticks were and finding a way to get past them, especially on third downs. More than half of his career receptions were for first downs. He made the Pro Bowl twice, after a 789 yard 6 TD season in 2009 and after his career high 2012 season where he had 816 yards and 8 TDs. All told, Miller posted 592 receptions for 6569 yards and 45 TDs. He won two Super Bowl rings and went to a third Super Bowl, posting 49 receptions for 587 yards and 4 TDs in 15 career playoff games. Heath was an essential player to the Steelers offensive success in their Super Bowl runs.

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