I’ve spent the last 3 days cooped up with a sore throat and fever in my nice little one-bedroom apartment. As it turns out, trying a million trumpet mouthpieces at the International Trumpet Guild Conference can have it’s consequences. I swear to god I thought they had been sanitized. So, I’ve been thinking about what the heck I could write about for a second day in a row. And then it came to me: My Favorite Steelers of All Time, and Why.
Everyone has their own favorites for their own reasons. I imagine it has something to do with when you were born and what era(s) of the Pittsburgh Steelers you’ve had the pleasure of watching and falling in love with. For my dad, it was the Men of Steel from the 1970′s. Being that I wasn’t born until 1984, it’s tough for me to pick any more than one or two players from that era. I’ve watched a lot of those games, the ones my dad had on tape and the dvd’s I have of the Super Bowl Seasons, but I never really lived those emotions like my mother and father did.
So without further adieu, my favorite Steelers players of all time and why, in no particular order:
The Bus. What can you say? One of the most beloved and loyal Steelers of all time. After coming to Pittsburgh, Jerome led a Hall of Fame career and stayed in Pittsburgh until his last days in football. He even took a backseat to on of my other favorites, Fast Willy Parker when Willy was ready to take the bulk of the load. After making it all the way to the championship game in 2004, we knew it was almost the end of the road for The Bus. Many of us would not have been surprised if he had retired right there, without ever getting that Super Bowl ring. Well, After some convincing from Big Ben to give him one more year to get him a SB, Jerome stayed, and retired with that coveted ring, completing what was already a spectacular career with the Steelers.
From the time that I really started to love football, until just 6 years ago, Jerome was the backbone of the Steelers offense. Naturally, he became one of my favorite players fast. When Big Ben came, and gave us the hope that we could win a Super Bowl again, I wished that Jerome would hold one until he got that ring. I feel like I got to experience that emotional journey with him. The fact that he’s a class act just adds to my fanhood.
You’ll notice in some of my other choice that I have a tendency to love the guys with a little bit of flare. Not surprising, really since they are the ones who draw attention to themselves, and Jack Lambert was no exception. As you know, I was not alive yet when Jack Lambert was wreaking havoc all over the football field, but that doesn’t mean I never experienced his brilliance. I grew up watching videos of the 1970′s teams with my dad during the off-seasons. I’d sometimes get home around 8 or 9p on a school night and dad would have the videos all cued up for me to watch. He taught be Swann and Stallworth’s handshake. My buddies all knew to use said handshake with my dad.
I have since watched specials on Lambert over and over again, awed at his tenacity and nose for the football. A nice guy off the field, but intimidating to the Nth degree on the field. The guy was a total beast and I’m proud that he was a Steeler. I’ve watched his HOF induction speech many times. “If I could do it all over again, you damn well better believe I’d be a Pittsburgh Steeler.” Come on. How could you not love this guy?
All recent events aside, James Harrison has been another linebacker in the lineage of Jack Lambert. He’s intimidating and if you bring the ball on his side of the field, you’re going to pay. That’s why I love the Silverback. He’s unapologetically awesome. No one can stop him, so teams hold him nearly every down. He literally cannot be stopped. If they threw a flag every time he was held, games would never end. He’s that good, and the league is trying to make rules to stop him.
Think about that. The league is changing the rules of the entire game because of one player. One player that is so dominant that they need to change the way you’re allowed to tackle just so he stops taking over games the way he does. That’s incredible. And not so unlike another one of my favorite players of all time:
You’re seeing a lot of recent names here, and you must understand that this is my era of players. I didn’t really understand the game enough to become a huge fan until the mid-90′s, so that’s what I’m working with. That being said, Hines is one of the most dominant WR’s the Steelers have ever seen. He’s broken every pass record we have, and he does it with that pretty smile of his. He’s vicious. He’s been voted the league’s dirtiest player by his peers two different times. They even had to make a rule about blocking on the blind side because of how nasty Hines would block for his teammates.
The most inspiring thing for me is Hines’ story. He came on to the team in the 3rd round of the ’98 draft and played on Special Teams until he worked his way up to being a starting WR. Since that he has amassed what is sure to be a HOF career, all the while remaining active in the community, and helping to run organizations that deal with children from Korea, where Hines was born. Like Bettis, Hines will likely be with the Steelers until his last days in football. That just makes me smile.
Another beautiful story for another great Steeler. FWP was the successor to Jerome Bettis and still holds the record for the longest TD run in Super Bowl history. FWP amassed some pretty amazing numbers while he was a Steeler but his play quickly diminished after he broke his leg. It was at that time that the Steelers started to play more of their first round pick, Rashard Mendenhall and saw no need for FWP. A sad end to an incredible story coming in to the NFL un-drafted. FWP was the first Steeler in history to rush for over 200 yards twice in a season, and the second time broke Frenchy Fuqua’s single game record with 223 yds. I lived through a lot of miraculous happenings with FWP and was sad when he was let go. Who knows? Maybe the Steelers will consider him again after his recent campaigns to rejoin the team. I’ll be the first to say that it’s not likely, but it sure would be a fun blast from the past.
The man who brought hope back to Pittsburgh. I would ask “how could you not like Big Ben” but I know what the answer would be. There are plenty of reasons to be angry with Ben. His off the field antics have led to turmoil on the team and in the locker room. In my opinion, the pressures of those mistakes finally took their toll in the playoffs last season, but thankfully that is all behind him now. I love Big Ben. He made the Steelers a Super Bowl team again. He wins games and he keeps you on the edge of your seat at all times. He’s an entertainer. Often resorting to “back yard football” Ben scrambles and make spectacular plays out of nothing. I’ve been on that emotional roller coaster with Ben, and it’s why I’m such a huge fan, and can’t wait to see what he does (on the field) in future years.
Here’s that flare I was talking about. Joey was a beast on the field and a beast off the field. He had a way with words and a way with the media. He was also the emotional leader of this team for many years. When the rest of the team felt like Big Ben wasn’t working hard enough, it was JP that confronted him in front of the entire team in the locker room. He kept people in line, on his own team and against opposing offenses. Let alone his spectacular play on the field, his emotional leadership was missed greatly when he was let go to the Dolphins. I still miss him, and he is still playing great.
So there it is, my list of favorite players of all time and why. Many of you have different favs and I’m sure if I had more time/felt a little better, I could keep going on forever about my favorite players. There are so many of them! If you’ve got a favorite player or players, list them below. I’m interested to see what people others come up with.