With the 2014 season just around the corner, I thought it would be fun to consider what a “2000′s” Pittsburgh Steelers all-star team would look like. For the sake of this discussion, only players from the year 2000 and onwards were eligible.
Here is what I came up with:
QB – Ben Roethlisberger (Honorable Mention – Tommy Maddox)
This one really was a no brainer. Rothelisberger is the best quarterback in Steelers history (no disrespect to Terry Bradshaw). Second place was a close call between Maddox and Kordell Stewart, who both provided moments of excitement to go with (many) moments of frustration.
RB – Jerome Bettis (Honorable Mention – Willie Parker)
Another no-brainer. Bettis is a (likely) future Hall-of-Famer, while Parker had a number of solid years in the black and gold. Hopefully, Le’Veon Bell will continue to develop and become a great back, but he does not have enough on his resume to this point to unseat Parker.
TE – Heath Miller (Honorable Mention – Mark Bruener)
A third-straight no-brainer, as Miller is hands down the best tight end the Steelers have had since 2000 and arguably of all-time. Bruener makes the list for a different reason, as he was a tremendously reliable blocker for a number of years.
WR – Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Santonio Holmes (Honorable Mention – Mike Wallace)
Hines Ward was a lock, but the other two spots were tightly contested with Brown, Holmes, Wallace and Plaxico Burress. I give the edge to Brown and Holmes, who have had more clutch moments for the club than Wallace and Burress, but a case could easily be made the other way. Edge goes to Wallace over Burress for the reserve spot due to his unique ability as a speedy deep-threat.
LT – Max Starks (Honorable Mention – Wayne Gandy)
A toss-up between both Starks and Gandy, who were solid (if unspectacular) lineman for the Steelers.
LG – Alan Faneca (Honorable Mention – Ramon Foster)
Once again, a no-brainer. Faneca is one of the best guards of all-time and easily earns the starting position here. Foster has been solid and DURABLE for the Steelers (something rarely seen on the o-line these days).
C – Jeff Hartings (Honorable Mention – Maurkice Pouncey)
Younger Steelers fans may disagree, but Hartings was more durable, reliable and mature player than Pouncey. As a result, he gets the SLIGHT edge here. Pouncey can make a case for himself to move ahead of Hartings by remaining healthy and avoiding some of the off-field issues that have plagued him in recent seasons.
RG – Kendall Simmons (Honorable Mention – Keydrick Vincent)
Similar to the left-tackle position, Simmons and Vincent were two solid players who were mostly reliable at guard. David Decastro will likely make a revised list a season or two from now, but like Bell, has not shown enough yet to warrant the spot over players with more experience.
RT – Marvel Smith (Honorable Mention – Willie Colon)
Smith played both positions, but was at his best on the right (where he was originally drafted). He was a solid starter for Pittsburgh for a number of seasons. Colon, who is perhaps best known for his “false start shuffle”, was a super competitive player who always gave his all, but was prone to mental mistakes.
LE - Aaron Smith (Honorable Mention – Cameron Heyward)
Smith is the obvious choice to start here as one of the most under-appreciated players of his time. Heyward gets the nod over Travis Kirschke based on his strong play last season.
DT - Casey Hampton (Honorable Mention – Chris Hoke)
Hampton was an immovable force for the Steelers for a number of years and a perennial Pro Bowl selection. Hoke was an incredibly valued backup contributor on the defensive line who filled in admirably whenever Hampton was unable to play.
RE - Brett Kiesel (Honorable Mention – Kimo von Oelhoffen)
A tougher call then it appears at first, both Kiesel and von Oelhoffen were fantastic ends for the Steelers. The edge goes to Kiesel, who did it at a higher level for longer, but both were great.
LOLB – LaMarr Woodley (Honorable Mention – Jason Gildon)
It may be hard to remember how dominant Woodley was due to his rapid decline the last couple of seasons, but I am thinking of the “good” Woodley here, the one who wreaked havoc on opposing offences with fellow outside linebacker James Harrison. Before Woodley came along, Gildon was a pass-rushing monster in his own right. Ironically, both players ended up leaving because they did not live up to their contacts.
MLB – James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons (Honorable Mention – Larry Foote)
Farrior and Timmons were the obvious starters. Foote edges out Kendrell Bell (who was dominant as a rookie, but had his career derailed by injuries) and Earl Holmes largely due to his longevity and reliability at a key position in the Steelers defense.
ROLB – James Harrison (Honorable Mention – Joey Porter)
Two dominant pass rushers with larger than life personalities, one lead by example (Harrison), the other by his mouth (Porter). Harrison edges out Porter here due to the fact that he won a Defensive Player of the Year award and had rules made to try to limit his physicality.
CB – Ike Taylor, Deshea Townsend (Honorable Mention – William Gay)
Corner has been a position of weakness for Pittsburgh since Rod Woodson left, but Ike Taylor’s longevity and (mostly) productive years cannot be understated. Unfortunately for Taylor, his inability to haul in many interceptions hurts his perception amongst most NFL fans. Townsend was a professional and reliable corner for a number years and was always dependable. Though largely average (to poor) as a starter, Gay has been a solid slot corner for Pittsburgh. He edges out others such as Keenan Lewis (only one productive season as a Steeler), Cortez Allen (inexperience) and Chad Scott (inconsistency) for the spot.
SS – Troy Polamalu (Honorable Mention – Lee Flowers)
Not much needs to be said here, Polamalu will be a sure-fire Canton inductee and has been the face of the safety position (along with Ed Reed) for the past decade in the NFL. Flowers was an emotional leader (much in the way Porter was) and a solid player for a few seasons on the back-end.
FS – Ryan Clark (Honorable Mention – Chris Hope)
Both fantastic, Clark beats out Hope due to the fact that he was a productive Steeler for longer (Hope only really contributed for two seasons) and was a PUNISHING hitter in his prime. Hope would move on to the Tennessee Titans, where he remained productive for a number of years. Both players had excellent chemistry with Polamalu.
K – Jeff Reed (Honorable Mention – Shaun Suisham)
P – Josh Miller (Honorable Mention – Daniel Sepulveda)
KR – Stefan Logan (Honorable Mention – Allen Rossum)
PR – Antwaan Randle El (Honorable Mention – Antonio Brown)
What do you think, Steeler Nation? Was I largely on the mark with my picks, or out to lunch?
Have your say!