Gil Brandt has been around football for basically his entire life so there are few more qualified to put together a list of the best defensive players he’s ever seen. He unveiled his list on NFL.com and one Pittsburgh Steeler made the list. Rod Woodson came in at #5 in Brandt’s Top Ten.
Brandt recalls watching Woodson play his final game at Purdue and how his Dallas Cowboys tried to trade up and leapfrog the Steelers, who selected him at #10 in the 1987 draft.
Here’s what Brandt said about Woodson as a player.
“Woodson started his career at corner, where he displayed excellent cover skills and ball skills, then moved to safety, where he showed off great tackling ability. He was also smart and played with outstanding mental alertness. Woodson holds the record for fumbles recovered by a defensive player with 32 — that’s a lot. He was a good player and remains a good guy and a good friend of mine.”
In Pittsburgh, where he spent ten seasons, Woodson recorded 38 interceptions, recovered 21, and forced 16 across 134 games. He would hit free agency, bouncing around the San Francisco 49ers, Baltimore Ravens, and Oakland Raiders for the rest of his career, which ended in 2003. Even in his final years, he was still a dominant player, leading the league in interceptions at age 37.
He was also one of the best rest return men in Steelers’ history, returning two kicks and two punts for scores. In 1989, he led the league with a 27.3 kick return average.
Reggie White came in at the #1 spot on Brandt’s list. Also finishing ahead of Woodson are: Lawrence Taylor, Dick Butkus, and JJ Watt. Watt is the only active player to make the list. I am, frankly, shocked Joe Greene didn’t make this list. Brandt was obviously around to see him, the Cowboys and Steelers had a fierce rivalry in the 70s, and he lists players like Butkus and Bob Lilly in his top ten. So the older generation was not ignored.
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