In the spirit of the offseason, Dave Bryan and I are undertaking the daunting task of ranking the top 100 Pittsburgh Steelers‘ history. And we mean the complete history. 1933 to today, they’re all on the table. Dave and I came up with our own lists and then worked together to come up with one “master” group. So you’ll see that one reflected below, with a quick side note of where each player was at in our personal rankings. That way, you all have something to be outraged over.
We’re going to continue our list by looking at the players ranked 59 through 50. Dave has the next grouping and we’ll switch off until we get to player number 20, when we’ll post just one at a time. If you are wild enough to create a list, post them below. It’s harder than it seems.
Ready, set, rank.
59. Jeff Hartings/C – 2001-2006
Kevin Colbert has never been a big player in free agency but he’s had some sneaky good pickups. Hartings is near the top of that list. Signed away from the Detroit Lions in 2001, Colbert’s second year on the job, he would go onto start 89 games for the Steelers at the pivot. In four of his six seasons, he went the distance and started all 16 games. He was part of the Steelers’ 2005 Super Bowl win, a year when the team finished in the top five in rushing yards.
There are so many great centers in Steelers’ lore so Hartings’ name is sometimes forgotten. But not here.
Dave’s Rank: 86th
Alex’s Rank: 60th
58. Gerry “Moon” Mullins/OG – 1971-1979
A low-key candidate for one of the best nicknames in team history. He made 87 starts and was a key cog in the team’s dynasty. He’s famous for his ability to pull on trap blocks, springing lanes for Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier. In three of those four Lombardi years, the Steelers’ rushing attack ranked 2nd in the league.
Dave’s Rank: 58th
Alex’s Rank: 54th
57. Ryan Clark/S – 2006-2013
Another nail-on-the-head pickup from Colbert. Clark embodied the old-school Steelers in the modern era, dishing out big hit after big hit. His knockout shot of Willis McGahee in the 2008 AFC Championship game and decleater of Wes Welker are two of the most memorable.
He started 109 of 111 games played in Pittsburgh. From 2008-2013, he played in at least 14 games. His 448 career tackles are 10th all-time.
Dave’s Rank: 61st
Alex’s Rank: 51st
56. J.T. Thomas/CB – 1973-1981
Dave and I have pretty different rankings of Thomas but I think he’s an underrated guy who deserves to be in the top 60. He spent eight years in Pittsburgh, spanning all four Super Bowls. In 88 starts, he picked off 19 passes. That’s just tied for 15th in team history but he came up with some big plays in the playoffs. His INT against the Oakland Raiders in 1974 ensured the Steelers would go to their first Super Bowl. He had a 35 yard pick against Dallas in Super Bowl X, which actually set up the famous Roy Gerela miss, Jack Lambert-Cliff Harris slam.
In all, he made 12 career playoff starts. He made one Pro Bowl, elected in 1976. His career high five picks came two years earlier.
Dave’s Rank: 92nd
Alex’s Rank: 48th
55. Chad Brown/LB – 1993-1996, 2006
Brown didn’t have a particularly long career but it was a strong one. 49 starts. 31 sacks. That’s a better ratio than guys like Jason Gildon, Joey Porter, and Greg Lloyd. His best year came in an All-Pro 1996 season where he recorded 13 sacks, forced three fumbles, and two interceptions.
If you have ever looked at Pro Football Reference’s Approximate Value, that ’96 season spit out a value of 17. That is higher than what Ben Roethlisberger, Terry Bradshaw, Joe Greene, Hines Ward, or Mike Webster ever had in any one year.
Brown would go on to have a long career with the Seattle Seahawks and then circle back to the Burgh for one short stint in 2006, where he would go onto have one final sack.
Dave’s Rank: 96th
Alex’s Rank: 35th
54. Larry Brown/TE-OT – 1971-1984
Brown is one of the few in team history to make a mid-career switch from tight end to offensive tackle. Beginning in 1977, Brown would go on to start 85 games for the Black and Gold. He played 167 games in the NFL, all with Pittsburgh. As a tight end, he scored one of the two touchdowns in the first Super Bowl victory over the Minnesota Vikings, a four yard snag from Bradshaw.
Dave’s Rank: 48th
Alex’s Rank: 53rd
53. Bryan Hinkle/LB – 1982-1993
Hinkle’s career was solid though never spectacular. He made 116 starts over the late 80s and early 90s. Over that span, he recorded 22.5 sacks, 15 interceptions, and three total defensive touchdowns. From 1984-1991, he started 113 of 128 regular season games. He was named team MVP in 1986.
Dave’s Rank: 51st
Alex’s Rank: 70th
52. Buddy Dial/WR – 1959-1963
Dial played just five years with Pittsburgh but made each one count. A potent deep threat, he twice led the league in yards per catch. 24.3 yards in 1960 and 21.6 in 1963. He was a touchdown machine, 42 scores in 219 catches. That 5.2 receptions per touchdown mark is the second best in team history or anyone with 100+ grabs. Only Jim Smith’s is better.
When Dial went to Dallas after 1963, he held the team record in touchdowns and was only behind Elbie Nickel in yards.
Dave’s Rank: 54th
Alex’s Rank: 52nd
51. Tunch Ilkin/OT – 1980-1992
There aren’t a ton of household names at tackle in team history but Tunch is near the tops. He reeled off 143 starts which, and correct me if I’m wrong Steelers’ Nation, is the most by a tackle in franchise history. He made back-to-back Pro Bowls in 1988 and 1989. Today, you know him as the color commentator for Steelers’ radio games and to me, a knowledgeable and colorful analyst.
Dave’s Rank: 47th
Alex’s Rank: 61st
50. Sam Davis/OG – 1967-1979
Another linemen to round out the Top 50. Davis went out on top, winning all four rings and then retiring after 1979. He made 113 career starts and like Mullins, help lead a potent rushing attack. He was a fixture opposite Mullins at the left guard spot.
Dave’s Rank: 40th
Alex’s Rank: 79th