As should be no great shock to you, we are not the only ones around the football universe filling up dead space as we wait for information of substance to report on and analyze, which is unfortunately still several weeks away. Even the league’s own website engages in such activities, including a recent series by Gil Brandt ranking his best players of all time by position.
He recently tackled his best defensive tackles of all time, and it might not be a great surprise to read that he listed Joe Greene as the greatest of all time. He didn’t list exhaustive biographies of every player, but he did note that he unofficially recorded 78.5 sacks in his career.
But Greene wasn’t the only Steeler to make the list. He was joined by the only other player in team history to have his jersey number formally retired, that being Ernie Stautner, who if I’m not mistaken was the first player in team history who played his entire career with the team to be enshrined.
Somewhere along the lint Brandt done goofed, however, because among the statistics that he provides for Stautner are a pair of Super Bowl championships. Not only were the Steelers generally terrible during his era—primarily the 50s—the Super Bowl had not even existed at the time that he played, so that is clearly a mistake.
A nine-time Pro Bowler and 10-time All-Pro over an astounding 14 seasons, Stautner was the first truly dominant player in team history, preceding the dynasty era by a decade. He led the league in career safeties with three at the time that he retired, and his 23 fumble recoveries were also among the most ever at that time.
Stautner did serve as a coach on the staff of two Super Bowl champions after he retired, with the Cowboys, where he served for over two decades—meaning that he lost two Super Bowls to the Steelers. He also won a championship as a head coach in NFL Europe, long after his playing days.
While he was an exceptional talent—despite being undersized even for his time—however, Stautner was not the transcendent player that Joe Greene was. It’s really hard to argue that any other player in the history of the game had as much of an impact on the history of a franchise as Greene had, of course.
Certainly both of them are deserving to be on the list, even intuitively understanding that they are the two most dominant defensive linemen in the history of one of the most dominant defensive franchises in the game.
Other inclusions may have you scratching your head, such as Ravens nose tackle Brandon Williams, who is entering his fifth season. It’s almost as though he was struggling to come up with names by the time he go into the late 20s. Brandt listed his contract as one of his achievements.