New series we’re kicking off to take us throughout the summer. We’ve written about the best players in franchise history and the most underrated on the current edition but we’ve never gone through the list of most underrated position-by-position. Not the best ones to ever wear a Pittsburgh Steelers’ uniform but ones who fans have – and shouldn’t – forgot.
Staying in the defensive trenches with defensive/nose tackle.
Gary Dunn/NT – 1976-1987
When you think of the Steelers’ 3-4, you think of a couple names: it starts with Casey Hampton, the best true nose tackle the team has ever had. Joel Steed will come to mind for some and hopefully, Javon Hargrave will stick around for the foreseeable future.
But Dunn was the first nose tackle in history, part of the bridge between the 4-3 dynasty and the switch made in the 80s. Dunn began his career in 1976, winning the latter Super Bowls of Chuck Noll’s dynasty, including starting 15 games in 1979.
After the team changed their scheme, Dunn became an option at the nose. But his pass rushing ability that made him a fit in their 4-3 translated. In 1982 and ’83, he combined for 12 sacks and in the former year, that came in nine games in a strike-shortened year. The numbers dipped from there and he never surpassed 2.5 sacks the rest of his career.
From 1981 to 1984, the Steelers finished in the top ten in run defense and in Dunn’s final year, ’87, returned to that throne.
He even chipped in a playoff interception, picking off – of all people – John Elway in 1984.
“We run the play against Denver and the fullback stayed in to block, but I dropped back in coverage anyway and ended up intercepting the ball,” Dunn would tell the PPG in 2003. “I can remember [safety] Donnie Shell saying, ‘Dunn, what are you doing back here?'”
He racked up a reported 400+ tackles in his career to go along with 18 sacks in 105 starts. Those sacks are the second most by a nose tackle in team history, trailing only Gerald Williams, who would’ve been another fine candidate for this list. But consider me a sap for the guys who did it first and did it well. That’s Gary Dunn.
All Underrated Team
QB – Bobby Layne
RB – John Henry Johnson
FB – Dan Kreider
TE – Eric Green
WR – Ron Shanklin
WR – Roy Jefferson
OT – John Jackson
OT – Frank Varrichione
OG – Ramon Foster
OG – Bruce Van Dyke
C- Jeff Hartings
DE – Keith Gary
DE – Bill McPeak
NT – Gary Dunn