The Pittsburgh Steelers are known historically for their tradition of having great linebackers, a legacy that spans the era in which they played a 4-3 front through to the modern era, in which they run a 3-4 defense. While they have some members of the Hall of Fame that have played the position, many are the lesser-known names that have played an important role in the team’s history.
You won’t find those names on a list of the greatest linebackers of all time though, such as the one that Gil Brandt recently shared via the league’s website. Recently updated earlier this week, the 46-player list includes four players who have served years in Pittsburgh.
Jack Ham is the highest Steeler on the list, coming in at number nine. Drafted in 1971, he spent a dozen years patrolling the second level for the Steel Curtain defense and helped them win four Super Bowls. It’s no wonder he made the Pro Bowl eight times and was voted a first-team All-Pro six times. Of course, he’s also in the Hall of Fame.
Though he was more of a mercenary, Kevin Greene made a home for himself for three seasons in Pittsburgh, where he will always be remembered for his play. He helped bring about the ‘Blitzburgh’ era from 1993 and 1995 and was part of the team’s return to relevance, reaching the Super Bowl in 1995.
Green had a long playing career, but some of his best years came with the Steelers. He recorded 35.5 sacks in his three years here, with six forced fumbles and an interception. His 160 career sacks rank third all-time. He was 37 in his final season and recorded 12 sacks.
Ham’s partner in crime, Jack Lambert, also made Brandt’s list at number 20. Though he had a career cut short due to injury, his play on the field was remarkable, making nine Pro Bowls in 11 seasons with six first-team All-Pro distinctions and the Defensive Player of the Year award in 1976. Sharing a part in the four 1970s Super Bowl, Lambert too is in the Hall of Fame.
The question is, will the last Steeler on this list ever make it there? James Harrison checks in at 33 on Brandt’s list. Having finally retired for good after 15 seasons and playing until he was 39 years old, Harrison got off to a late start, but was also the most dominant player at this position for a period of time and remained effective into his late 30s, albeit in a reduced role.
His accolades read short in comparison, just five Pro Bowl and two first-team All-Pro nods, but those who watched him know how great he was during that period of time. He was the Defensive Player of the Year in 2008 as well.
Of course that’s just the tip of the iceberg for Steelers linebackers. I’m not even going to list names for fear of leaving a major one out. Feel free to fill in the rest of the list yourselves.