Perspective Of An Average Steelers Fan: The First All-Time Steelers Lineup

As an average Steelers fan; I got caught up in a recent debate on whether Antonio Brown is already the all-time greatest Steelers wide receiver. Hines Ward and John Stallworth are still ahead of AB on my all-time Steelers list. I do rate him over Lynn Swann who truncated his career in part due to the multiple clubbings upside the head he endured from the Oakland Raiders. However, most current fans have already crowned AB and he still could have several more very productive years.

If Le’Veon Bell signs a longterm contract and continues to produce in the Black & Gold; he could be in the same discussion as Franco Harris and Jerome Bettis as the best Steelers running back ever very soon – especially if he & AB help the Steelers win a 7th Lombardi Trophy.

Recently, while researching archives for another story; I came across what I believe is the first ever all-time Steelers team. If you are aware of an earlier list, please let me know. It was run as a contest by former Pittsburgh Press Sports editor Chester L. Smith in August 1953 in his Village Smithy column.

The Black & Gold had completed 20 seasons of play if the 1943 Steagles and 1944 Card-Pitt aka “Carpets” joint teams were included. There was not much to cheer about in those days; the Steelers had managed only four winning seasons and three other seasons when they were at .500. Of course, there was the 1947 playoff team which finished 8-4 record, the best record up to that time.

Readers could send their own lists and the submissions that came closest would get two tickets to the preseason game against the Chicago Bears. Five folks were named as winners of the contest. Smith had Steelers head coach Joe Bach and assistant coach Walt Kiesling plus two other unnamed persons for six voters on the selection committee.

Here is the consensus all-time Steelers team as of August 1953:

Name Position Steelers Years Votes
Elbie Nickel* End 1947 – 6 6/6
Wilbur Sortet* End 1933-40 8 4/6
John Woudenburg* Tackle 1940-42 3 4/6
Ernie Stautner* Tackle 1950- 3 4/6
George Hughes* Guard 1950- 3 5/6
Red Moore* Guard 1947-49 3 3/6
Chuck Cherundolo* Center 1941-42, 45-48 6 6/6
Jim Finks QB 1949- 4 3/6
Whizzer White* RHB 1938 1 3/6
Lynn Chandnois* RHB 1950- 3 3/6
Bill Dudley* LHB 1942, 45-46 3 6/6
John “Bull” Karcis FB 1936-38 3 3/6

NOTE: In these early days, platooning offenses and defenses was still a recent innovation so just 11 positions selected. The offensive linemen would play a 5-man defensive front. There was a tie so 12 players made this list.

Twelve other early Steelers received votes. Here they are the honorable mentions:

Name Position Steelers Years Votes
Bob Davis End 1946-50 5 2/6
Armand Niccolai Tackle/Kicker 1934-42 9 2/6
Joe Coomer* Tackle 1941, 45-46 3 1/6
Jack Wiley* Tackle 1946-50 5 1/6
Felix Bucek* Guard 1946 1 1/6
Milt Simington Guard 1942 1 1/6
Dale Dodrill* Guard 1951- 2 1/6
Charlie Seabright* QB 1946-50 5 1/6
Johnny Gildea Halfback 1935-37 3 1/6
Johnny Clement* Halfback 1946-48 3 1/6
Jerry Shipkey Fullback 1948-52 5 2/6
Fran Rogel Fullback 1950- 3 1/6

Seven of the all-time players were still on the roster for the upcoming 1953 season including Ernie Stautner who would play until 1963 and be the first Steelers player ever to have his number retired by the team. Many of the selected players had three or less seasons played yet made the all-time list since they were the best the selectors had seen in a Steelers uniform up to that time. This reflects the shorter careers back then, but a number had their football careers interrupted due to serving in the military. I’ve marked those players with an “*” while others were traded away like “BulletBill Dudley.

Here is where I place these early notable Steelers on my own Average Steelers Fan All-Time Steelers list along with some highlights from their careers:

Name Avg Fan Rank Career Highlights as Steeler
Ernie Stautner* 12 NFL HoF; 1x 1st team All Pro; 9x Pro Bowler; Steelers retired # 70
Bill Dudley* 53 NFL HoF; 1x 1st team All Pro; 1x Pro Bowler; 1946 NFL MVP; NFL rush title 1942 & 46; led NFL Int’s 1946. Steelers top passer and rusher in 1942 & 46.
Elbie Nickel* 54 3x Pro Bowler; led NFL yards per reception in 1949 (24.3). Steelers top receiver in 1949-50 & 1952-53.
Dale Dodrill* 87 4x Pro Bowler; 1x 1st team All Pro;
Armand Niccolai 106 Led NFL in Field Goals 1935 & 36
Fran Rogel 108 1x Pro Bowler. All-time rushing leader when he retired. Led Steelers in rushing 1951, 1953-56.
Lynn Chandnois* 116 2x Pro Bowler; led NFL All Purpose Yards 1953; 3 KR for TD in career; led NFL KR average 1952 (35.2)
Jerry Shipkey 119 3x Pro Bowler; 2x 1st Team All Pro;
Jim Finks 126 1x Pro Bowler; NFL HoF (admin); led NFL pass comps & yards 1955; led NFL Passing TD’s 1952 (20). Steelers passing leader 1952-55.
Wilbur Sortet* 182 Steelers top receiver in 1935 & 36.
George Hughes* 200 2x Pro Bowler;
Charlie Seabright* 225
Jack Wiley* 243
Bob Davis 266
Red Moore* 294 1947 UPI 1st Team All pro
Johnnie Gildea 318 1937 Int. News Service 2nd Team All Pro Team. Steelers top passer 1935.
John Woudenburg* 365 1x Pro Bowler
Joe Coomer* 387 1x Pro Bowler
John “Bull” Karcis 408 1x Pro Bowler; 1937 2nd Team New York Daily News All Pro Team. Steelers top rusher 1937.
Johnny Clement 420 1947 2nd Team All Pro – AP, UPI, Pro Football Illustrated. Steelers top passer & rusher inn 1947.
Whizzer White* 441 1938 1st Team Consensus All Pro; led NFL rushing. Steelers top passer and rusher in 1938.
Milt Simington 572 1x Pro Bowler, died after heart attack practicing for NFL All Star game. Was going into officer training school.
Felix Bucek* 756

Some of those players from that early all-time list have stood the test of time. Others have slipped into oblivion. You must wonder how some would have made out if their football careers were not interrupted by the war.

In the 2018 Memorial Day Weekend: Steelers Friday Night Five Questions, I committed to play songs that Steelers Depot respondents had suggested might be the new Steelers anthem if Renegade by Styx was ever replaced. Here is entry six of 45 from Jeremy: Vegetable Man by Pink Floyd.

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