With offseason news at a crawl, I’ve spent a lot of time looking at the history of the team. From obscure players to defining moments, I’ve spent a ton of time watching old highlights and footage. Because it’s Youtube and you can end up anywhere, I watched NFL Films’ list of the top 10 fastest players in history. No Steelers made that list but it got me to thinking – who are the speediest ever to wear Black & Gold?
So I’ve made my list of the ten fastest in franchise history. To be clear, it isn’t strictly a list based off 40 times. It’s weighted based on career success and longevity, guys who put that speed to good use. Not just who ran fast on a track.
Tomorrow, we’ll unveil the two fastest Steelers ever. Today, let’s look at players who just missed the Top 10. In no particular order:
Frank Lewis/WR (1971-1977)
Truthfully, a name that should’ve cracked the top ten the more I read your comments and about his speed. I wasn’t unfamiliar with who Lewis was but I’ll own it, I didn’t realize he was as fast as he was both on the field and on the track.
This 2002 PPG article lists him as running the 100 meters in 9.4 seconds which, ok, is 100% not true (the world record is 9.58 set by Usain Bolt) but the point is, he was a burner. He played that fast on the field too, averaging a healthy 16 yards per catch during his Steelers’ career. At his zenith, he averaged 18 yards in consecutive seasons in 1975-1976.
The biggest reasons to leave him off the list? As a Steeler, he only had two catches of 60+ yards in the regular season (his long was 65, though there was a 76 yard catch in the playoffs) and he wasn’t used as a return man. Not as much pop and big play ability as nearly every other name that did crack the top 10.
Dri Archer/RB (2014-2015)
If we did this list solely on official 40 times, Archer would be #1. And for a moment making this list, Archer did make the back-end of the list thanks to a 4.26 40 at the 2014 Combine. Pittsburgh wasn’t just impressed with that but with how few strides it took for him to get there, tying the Combine record by doing so in just 18 steps. That’s tied with Calvin Johnson, if you want to know how impressive that is, two guys who couldn’t be any more different.
Too bad that speed amounted to one giant groan on the field. Archer did very little with those wheels and never had a regular season play gain more than 38 yards, a kick return that honestly didn’t even look all that impressive.
Martavis Bryant/WR (2014-2017)
A freak with the height, weight, and speed he had, Bryant burst onto the scene by averaging 21 yards per catch as a rookie and scoring eight times on just 26 receptions.
During his first two years as a Steeler, he hauled in 10 catches of 40+ yards and fit perfectly in the Steelers offense. But that success was short-lived, a Firecracker that came in with a bang and them promptly blew itself up.
Kordell Stewart/QB (1995-2002)
Certainly the fastest QB in Steelers history though I don’t think speed alone makes him worthy of the list. He was a great athlete, elusive and slippery, but flat out speed? Probably not quite there. Not enough to get into the top 10. To his credit though, he had four rushes/receptions go for at least 50 yards. And a heck of a lot of fun to watch. During the good days, at least.
Artie Burns/CB (2016-2017)
If all the players I’ve mentioned so far ran a race, Burns is probably finishing in the top five. His 4.46 40 looks comparatively average on paper but he has a track background that plays even faster in his uniform. You can capture that in a snap – his rookie year, staying step-for-step down the left sideline with Tyreek Hill, one of the league’s fastest men.
Buddy Dial/WR (1959-1963)
A player who we don’t exactly have a 40 time on but the stats don’t lie. Twice in four seasons he led the NFL in yards per catch, including a mind-blowing 24.3 his sophomore season.
Dial recorded 11 touchdown catches that went for at least 40 yards. Compare that to Antonio Brown, with 500 more receptions to his name, who only has 10 of those in his career. If I had to have a #11, it’d probably be Buddy.
Troy Polamalu/SS (2003-2014)
Polamalu definitely could’ve made this list but when I think about all the things that made him a success, straight-line speed isn’t at the top of the list. It was his physicality, instincts, and general insanity that made him impossible to deal with. He reportedly ran a 4.33 at his USC Pro Day.
Allen Rossum/CB (2007)
A name easy to forget for Steelers’ fans and to be fair, they didn’t get him until the end of his career, trading for him when he was 32. Rossum was a track star in high school and Notre Dame before becoming one of the league’s best return men.
In 2007 with the Steelers, he averaged 23.3 yards per kick return, his longest being a 98 yard runback against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 3, a play you can check out here.