Here is the latest edition of the Top 500 All-Time Steelers which incorporates on the field service, recognition and accomplishments of the 2018 Steelers as well as some adjustments to former Steelers due to changes to the Steelers Top 10 lists and adjusted information in the Pro Football Reference (one of my main resources). I waited for the announcement of latest NFL Hall of Fame inductees to see if Alan Faneca got his due recognition to see if any last-minute adjustments were required.
Being an average Steelers fan; I am compelled to compare players from different eras. Dave Bryan was kind enough to publish my original List of Top 500 All-Time Pittsburgh Steelers in January 2017. Just prior to the 2017 season an updated Top 500 was published to account for the Steelers inaugural Hall of Honor inductees. My last update came at the end of the 2017 NFL season: Top 500 Steelers (2017 Edition).
Ben Roethlisberger and Antonio Brown have come right near the top. Another season especially one that sees them help propel the Steelers back into the playoffs in 2019 will likely see them breach the top 10 next year. The Hall of Fame Committee got it wrong again by denying Faneca.
As players ascend into the top 500; inevitably Newton’s third law of motion forces other players out. Here are the players who fell from last year’s list along with their new ranking:
|First||Last||POS||Years||Old Rank||New Rank|
Here are some details on these Steelers of yore:
Bam Morris: Steelers 3rd round pick in the 1994 draft. In 1995 playoffs he scored four touchdowns including one in the Super Bowl loss to Dallas Cowboys (that matches the 4-career playoff TD’s by Le’Veon Bell). He packed 244 pounds on a six-foot frame. Unfortunately, he was arrested for possessing four kilos of marijuana and a gram of cocaine. The Steelers cut him after his second season and the Baltimore Ravens signed him as a free agent. The fear of his unavailability led to the Steelers to make a draft-day trade for another beefy running back … Jerome Bettis.
Fran O’Brien: The Washington Redskins waived Fran after playing the Steelers in the 3rd game of the 1966 season. The Steelers signed him after several injuries including losing their starting tackle Don James. He played on special teams against the Redskins since they played twice in a row. The next season, O’Brien broke his ankle against he Browns and only played 4 games. He bounced back in 1968 starter 12 of 14 games played before retiring prior to the 1969 season after 8 years in the league – Chuck Noll’s first year as head coach.
Boyd Brumbaugh: Brumbaugh was a local product who attended what is now Steel Valley High School. He was a starter for Duquesne University and led them to a 7-0 victory over the 1936 national champion Pitt Panthers. He was the 3rd overall pick of the Brooklyn Dodgers in the 1938 NFL draft. Art Rooney acquired Brumbaugh in a trade just before the 1939 season. He led the Steelers in rushing in 1939 and then in passing in 1941. Plagued by injuries throughout his short career, he hung up his cleats following the 1941 season to serve in the defense industry due to the outbreak of WWII.
Lindy “Tex” Mayhew: Attended Texas School of Mines, now UTEP. A 29-year-old rookie, Rooney signed him after the Cleveland Rams of the old American Football league folded. Played tackle & guard for the Pittsburgh Pirates (Steelers) 1936-38. Released midseason by new skipper Johnny ‘Blood’ McNally. Became the Steelers trainer during the war years when he started coaching local high school football.
Johnny Sample: A 3-time Pittsburgh Courier All-American drafted by the Colts. Helped New York Jets in Super Bowl III with an interception. Also played in “The Greatest Game Ever Played” as a rookie helping the Baltimore Colts defeat the New York Giants in 1958. Nice bookend to his professional football career. His autobiography, Confessions of a Dirty Ballplayer, was an expose of the inequities of the league in the 1960’s. When the Colts planned to switch him to offense he left camp and then was traded to the Steelers just before the 1961 season for a 2nd round draft pick. Scored a pick 6 in his debut as a Steeler. First season arguably his best season, career high 8 interceptions. Averaged 10.9 yards on 26 punt returns with a TD. 1961 first team all-pro by UPI & NY Daily News and second team by Newspaper Ent. Association. Consensus was 2nd team all pro. Falling out with Buddy Parker and injuries led to poor second season and trade to Redskins for a draft pick.
John Mastrangelo: Was one of 11 holdouts prior to 1949 season after Steelers cut salaries. Ended up signing with New York Yankees of the newly formed All-America Conference. He said at the time, “…. I’m in it for the money and the Yankees gave me the best offer.” Before that, the Steelers drafted Mastrangelo with great fanfare as a local product in 3rd round pick of 1947 draft. As a rookie started at guard in Steelers only playoff appearance prior to 1972.
Landry Jones: We all know Landry. He was drafted in the fourth round in 2013. He played in 19 games with 5 starts during his 5 years as Roethlisberger’s back-up. He is credited with 1 comeback victory and leading two game winning drives. Who knows what would have happened if he had been the back-up against the Raiders this past season?
Mitch Lyons: Free agent signing to replace Jonathan Hayes after 1996 season. He was on Michigan State Board of Trustees but was charged with misdemeanor assault after shoving a referee at a girls’ basketball tourney that he was coaching. Primarily a blocking tight end. Was placed on IR for 2 of his 3 seasons due to injuries to his right knee.
Theron Sapp: Acquired midseason from the Eagles for a draft pick. Played as halfback & fullback behind Dick Hoak and John Henry Johnson averaging 4.5 yards a carry his first season. Hoped to play for the expansion Atlanta Falcons to be near home but was not picked up. He broke a bone in a scrimmage during a preseason scrimmage ending his Steelers career after 3 seasons.
Najeh Davenport: 9 of 16 career TD’s scored with Steelers. Also, 2 TD’s in only playoff appearance with Steelers. Signed to compete with Duce Staley as a short yardage back. October 2007 charges of domestic violence. Big role when Willie Parker broke his fibula late in 2007 season. 24 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown, as well as two catches for 44 yards and another touchdown. He scored a go-ahead TD in playoff game against Jags but not enough as Steelers fell 29-31 with 37 seconds left. Released in 2008 when Rashard Mendenhall drafted and Mewelde Moore signed. Najeh was re-signed after Ray Lewis broke Mendenhall’s shoulder and Parker was hurt. But he was released for good after brief appearances in 4 games that season.
DeAngelo Williams: DeAngelo proved to be a high-quality back-up subbing for Le’Veon Bell during his two suspensions and injuries in 2015 & 16. He was tied for the lead in rushing TD’s in 2015 with 11 starting in 10 of 16 games played. Unfortunately, he was unavailable for the playoffs. The following year he again subbed for Bell who was suspended for the second year in a row. He appeared in 3 playoff games but could not help the Steelers defeat the Patriots in the championship after Bell left early in the game with a groin pull. His own injuries plus age had the Steelers not re-signing him for a third season.
David Woodley: With the Dolphins, he was the youngest quarterback at 24 to start a Super Bowl back in 1982. The following year he was supplanted by Dan Marino. The Steelers traded two draft picks to acquire Woodley as one of a succession of replacements for Terry Bradshaw who retired after the 1983 season. He started 13 games (splitting games with Mark Malone) in two seasons with the Steelers and by 1986 was out of the league. Heavy drinking led to a liver transplant and unfortunately, he passed away at 44 due to liver & kidney failure in 2003.
Ted Marchibroda: Better known as head coach of the Baltimore/Indianapolis Colts and Baltimore Ravens, Marchibroda started out in the NFL as the Steelers 1st round draft pick in 1953. He spent a year in military service after his rookie season then rejoined the team. He played behind Jim Finks before starting 11 games in his final season with the team. Walt Kiesling was replaced by Buddy Parker who brought in Earl Morrall and Jack Kemp which made Marchibroda and a young Len Dawson, who had been Kiesling’s choice to eventually lead the team, expendable. Marchibroda was released just before the 1957 season opener and he signed with Cardinals a few days later. Some of Marchibroda’s assistant coaches while he was a head coach include Marvin Lewis, Eric Mangini, Ken Whisenhunt and Bill Belichick.
John Kapele: A 10th round draft choice in 1960, Kapele spent 2 ½ seasons with the Steelers. Born in Hawaii, he played for BYU as did his son in the 1980’s. His descendants still are playing football in Hawaii. He was signed by the Eagles after the Steelers released him midway through the 1962 season. Buddy Parker was shaking up the roster and ended up signing John Baker famous for the tackle that led to the famous photo of Y.A. Tittle a few seasons later.
Cam Thomas: Cam came to Pittsburgh from the San Diego Chargers in 2014 to help stabilize a defensive line that was in transition after losing players to free agency. He never played up to the expectations of fans especially in rush defense.
Mel Holmes: Selected in the fifth round and played mostly back-up offensive line at tackle & guard. He was one of 10 rookies who made Chuck Noll’s 1971 opening roster. He got a start in the home opener with 5 other rookies including four on defense: Gerry “Moon” Mullins, Jack Ham, “Polite” Dwight White, Glen Edwards & Mike Wagner. One of several Steelers who moved to the USFL after being waived in the 1974 preseason.
Duce Staley: Signed as an unrestricted free agent in 2004 after 7 seasons with the Philadelphia Eagles. Was signed to replace Jerome Bettis as the big back as the Bus’s career production was waning. He gained 707 yards in his 1st seven games but then a hamstring injury hampered further productivity. He would only gain 278 more yards in 9 games and was released after only playing one game in 2006.
How many do your recall?
Here are the new additions to the list:
|FIRST||LAST||POS||YEARS||OLD RANK||NEW RANK|
Seven of the ascending players were on the 2018 roster. Here are eight blasts from the pasts:
Dick Flanagan: Flanagan was a veteran linebacker on the 1952 Detroit Lions championship team. He was beat out by rookie and future NFL Hall of Famer Joe Schmidt a Pittsburgh native who was captain of the Pitt team. The Steelers purchased the rights to Flanagan early in the 1953 season. He ended up starting all 29 games he played for the Steelers from 1953-1955. Mainly a linebacker he filled in on the offensive line including center and guard when injuries took their toll.
Billy Ray Smith: The Rams picked him in 3rd round of 1957 draft. He was traded to Pittsburgh the following season for a draft pick. Buddy Parker let go of future Presidential candidate Jack Kemp to make room for Smith and Jimmy Orr. Parker then traded Smith to the Baltimore Colts after the 1960 season for DB Jackie Simpson. Smith would play for the Colts 9 seasons starting 108 of 124 games and capping his career in Super Bowl V with a win. Simpson would start 8 games in 2 seasons with Pittsburgh. Billy Ray is in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame. His son played for the Chargers for 10 seasons.
George Sulima: A 3rd round draft pick in 1951; George played three seasons with the Steelers. He was an offensive end that averaged over 15 yards a catch on his career 49 receptions in the early 1950’s but was overshadowed by Elbie Nickel. George is in the Boston University Sports Hall of Fame.
Bob O’Neil: A local product from Bridgeville; he played for Duquesne until the school dropped the football program. He transferred to Notre Dame and was drafted by the Steelers in the 15th round of the 1953 draft. However, O’Neil entered military service but was injured in an auto accident driving home from military camp. He played rugby in France prior to becoming a Steelers rookie at age 25 in 1956. He was among 17 veterans that Buddy Parker cut ties with after the 1957 season including captain Nickel. He played for a few seasons in Canadian Football league before finishing out his football career with the New York Titans in 1961.
Richie McCabe: Another local, the North Catholic alumnus was a Steelers water boy and would work out with the team as a high school player. He was drafted in the 22nd round but made the team in 1955 with 3 interceptions including a 76-yard pick-6 as a rookie starting in all 12 games he played. He missed his 2nd season and most of his 3rd due to military service. He was also the player called for a controversial penalty at the end of a game to allow the Los Angeles Rams to kick a game winning field goal. The NFL ended up firing the official before the next season started. Parker traded him to the Redskins, and he was a first team all-pro with the Buffalo Bills before retiring to get into coaching. He was the defensive back coach of the Denver Broncos when the former North Catholic teammate of Dan Rooney succumbed to cancer at age 49 in January 1983.
Jim “Popcorn” Brandt: A 12th round draft pick in 1951; Jim was mainly a short yardage fullback but also returned a few kicks averaging 22.7 yards a return. He did have four rushing touchdowns in his three seasons with the Black & Gold. Alex Kozora captured his unfortunate role in the greatest pre-Noll era Steelers comeback victory.
Lou Allen: A 5th round draft choice out of Duke in 1950. He was 26 year old rookie as he had joined the Navy after high school and participated in the Normandy invasion before enrolling in college. Lou Allen was an offensive lineman in the single wing under John Michelson. He started in all 24 games played in his first two seasons. When Joe Bach was hired before the 1952 season, the Steelers were converting offenses and Allen was not in the starting line-up. He quit the team along with halfback Jerry Nuzum. He played one game for the Montreal Alouettes that year. He is in the Duke University Hall of Fame.
Pete Ladygo: The West Brownsville native was a 16th round draft choice from University of Maryland. He started 11 of 12 games played his rookie year. 1953 was a tumultuous year. First, his father died after his mother hit him in the head with an orange juice extractor during an argument. Ladygo then held out of camp along with several other players for a bigger paycheck. He broke his leg on the last play of a scrimmage after returning to the team and did not play his 2nd season. He returned in 1954 to start all 12 games. He was negotiating with the Steelers to renew his contract when he ultimately signed with the Ottawa Rough Riders for the 1955 season. He later became an assistant football coach at Potomac State College where he started out his college ball. He is in their Athletic Hall of Fame.
With Olasunkanmi Adeniyi and kicker Matt McCrane playing their first games as Steelers; there are now 1,501 players who have worn the Black & Gold in at least one regular season game since the team entered the league in 1933.
While you peruse the full list, Your Music Selection
In the 2018 Memorial Day Weekend: Steelers Friday Night Five Questions, I committed to play songs that Steelers Depot respondents suggested might be the new Steelers anthem if Renegade by Styx was ever replaced. Here is entry 41 of 45 from SkoolHouseRoxx: Black & Yellow by Wiz Khalifa.
Here are the Top 500 Steelers (2018 Edition):
|17||-1||James||Harrison||LB||02 04-12 14-17|
|156||-5||Antwan||Randel El||WR||2002-05 10|
|494||-18||Art||Jones||B||1941 & 45|
|495||-18||Merlyn||Condit||B||1940 & 46|