There aren’t a lot of teams who have more than one quarterback in the Hall of Fame or who is a lock to make the Hall of Fame shortly after he retires. The San Franciso 49ers are, of course, one of them. With current starter Ben Roethlisberger, the Pittsburgh Steelers are another. And apparently that’s enough to squeeze them into the top 10 as it concerns the best teams for quarterbacks in the modern era (from 1967 and on).
That is where a recent NFL.com list ranked the Steelers, at nine, using a criterion that necessitated that a quarterback satisfy at least two requirements for consideration, in addition to starting at least 48 games: a winning record in the regular season; a passer rating of 75.0 or above; and at least one Pro Bowl selection.
By that relatively low bar, the Steelers actually had four quarterbacks who qualified outside of Roethlisberger and Hall of Famer Terry Bradshaw. Those were Neil O’Donnell, who took the team to its fifth Super Bowl (and lost), and Kordell Stewart.
That ranked them just behind the Miami Dolphins—with the likes of Dan Marino and Bob Griese—and just in front of the Los Angeles Chargers, with Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Dan Fouts. Should the Steelers have been ranked higher?
The top 10 not yet named, in descending order, was listed as the Dallas Cowboys, the 49ers, the Green Bay Packers, the Indianapolis Colts, the Denver Broncos, the New England Patriots, and the Oakland Raiders.
Admittedly, that sounds like a pretty strong list and obviously covers some of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, as well as some of the greatest successions ever. Brett Favre to Aaron Rodgers. Peyton Manning to Andrew Luck. Joe Montana to Steve Young, to crown them all.
None of those have been able to win multiple championships with multiple quarterbacks, however. That said, O’Donnell and Stewart aren’t exactly a compelling counterargument. The fact of the matter is that the Steelers had a dry spell of a couple decades, more or less, from the time Bradshaw retired to the time Roethlisberger was drafted.
It was enough to get them to the Super Bowl seven times, though, winning six of them. There’s certainly no shame in that. Bradshaw, at least at his height, was one of the best quarterbacks of his era, and Roethlisberger has gradually and begrudgingly been recognized in similar fashion.
And he has the opportunity to continue to add to his legacy for at least three more years. He already ranks in the top 10 in most passing statistics and can’t even get much higher without entering the incredibly lofty territory of the Manning, Brees, Tom Brady ilk.