The Pittsburgh Steelers well underway with the offseason workouts at the UPMC Rooney Sports Complex, also referred to as the South Side Facility. We are already into the heart of the offseason, where hope springs eternal following a few months of pretty significant changes, in terms of both departures and arrivals.
How are the rookies performing? What about the players that the team signed in free agency? Who is missing time with injuries, and when are they going to be back? What are the coaches saying about what they are going to do this season that might be different from how it was a year ago?
These are the sorts of questions among many others that we have been exploring on a daily basis and will continue to do so. Football has become a year-round pastime and there is always a question to be asked, though there is rarely a concrete answer, as I’ve learned in my years of doing this.
Question: Who is the greatest third-greatest 4-3 defensive tackle in Steelers history?
So, this is another one of those questions where the answer is too obvious to start at the beginning…or even right next to beginning. The Steelers as an organization have literally only ever retired two numbers: 70, and 75. Those numbers were last worn by Ernie Stautner and Joe Greene, a pair of Hall of Fame defensive tackles.
Joe Greene is of course the answer to the question of who the greatest 4-3 defensive tackle in Steelers history is. Stautner is of course the answer to the question of who comes next. It’s not worth entertaining discussion about anybody else. But it doesn’t stop there. Who comes after them on the list?
We can always start with Ernie Holmes, the other interior member of the Steel Curtain. He was never recognized as a Pro Bowler and had a relatively short career (he was, in fact, traded prior to the team winning their second set of Lombardis), but he was a big part of that group of players.
Following Holmes was Steve Furness and Gary Dunn. Dunn actually became their first nose tackle after they switched from the 4-3 to the 3-4 in 1982. Throw in John Banaszak, who became one of their first 3-4 defensive ends.
Chuck Hinton was playing right defensive end when Green was drafted, and in fact had been playing there since 1964. He scored two defensive touchdowns in his career, one off of an interception and then on a fumble recovery. Before moving to center, Ray Mansfield actually played a couple of seasons at defensive tackle as well.
Joe Krupa spent much of his career working with Stautner. He was the primary starting right defensive tackle through most of the last 50 to mid-60s, and made the Pro Bowl in 1964. Alex Kozora would kill me if I didn’t mention “Big Daddy” Lipscomb, who only played two seasons at the end of his career with the Steelers, making the Pro Bowl in 1962.