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Top Ten Steelers Tandems Of All-Time: Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier (#4)

Peanut butter and jelly. Abbott and Costello. The Pittsburgh Steelers and a rapid increase in your blood pressure every Sunday. Some of the world’s truest reliable duos.

That got me to thinking. Who are the best tandems in Steelers’ history? A dynamic duo who dominated the league. If one guy didn’t make the play, the other did. With such a long and storied history, it was difficult to come up with a list. But here’s my order of the top ten in black and gold. These are all players who played the same position, weighed by individual talent and the success shared together. So you won’t see, for example, QB to WR combinations on this list because if I did, that’s basically all this list would consist of (Bradshaw to Swann, Bradshaw to Stallworth, Ben to Ward, Ben to Brown, you get the idea). And these are duos only. Buddy system here, only pairs of two, not three or more.

#4: RBs Franco Harris & Rocky Bleier (1972-1980)

To some, a mild surprise to see them this “low,” not cracking the top three. Though Bleier was a great back and intregal to the Steelers’ dynasty, he never made the Pro Bowl and had several “meh” seasons, statistically speaking.

But come on. Franco and Rocky. They’re what the word “tandem” means. They’ll be remembered for that dominant 1976 season, the only pair of 1000 yard rushers in franchise history. Harris with over 1100 yards and league-high 14 touchdowns, Bleier eclipsing 1000 it in the season finale (a 107 yard performance over Houston) and five more scores.

That 76 relied on the run game and defense more than any other point. The Browns’ Turkey Joe Jones basically RKO’d Terry Bradshaw early in the season, pressing rookie Mike Kruczek to make six starts. He went 6-0, largely thanks to guys like the ones he was handing off to. And a defense that shut out every opponent helped, too.

Different running styles, to be sure. Harris glided in and out of running lanes, avoiding tacklers, and famously would duck out of bounds to avoid extra contact. Bleier was more straight line-ish, weighing less but squatter and embodied the “fullback” label, even if the labels didn’t always matter. Bleier would block for Franco; Harris the same for Rocky.

 

Harris, of course, was a slam-dunk Hall of Famer. His career lasted 13 years, including one in Seattle (that I’m still trying to forget about), retiring as the NFL’s second leading rusher. Bleier’s was shorter-lived but the fact he had any career considering his Vietnam foot injury was a miracle in itself. Kudos to Art Rooney Sr. for keeping his roster spot.

In total, the two rushed for 13,178 yards and 99 rushing touchdowns, each winning four Super Bowls. It’s only appropriate for them to finish in 4th place on this list.

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