Earlier in the offseason, some talking heads over at the NFL Network took a stab at choosing the top five safeties of all time. While all of them included Troy Polamalu on their list (though none included Donnie Shell), all of them had the Baltimore Ravens’ Ed Reed ahead of the 2020 Hall of Famer for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Recently, the same panelists went ahead and ranked the top five cornerbacks of all time. It shouldn’t be a huge surprise that the Steelers were well-represented on this list as well, considering that they have three cornerbacks in the Hall of Fame (Jack Butler is the one you’re forgetting).
Both Mel Blount from the 1970s dynasty and later Rod Woodson were true greats for the Steelers in their team’s history. Both were Defensive Player of the Year, and both were first-ballot Hall of Famers. Both were included on the NFL 100 All-Time Team.
Top 5 Cornerbacks of All-Time, this one was TOUGH.
Chaos after Number 1 👀 pic.twitter.com/rkjZtB9uWo
— NFL Total Access (@NFLTotalAccess) April 16, 2020
And yet the only cornerback on the panel, DeAngelo Hall, was the only one to leave both of them off of his list. And it wasn’t just because of recency bias, because he included Night Train Lane there. The other cornerbacks he believes are better: Deion Sanders (who was first on everybody’s list), Darrell Green, Champ Bailey, and Charles Woodson.
Imagine thinking Champ Bailey was better than both Mel Blount and Rod Woodson. But whatever. Be that as it may, all three of the other panelists—Lindsay Rhodes, Scott Hanson, and Maurice Jones-Drew did the right thing and included both Blount and Woodson in their top five. Woodson ranked second on the first two lists and third on MJD’s. Blount was third on Rhodes’ list and fifth on the others.
Rhodes gave the most love to Pittsburgh, with Woodson and Blount ranking second and third on her list of the five best cornerbacks in NFL history, behind only Sanders. She also included Night Train at number four on her list, and she was the only one to include Darrelle Revis, who of course has local area ties.
Even with this great history at the position, the Steelers have had some awful cornerback play for much of the past decade, or at least below the standards set by their predecessors. Whether it was Artie Burns or Josh Victorian, Atwon Blake or Ross Cockrell (not that he was bad by any means), it’s fair to say that nobody was making Pro Bowls.
In fact, Joe Haden just made the Pro Bowl last year, the first time the Steelers sent a cornerback to the Pro Bowl since Rod Woodson. That was 1996. The Baltimore Ravens were founded in 1996 and played their inaugural season. So basically it was a Ravens history’s length between Steelers cornerbacks making the Pro Bowl.