Earlier this week, I wrote about an article put out by ESPN in which the beat writer for each team in the division selected that team’s ‘player of the decade’, with Brooke Pryor choosing Antonio Brown for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and quarterback Ben Roethlisberger getting the honorable mention.
The second part of that article was choosing a divisional all-decade team. While the Steelers did not win a Super Bowl during the decade—they did play in one, and reached the AFC Championship game twice—they were overall the winningest team in the division, so it’s not surprising that they were comfortably represented here.
In fact, of the 25 positions—including special teams—the Steelers received 11 player recognitions on the list, including a whopping 12 on offense. It should not surprise you that the Killer Bs headlined, with Roethlisberger the quarterback, Brown the top wide receiver, and Le’Veon Bell the top running back.
But we also got multiple-time All-Pros Maurkice Pouncey and David DeCastro representing the offensive line—the other linemen were Joe Thomas, Andrew Whitworth, and Marshal Yanda, all the right calls—as well as Heath Miller at tight end.
Miller is the most surprising, considering that he retired several years ago, and really was kind of fading by the end, but then again, overall, it wasn’t a fantastic decade for tight ends in the AFC North. Tyler Eifert could have been the guy if he were healthy. Dennis Pitta, another. Mark Andrews is the best tight end in the division right now, but played just two years.
The Steelers also got five players on defense, though they have to share a bit. Cameron Heyward, of course, is there on the defensive line, and Troy Polamalu is on the back end—even though he, too, retired a while ago, but he was that good. At linebacker, you have James Harrison on the outside, and rightfully, Lawrence Timmons gets recognized on the inside. You’d love to give the nod to Ryan Shazier, but he only played four seasons, and didn’t break out until 2015.
And then there’s Joe Haden, but even with his strong season last year, you know the bulk of this consideration is for the four years he spent with the Browns, during which he made the Pro Bowl twice. The other cornerback on the list was Adam Jones.
Last, but not least, Antonio Brown made the list twice, also as the returner of the decade in the AFC North. In all, he registered five return touchdowns, four coming on punts. In fact, the first touch of his NFL career was a kick return touchdown. He averaged 9.5 yards per punt return for his career and 25 for kick returns. He made the Pro Bowl in 2011 as a return man, becoming the first player to ever record 1000 receiving and 1000 return yards in the same season.