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The 25 greatest Pittsburgh Steelers of all time

The Pittsburgh Steelers are the most storied franchise in NFL history. Their greatness goes all the way back to the 1970s with the Steel Curtain defense and was continued by the success of players like Jerome Bettis and Ben Roethlisberger in more modern times. They almost always have a good team. 18 Steelers are enshrined in the Hall of Fame, and many more will join them.

This list was created by measuring each player’s Approximate Value, a Pro Football Reference statistic that’s used to “put a single number on the seasonal value of a player at any position from any year,” according to their website.

Who made the cut for the greatest Steelers of all time? Let’s find out below.

1 of 25

1. Ben Roethlisberger (Approximate Value: 208)

Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ben (6-foot-5, 240) spent his entire 18-year career with the Steelers. After going 13-0 as a rookie starter, there was no question that Big Ben was the quarterback of the future. They won the Super Bowl in just his second year and won it again three years later. Overall, Big Ben’s Steelers had a 2-1 record in the Super Bowl and could’ve gone to more if it wasn’t for the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick Patriots.

While Big Ben was good on the field, his off-field issues are an absolute disgrace and should be considered when he’s mentioned for the Hall of Fame.

2 of 25

2. Mike Webster (AV: 150)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Arguably the greatest center of all time, Webster was the anchor of the Steelers’ offensive line in the 1970s and ’80s. Iron Mike went to nine Pro Bowls, won four Super Bowls, and was enshrined into the Hall of Fame. He was a beloved Pittsburgh athlete whose toughness was a perfect representation of the blue-collar city.

Webster died of a heart attack at 50 years old. His brain was examined by Dr. Bennet Omalu, who discovered Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) and changed football forever. This story is told in the movie “Concussion” starring Will Smith.

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3. Jack Ham (AV: 147)

Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

Ham was a Pennsylvania guy–born and raised. He played high school in Pennsylvania, played college ball at Penn State and played his entire career with the Steelers. Ham was the brains of the Steel Curtain defense while Jack Lambert and Joe Greene were the brawn. His football IQ was through the roof. He was in the running for Defensive Player of the Year every season. Ham won four Super Bowls with the Steelers.

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4. Joe Greene (AV: 143)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

When the Steelers drafted Mean Joe Greene in 1969, their fortunes changed for the better. Under his leadership, the Steelers turned into winners. Standing at 6-foot-4, 275 pounds, he was an unblockable force up front. Overall, he won Defensive Rookie of the Year, two Defensive Player of the Year awards and four Super Bowls.

Mean Joe Greene is one of the greatest defensive tackles of all time. He’s the Aaron Donald of the 1970s. The greatest achievement of Greene’s career was that he defined what it meant to be a Steeler.

5 of 25

5. Terry Bradshaw (AV: 140)

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Today, Terry Bradshaw is a Steelers legend. It wasn’t always that way. He had to go through the ropes to succeed in the NFL. He was criticized early in his career for committing turnovers and for a perceived lack of intelligence because of his Southern background.

Eventually, Bradshaw overcame the adversity and led the Steelers to four Super Bowl victories. His best season came in 1978 when he won MVP and the Super Bowl. Bradshaw was enshrined into the Hall of Fame.

6 of 25

6. Jack Lambert (AV: 137)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Lambert is the scariest-looking player in NFL history. He won his matchup before the ball was snapped, thanks to his intimidating aura. The fact that he was oddly tall and lanky for a middle linebacker (6-foot-4, 220) made him a quarterback’s worst nightmare. This is the last guy you’d want to get hit by. He was the heart and soul of the Steelers dynasty. He was the best linebackers of his era. Lambert lives a private life away from the media since retiring in the 1980s.

7 of 25

7. Franco Harris (AV: 135)

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Harris caught The Immaculate Reception. The play was the birth of a dynasty. The bruising fullback was the Steelers leading rusher in the ’70s. He won Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and went to nine Pro Bowls. At one point, Harris was so dominant that he ran for 1,000 yards or more in six seasons in a row. The workhorse back carried the Steelers offense to four Super Bowl victories.

8 of 25

8. Mel Blount (AV: 128)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Blount was so good they had to change the rules to keep up with him. The Mel Blount Rule was put in place in 1978. It stated that you couldn’t make contact with a wide receiver before five yards downfield. It changed football forever and ushered in the passing era. As the seasons went by after the rule, the West Coast offense started to take over. Despite the rule change aimed at stopping Blount, his stats remained the same. Imagine being so dominant at a sport that they change the rules to stop you.

9 of 25

9. Dermontti Dawson (AV: 123)

The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

Dawson had big shoes to fill. He replaced Mike Webster as the Steelers starting center. He helped establish the tradition of great centers in Pittsburgh. It’s still going strong today. While he was undersized for a lineman (6-foot-2, 288), he made the Hall of Fame in spite of this. The guy was basically a brick wall in the 1990s. Yes, Dawson never won a Super Bowl, but they made it there in 1995, thanks to his world-class blocking.

10 of 25

10. Rod Woodson (AV: 120)

RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Woodson was a turnover-creating machine at cornerback for the Steelers. The shutdown corner won Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. The Steelers let him walk in free agency in 1997. Big mistake. He moved to safety with the Baltimore Ravens and had a career comeback. Woodson won the Super Bowl with the Ravens in 2000 as a star on the greatest defense of all time.

11 of 25

11. Hines Ward (AV: 119)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Ward holds the record for most receiving yards by a Steeler (12,083). He was a lethal offensive weapon during his 14-year career with the black and yellow. He was an excellent possession receiver.  He walked away from the game with two Super Bowl rings. Ward was the definition of a champion.

12 of 25

12. Donnie Shell (AV: 118)

Manny Rubio-USA TODAY Sports

Shell formed a great tandem with Mel Blount in the 1970s. They made life hell for whoever they covered and were a crucial part of the Steel Curtain defense. Shell is a criminally underrated player from the Steelers dynasty.

13 of 25

13. Troy Polamalu (AV: 117)

Jason Bridge-USA TODAY Sports

A 2000s football icon, Polamalu was a hard-hitting playmaker for the Steelers. One of the best safeties of his generation, he won Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and was the motivational leader on two Super Bowl-winning squads. His rivalry with Ed Reed was legendary. They competed for the title of best safety in the league for a decade. Off the field, Polamalu is known for his funny commercials. He was enshrined into the Hall of Fame in 2022.

14 of 25

14. Alan Faneca (AV: 115)

Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Hall of Fame guard Alan Faneca had a great run with the Steelers. A nine-time Pro Bowler, he was the bodyguard for a young Ben Roethlisberger. He paved the way for the Steelers fifth Super Bowl win in 2005. After spending 10 years with the Steelers, Faneca ended his career with the New York Jets and Arizona Cardinals.

15 of 25

15. Cameron Heyward (AV: 115)

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The son of Craig “Ironhead” Heyward, the legendary fullback for the University of Pittsburgh, Cameron Heyward was drafted by the Steelers in 2011 with great expectations. He lived up to the hype and has become a mainstay on the Steelers’ defensive line. The only active player on this list, Heyward’s 78.5 career sacks are the second most in franchise history. At one point, Heyward made five Pro Bowls in a row and helped reignite the Steelers’ defense into a modern powerhouse.

16 of 25

16. L.C. Greenwood (AV: 110)

Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Greenwood was the starting defensive end of the Steel Curtain. He wreaked havoc against any lineman unfortunate enough to face him and Mean Joe Greene on the defensive line. He recorded 10 sacks or more twice in his career. He was also a great run stuffer. A four-time champion, Greenwood should be considered for the Hall of Fame.

17 of 25

17. Andy Russell (AV: 109)

Russell (34) in his stance at the line of scrimmage (1975). Malcolm Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

Russell had a unique professional career. He played one season with the Steelers in 1963 and then fulfilled his Army ROTC requirements that he signed up for at the University of Missouri. The veteran came back to the Steelers in 1966 and was their starting outside linebacker for a decade. He was a hard-nosed linebacker who formed a great linebacker corps alongside Jack Lambert and Jack Ham. He was a tough player who helped the Steelers win two of their four Super Bowls in the ’70s.

18 of 25

18. James Harrison (AV: 104)

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Harrison is one of the most intimidating players of his era. The 2008 Defensive Player of the Year was known for putting offensive players to sleep. The Steelers’ legend went from an undrafted free agent out of Kent State to the franchise’s all-time leader in sacks. His pick-six against the Cardinals in Super Bowl XLIII exemplified his will to win.

19 of 25

19. John Stallworth (AV: 103)

Tony Tomsic-USA TODAY Sports

Star wide receiver John Stallworth made big plays in big moments. His three receiving touchdowns are tied for third all-time in Super Bowl history, per StatMuse. He formed a dynamic duo with wide receiver Lynn Swann. Stallworth played his entire career with the Steelers, winning four Super Bowls. He played until he was 35, a rarity for wide receivers.

20 of 25

20. James Farrior (AV: 102)

Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Farrior started his career with the Jets before signing with the Steelers. He really started to show promise in the Steel City and got better each year. He was the starting linebacker for two Super Bowl wins. If you could use one word to describe his career, it would be consistent. Farrior had 100 tackles or more almost every season.

21 of 25

21. Antonio Brown (AV: 101)

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A lot has been said about Brown recently. Yes, his post-NFL behavior is problematic, but he was great with the Steelers. At one point, he was the best wide receiver in the league and drew comparisons to Jerry Rice. From 2013-2018, Brown averaged 114 catches, 1,524 yards and 11 touchdowns per year. That’s incredible. He never won a Super Bowl with the Killer Bees (Big Ben, Le’Veon Bell and Brown). Brown left Pittsburgh and got his ring with Tom Brady and the Buccaneers in 2020.

22 of 25

22. Greg Lloyd (AV: 100)

Greg Lloyd (AV: 100)
RVR Photos-USA TODAY Sports

Lloyd was a ferocious pass rusher in the ’90s. The Steelers 3-4 defense was a perfect fit for Lloyd’s skillset. He helped the Steelers reach the Super Bowl in 1995, losing to the Cowboys. He finished his career with the expansion team Carolina Panthers.

23 of 25

23. Casey Hampton (AV: 95)

Casey Hampton (AV: 95)
David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

Affectionately nicknamed Big Snack, Hampton was a monstrous nose tackle who stuffed running backs in the backfield. The Steelers shut down league MVP running back Shaun Alexander in Super Bowl XL, thanks to Big Snacks. Overall, the 6-foot-1, 325-pound nose tackle finished his career with 398 tackles and was a two-time champion.

24 of 25

24. Maurkice Pouncey (AV: 94)

Maurkice Pouncey (AV: 94)
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Another great Steelers’ center, Pouncey played his entire 11-year career with the black and yellow. He made the Pro Bowl in nine of his 11 seasons. He was the foreman of some of the best offensive lines in the 2010s.

25 of 25

25. Carnell Lake (AV: 91)

Carnell Lake (AV: 91)
The Arizona Republic-USA TODAY Sports

Lake was a great defensive back for the Steelers in the 1990s. A five-time Pro Bowler, he could cover the best receivers in the league with ease. He was also a sneaky threat as a blitzer. He finished his career with 25 sacks as a safety.

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