Steel City Underground

Top 100 Most Influential Steelers

It’s really time to get into the meat of this list now, and it’s hard! Should Dwight White be up here with the rest of the Steel Curtain Line (probably, but it was him or the guy at 20, and Arrowhead had an arrow shaved into his head, and so, well, you know, personal bias!)?

How do you pick between Ernie Holmes and L.C. Greenwood?

Between Woodson and Polamalu?

Does Bettis belong ahead of Ham, or behind him?

As with other portions of this list, I have re-arranged these guys so many times, and it never really feels right. I can argue why any of these guys should be higher, or lower than the guys around them. Do you know what that means? It means we have had one heck of a lot of awesome players come through here!

Ok, on to the next set, and we are only taking them 5 at a time now – so it’s 16 - 20!

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20 - Ernie Holmes
Defensive Tackle
1971 - 1977

Ernie Holmes never made a Pro-Bowl. He wasn’t an All-Pro. He was an eighth-round draft pick in 1971. Even though sacks weren’t a stat during his days, he played a stretch in the early seventies where he had one sack in 6 consecutive games, which has only been accomplished by two other Steelers, Joe Greene, and Greg Lloyd. His nickname was “Arrowhead” for the arrow haircut he wore. The idea was that the arrow was there to “point the Steelers to the Super Bowl”. It did.

Joe Greene said that “Ernie was definitely an enforcer. I suspect that a lot of guys were kind of afraid of him.” He said that they would threaten other teams by saying “If you’re mean to us, we’ll stick Ernie over you.”

Holmes was a character, and was maybe the heart of the D-Line, while Joe Greene was the leader. Dan Rooney said, “Ernie was one of the toughest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform, at his best, he was an intimidating player who even the toughest of opponents did not want to play against.” One might say that it really was Ernie and Joe Greene who helped to re-create, or maybe re-enforce the idea that the Steelers were the most intimidating and toughest team on the planet.

Look, to be fair, he probably shouldn’t be this high, but when you have players like Joe Greene saying that Ernie was a great player, who am I to argue? I love the fact that two of my all-time favorites (Holmes and Dermontti Dawson) wore 63. I’m kinda partial to that number, since I was born in 1963. So Ernie gets to be higher on the list because he wore 63, and because he had that arrow shaved into his head. I love that! Hmmmm…maybe I’ll shave an arrow in my head this year!

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19 - Ernie Stautner
Defensive Tackle
1950 – 1963
PS4L

His last year as a player was the year I was born, so I never got to see Ernie Stautner play. I wish I had. There is a story that Andy Russell tells about Stautner which I have read and seen on DVD. Russell was a rookie playing on a Steelers team that would eventually finish in fourth place in Stautner's final season. At one point in a game he sees the Stautner return to the huddle holding one of his hands in the other. Russell looks down and sees that he has a compound fracture of the thumb; one of his thumb bones is visibly sticking out of his skin. Russell is the only one who notices, all Stautner says is, "What's the play?" Then he plays the rest of the defensive series. When the defense returns to the sideline, Russell watches Stautner, thinking that surely he must seek medical attention now. Instead, Stautner says to someone, "Give me some tape." Then Stautner taped up his hand into a club, and he played the rest of the game.

That is tough. That is Steelers tough. Apparently, that was Ernie Stautner.

He is a Hall of Famer. He was a 9x Pro Bowler. 10x All-Pro (explain that one to me? You are All-Pro, but don’t get to be a Pro Bowler?). He only played for the Steelers, so he gets the PS4L classification, even though he coached for other teams, but we won’t talk about that. (No, I said we won’t talk about that!)

He was the first Steeler to ever have his jersey retired, and until a few years ago, the only one. Now it’s just him and Joe Greene, and that feels just about right. Yes, he could be higher, and yes he probably should be higher, and he isn’t because I never got to see him play. If I had, maybe he’d be in the top 10. Since I didn’t, he’s at 19, and the highest ranked player I never saw play.

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18 - L.C. Greenwood
Defensive End
1969 – 1981
PS4L

6 Pro Bowls. 2 All-Pro teams. 4x Super Bowl Champion. Member of the NFL 1970’s All-Decade Team, and the Steelers All-Time Team.

HOW IS HE NOT IN THE HALL OF FAME?

As frustrated as I am with Donnie Shell not being in the Hall, to me the fact that L.C. Greenwood isn’t in the hall is even worse. He had a career sack number of 73 ½. He led the Steelers in sacks six times. Just think about that. He played with Lambert, Ham, Dwight White, Ernie Holmes and Joe Greene, and it was “Hollywood Bags” who led the team in sacks six times.

The man knocked down two passes from Tarkenton, and he sacked Roger Staubach four times. He had 5 sacks over the span of four Super Bowls. He was an awesome player. He wore those gold shoes so people wouldn’t confuse him with Mean Joe. OK, L.C., you were great, but you weren’t Joe. Still, they were distinctive, and they were cool! He is the second highest Defensive Lineman on my list, and he ends up at number 18.

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17 - Antonio Brown
Wide Receiver
2010 – present
Top Receiver

Business is Boomin!

AB, in my humble opinion is the greatest receiver in team history, and that’s saying something considering the talent that we’ve had at wide receiver! He already has more yards, than Swann, and is likely to catch Stallworth this season, leaving only Hines Ward with more receiving yards.

He owns the top 3 receiving yards’ seasons in Steelers history, and 2 of the top 10 in NFL history (4 in 2015 and 8 in 2014). AB has more catches over the last 3-year span than anyone in the NFL, and I believe anyone in the history of the NFL (over a 3-year span).

In just 86 games he has already become the 3rd all-time Steelers career yardage leader. He’ll soon pass John Stallworth to move into 2nd all-time. He could one day own almost every single Steelers receiving record (except maybe TD’s – Hines has a pretty good lead on him). Really, TD’s is probably the only chink in the AB armor. And it’s a little bitty one, so small you might need a microscope to see it.

I think AB ends up a top 15 guy if he stays with the Steelers as a PS4Ler. Maybe even a top 10 guy, but that’s hard to do when you consider who else is on the list. AB is, well, AB. He does “What it is” on Steelers.com (which I love, and think is hilarious (never funnier than it was when Ike T was still here)), and he is just about the most fan-friendly player we’ve ever seen. For now, he sits here at number 17, and the top receiver on my list.

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16 - Dermonti Dawson
Center
1988 – 2000
PS4L

Hall of Famer. 6x All-Pro and 7x Pro Bowler. Member of the Steelers All-time team, and a torchbearer worthy of following number 52 to carry on the legacy of great center play for the Steelers. We may all forget that during his rookie season he played Guard next to that same number 52.

He earned the name "Dirt" for the way he would try to grind defenders into the ground. He wore 63 and was the last (and unofficially may be the last) Steeler to ever wear that number. Bill Cowher said "To me he was the best athlete to ever play that position. He was very powerful and explosive, just a rare combination of quickness, explosion, and he was a very dependable player. This guy hardly ever missed a game. He redefined the position."

That’s high praise. And Cowher isn’t the only one to think that. In a Sports Illustrated article titled “Dermontti Dawson”, David Fleming says that Dawson has been “described as the smartest, most agile player to snap the ball in the history of the game.”

Dawson was a transcendental player. A once in a lifetime player. If Mike Webster hadn’t been raised by the Valkyries and taken to the Halls of Valhalla we would be calling Dawson the greatest center to ever play the game. Maybe he was. Worst case let’s say they are 1 and 1a. It’s just a damn shame that “He Who Shall Not Be Named” wrecked Dawson’s chance at winning a Super Bowl. When he let that third pick fly, I think I’d have stopped blocking and just let the defenders kick the heck out of him. I wanted to kick the heck out of him. (Breathe….breathe…it’s in the past…let it go…let it go (and don’t start singing that annoying song!)).

Conclusion

The players just keep getting better. Was Dawson a better center than Webster? Maybe, but Webbie will always own a special place in the annals of Steelers history. There are still 15 names to go.

Next up: 11 – 15.

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