Top 100 most influential people in Steelers history: 81 – 90

This franchise has such a rich history. I have to admit, I have challenged myself with a few of the names I did remember and had to do some cursory research to get a better idea of who they really were, and what they contributed to the Steelers. My memory goes back pretty far, but to some extent, even some of the 1970 Steelers are starting to fade from my memory, so refreshing the data contained in my aging gray matter has become something of a requirement. has been a great asset in doing that. I felt compelled to give them a shout out for the information they provide.

Now on to the list! We’ve just started our journey to discover the Top 100 Most Influential People in the history of the Steelers. This time around, we look at 81 – 90.

Let’s get to it.

Embed from Getty Images

90 – Antwaan Randle El

Wide Receiver, 2002 – 2005, 2010

The only wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. That’s what Cowher loved about Randle El, he was “Slash” like – he could do a lot of things. He’s another example of the Steelers taking a college quarterback and finding something else for them to do. He made the All-Pro team as a punt returner. He earns his spot for throwing that 43 yard TD to Hines Ward in Super Bowl XL, clinching the win for the Black & Gold. I bet that’s one of the rare times a former college quarterback threw a touchdown pass to another former college quarterback!

Randle El left to spend a couple years in Washington, an example of trying to advance his career in a way he wasn’t going to be able to in Pittsburgh, for whatever reason. Bob Labriola talks about this situation once in one of his Asked and Answered columns, and to quote him “a player can advance his career by leaving he sometimes will decide to do just that”. It’s not always about chasing the money, sometimes it’s a role player hoping to gain a more expanded role, and that was the case here. Who can blame a guy for trying to advance his career? It doesn’t always work out, but you can’t fault a guy for trying.

When he came back to Pittsburgh in 2010, he wasn’t the same dynamic player he was when he left, but it was nice to have him finish up his career in Black and Gold.

Embed from Getty Images

89 – Brett Keisel

Defensive End, 2002 – 2014 / PS4L

Fear da Beard! Diesel was a “Steeler for Life”, and always will be. It was tough watching him walk off the field in 2014 with that triceps injury. You just knew that it was likely his last snap on the field. 13 years in the Black & Gold, 2 Super Bowl wins, and a Pro Bowl appearance. Keisel was an integral part of what Dick LeBeau wanted from the Steelers defense. He was an excellent fit at the end for the scheme we played, and he wasn’t content to just occupy space and eat up blockers – he’d beat them and put pressure on the backfield of opposing teams.

As is the case with many of the men who will appear on this list, Keisel embraced the fans. I remember watching the videos on of Brett dressed up like Santa and wandering around downtown Pittsburgh surprising random Pittsburghers. Even after retirement, his “Shear the Beard” event remains a popular and effective fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, and I hope he keeps doing it.

I knew he was gonna be on this list, I just wasn’t sure where, and while I could argue that he could be higher, I could probably make the same argument for whomever I put him above, so he settles in here at 89.

Embed from Getty Images

88 – Bryan Hinkle

Linebacker, 2002 – 2014 / PS4L

Hinkle wasn’t an All-Pro at any point in his career, but I always thought he should be. He was an excellent linebacker, and I think what hurt him the most during his years playing for the Steelers was that the teams weren’t that good. You know how it is, good teams get more players in the Pro Bowl, and bad teams get one. (It’s kind of like baseball that way, but I think in the NFL you don’t actually have to have one player from each team in the game – and why do I even care – it’s a stupid game and always has been – replace it with NFL American Ninja Warrior – now that would be fun to watch!). He gets a spot on the list because I remember him, and he didn’t suck, and his name is Bryan – even if it’s not spelled correctly.

Embed from Getty Images

87 – Buddy Parker

Coach, 1957 – 1964

The first non-player to make the list. Buddy Parker was a coach in the late 50’s and early 60’s and in my opinion, is notable for two things which would be critical to the not too distant success that the Steelers found in the 70’s. First – he followed up on his predecessor Walt Keisling’s awful decision to cut Johnny Unitas by drafting and then trading future HOF QB Len Dawson. This pattern is the second thing that Parker did, as it was Buddy Parker who really crippled the Steelers ability to draft. He traded draft picks for veterans, who were often past their prime. It resulted in some immediate improvement in the team, but in the long run, left the Steelers in a position where they had players who were past their primes, and no youth from which to rebuild because their young players had all been traded away.

The end result of those two decisions is that once Parker quit, telling Art Rooney “I can’t win with this bunch of stiffs” or something like that, he left the Steelers in such a awful state that they couldn’t help but lose, and as a result, they would find themselves in the position of having high draft picks in the upcoming years. I also believe that perhaps the choices Parker made might have taught the Rooney’s a hard lesson, and so when Chuck Noll was hired and stated that they were going to build from with the draft, they were more than ready to listen. That’s just my opinion though. Regardless, Parker definitely had an impact on the franchise, albeit the overall tone of that impact was a negative one.

"PittsburghFran Rogel ” width=”254″ height=”386″ />

86 – Fran Rogel

Fullback, 1950 – 1957

One of my daughter’s favorite parts of the History of the Pittsburgh Steelers DVD is the line “Hey diddle diddle, Rogel up the middle”. If you know your Steelers history, you know the story that follows that line, but if not, it goes something like this. Walt Kiesling would start every game by running exactly the same play: “Rogel up the middle.”

Art Rooney one day suggested to Kiesling that maybe instead of running Rogel, they might try and throw it instead. As “The Chief” tells the story in the video, Kiesling didn’t want to be undermined by Rooney for fear that he’d be telling him how to call the games all season long. So, Kiesling had one of his lineman jump offsides on purpose so the play wouldn’t count. Anyway, they go ahead and call a pass, and Jim Fink throws a touchdown pass that was nullified by the penalty. The following play after the penalty would be “Rogel up the middle.”

That’s why he’s on the list. As a player, Rogel was serviceable, and he did make the Pro Bowl one year, but really he’s here because that is just a great story and it makes me laugh every time I hear it, but that might be more due to the Chief than it is to the story.

Embed from Getty Images

85 – Tunch Ilkin

Tackle, 1980-1992

Tunch is a two-time Pro Bowler (1988, 1989), and that’s probably why he gets on the list over Craig Wolfley. Really, I should just put them both here as a tandem, because for several years now, that’s kind of how they are seen. It’s Tunch and Wolf almost all the time. Tunch was an above average player though, and Wolf was at best slightly above average.

Twelve years Tunch wore the Black and Gold, and those 12 years were not the best for the Steelers. He never got to a Super Bowl and played in only one Conference Championship, where the Steelers ran into a guy that Tunch should have been blocking for – Dan Marino. Imagine those years if the name Mark Malone (who was once voted the worst quarterback in Steelers history) was replaced with Dan Marino. What?! C’mon, you knew at some point I was going to bitch about the Steelers passing on Dan Marino.

Tunch might have made the list just as a player, but when you combine it with the years of service to the Steelers as an ambassador and broadcaster, well, he’s just a part of the Steelers experience now. Heck, if for no other reason I had to put him on the list for his analysis on Live.

Embed from Getty Images

84 – Bud Carson

Defensive Coordinator, 1973-1977

To be fair, I thought of placing Bud Carson higher on this list. He has traveled up and down being ranked in the 60’s and 70’s but really he falls down because there are other coordinators I think are more impactful. Still, Carson could be called the father of the Steel Curtain defense. I don’t know, but have to assume he had to have had some input into the players that were drafted. Regardless of how much he had to do with it, he got the most out of those guys.

Because Chuck Noll was seen as a defensive coach, and because the Steelers defense stayed dominant even after he left, I do sometimes wonder how much of what those legendary defenses accomplished is due to Carson. I tend to lean more towards Noll, but there is no doubt Carson had an impact – he is the father of the “Cover 2” defense after all.

Okay – I didn’t remember that fact. I was talking to a fellow Steelers fan at work and he reminded me that Bud Carson “created the Cover 2 defense at Georgia Tech.” It doesn’t count as research if you didn’t actually have to do any, but somebody just told you, right?

Embed from Getty Images

83 – Levon Kirkland

Linebacker, 1992-2000

It’s total coincidence that the most recent 99 is followed by another 99. Kirkland was a one of a kind player who possessed elite speed, strength, and size. I mean for a few years he was just unreal. You loved to watch “Capt. Kirk” (I have no idea if that was his real nickname, but I really want it to have been lol) just crush a QB or ball carrier. Vince Williams kind of reminds me of a mini-Kirkland.

He was an All Pro twice (1996, 1997), went to the Pro Bowl twice and was the team MVP twice. You really feel for Kirkland and many of the other standouts on defense with regards to that 1995 Super Bowl loss. The D held Dallas’ running game to under 60 yards in that game, and Kirkland was awesome. If not for “he who shall not be named, and most definitely shall not appear on this list anywhere because that would mean I had to name him and I cannot do that”, Kirkland, Lloyd, Woodson and several other Steeler greats would have had the Super Bowl championship they deserved. It just goes to show how hard it actually is to get there and to win the whole damn thing.

Kirkland played nine years with the Steelers, then was a salary cap victim if and when he left for Seattle, and then Philadelphia he was still performing above the line.

Embed from Getty Images

82 – Ryan Clark

Safety, 2006-2013

I love Ryan Clark. I totally had a bromance thing going with him when he played.

How could you not love Ryan Clark! He knocked the crap out of Wes Welker. He flattened Willis McGahee in the 2009 AFC Championship game – buckling the guy’s knees. The only problem was that he sometimes knocked himself out too!

If you’ve ever watched Real Time with Bill Mahr, he does this bit called “I can’t prove it’s true, I just know it is” or something like that, and that applies to Ryan Clark. I can’t prove that receiver’s all had happy feet, or alligator arms, or were looking over their shoulders when they played the Steelers and Clark was prowling the secondary, I just know it’s true.

The duo of Clark and Polamalu was fantastic – they played off each other and understood each other. I was sorry when Clark was released, but I understood it, and I think it speaks volumes that after he was done with the Redskins, he wanted to come back and retire as a Steeler. He was a “Heat Seeking Missile” and a huge part of some of the most ferocious defenses to ever wear the Black and Gold.

Embed from Getty Images

81 – Ryan Shazier

Linebacker, 2014-Present

At Ohio State Shazier’s nickname was “Shazam” and I don’t if it’s one that is being used in the locker room, but I love it! I expect to get arguments about putting Shazier on the list at all, let alone in the second tier of people and I accept that this is a bit of a reach and a risk. He hasn’t gotten through a full season without missing a game, and there are still members of Steelers Nation who are ready to give up on this kid, but I think that is a huge mistake.

In my opinion, we are at the beginning of what is going to be a run of dominating years by Shazier. Pro Bowls, All Pro play, I think it’s all coming. C’mon, he beat Antonio Brown, Sammie Coates, and Markus Wheaton STRAIGHT UP in a footrace. He’s fast, and he’s no longer hesitating on the field, he’s playing instinctually, and he is damn good. C’mon now Nation – you could make the argument that Ryan Shazier was the MVP of the playoff game against the Bengals in 2015. Two forced fumbles and one of them simply HAD to happen to give us any chance of winning that game. He is going to be a force. In fact, when he’s on the field – he is a force!

I think when we look back on his career, we will all be able to agree that this isn’t nearly high enough.

So sue me, I can be optimistic if I want to!


That does it for round 2. We are up to number 80, and the next entry will deal with numbers 71 through 80. That will put us three-tenths of the way finished, which is really a completely useless fact, but I felt like pointing it out.

I think this grouping has provided plenty of food for debate! Did I get it right? Who doesn’t belong here? Who is too low? Too high? If we have enough feedback, maybe we will do a video podcast about it as well.

Hopefully, I haven’t, by the time all is said and done, had a brain fart and left someone completely obvious off the list, but who knows? C’mon, some of you Shazier haters have to call me out on this one (you’re wrong, but I know you don’t know that yet!).

Next: 71 – 80.

Previous entries

Suggested articles from our sponsors