Top 100 most influential people in Steelers history: 71 – 80

The great thing about “lists” is that they actually require you to think a bit. When you reach my age, anything that forces you to utilize the gray matter lying between your ears is a grand and wondrous thing.

I was surprised by some of the names I remembered that made it into the top 100, and more surprised when I had to do my cursory research to make sure I was clear on how to rank them. That being said, much of this is not quantifiable in any way, and these remain just my opinions based on my abbreviated research and faulty memory. If I screw something up big time I’m hoping somebody will let me know.

So far we’ve covered 100 – 81, and now it’s time to move to the next group, so without further ado here we go with the next group, 71-80.

Dale Dodrill

80 – Dale Dodrill

Defensive Tackle, 1951-1959 / PS4L!

This is a prime example of remembering a name, and then having no idea who the guy actually was. I remembered Dodrill’s name, but I couldn’t remember much about him, other than he was a defensive tackle, and I know he made a Pro Bowl. I realized that wasn’t enough. I tried talking to my buddy at work, but he didn’t know anything about Dodrill, so clearly, research was going to be required.

Dodrill didn’t just make one Pro-Bowl, he made 4 (1954, 1955, 1956 and 1958). He was also a first team All-Pro in 1958. He was also named to the “Best Pre-70’s Players in Club History” list, which frankly I had never heard of before.

A four time Pro Bowler, and an All-Pro at a time when the Steelers weren’t that great. A nine-year career as well, all that sounds like a man who was not only a good enough player to make the list. I can’t rank him too high because stats only show so much, and there isn’t a lot of 1950’s tape to go review, but 80 sounds about right – so here he is!

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79 – Ramon Foster

Guard, 2009 – Present

I expect dissent on this one.

I can feel people wondering how I put Foster ahead of DeCastro. I almost did switch DeCastro and The Big Ragu out, but I left Ramon here because he has DeCastro beat hands down when it comes to nicknames.

I don’t even know if Double D (David DeCastro – hey I just gave him a nickname) has a nickname, but the Big Ragu is hard to beat! There is more to his ranking than that though – he’s a leader and a he’s also an enforcer. He has everyone’s back, and he doesn’t take any crap! When Beachum went down and Big Al came in, we could have been faced with a disaster – but we weren’t. Yes, I think most of the credit goes to Alejandro, but Ramon has to get some credit with helping the big man adjust and settle in. On top of all that, he’s solid and has been maybe the most dependable lineman we’ve had over the past few years.

I said it before, and I’ll probably say it again when I get to Pouncey, but man, don’t you love our line!

Walt Kiesling

78 – Walt Kiesling

Coach/Guard, Player 1937-1938, Coach 1939-1944, 1594-1956

Walt Kiesling was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1966. The reason I bring that up is about 6 months ago I decided to go the Hall of Fame website and just see how many Steelers were in the Hall. If you go to Kiesling’s pages and click on Bio you get a line that says “Walt Kiesling’s induction speech”. That would be impressive, having a record of an induction speech given by Walt, because he died 4 years before he was inducted. I thought to myself, ok, that’s just a template and so you know, there isn’t anything so it’s blank. When I clicked on “Career Highlights” and again found a blank page. My immediate thought was, “Why did he get inducted into the Hall if he has no highlights?”.

I don’t want to disparage Walt, but sometimes I think people get inducted because they are guys who were around the league forever, and even if they weren’t that great, at some point in time, all the people who knew they weren’t that great are dead, and the current people think “Hey, he was around for a long time. Let’s put him in” and boom, HOFer. Not saying that is what happened to Walt, but just saying.

Ok, now that I got off topic and ranted, let’s talk about Walt.

Why is he on my list? He cut Johnny Unitas.

I’ve talked about it a couple times before, but this is the guy who did it. He was a coach, a player and while he had a couple of solid years, overall he had a losing record as the Steelers coach.

In all honesty, he’s on my list for the Unitas thing, which is perhaps the second biggest mistake ever made in the history of the franchise (after not drafting Marino).

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77 – LaMarr Woodley

Linebacker, 2007 – 2013

If you don’t already know this, I’m a Buckeye. Born in Ohio, and raised an Ohio State fan by right-thinking parents.

I can be honest and say that when the Steelers draft a player from “the team up north”, it takes me a while to warm to them. Woodley was like that. Wood made one Pro Bowl (2009) and was second team All-Pro that same year. Over the last couple years of his Steelers career, he was more noted for being injured than he was for being a productive member. He got a rep for not being in the best shape, and when he was finally released I don’t think anyone (except maybe him?) was surprised.

That all being said, there was a period of time with Woodley on one side, and James Harrison on the other that our pass rush was a thing of beauty. Deebo, Aaron Smith, Casey, Keisel, and Wood. Wow.

All that being said, he’s on my list because, of Renegade. The first time I was at a Steelers game and heard them play Renegade was during the prime of Woodley’s career, and in the first part of that on screen video, he did that karate kick thing he used to do, and that was it for me. Ever since then, no matter who I see in the video, every time I hear Renegade I think of Woodley doing that kick.

You could also argue that all the dead money Woodley left on the cap after he was released was impactful, but to be fair, that was the Steelers bed and they had to lie in it.

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76 – Santonio Holmes

Wide Receiver, 2006 – 2009

There may have never been a better example of a receiver who was a prima donna than Santonio Holmes. That being said, he’s an Ohio State guy, so I loved him from the get go.

He developed a rapport with Ben that could be viewed as a precursor to the relationship Ben has with Antonio Brown. In fact, Santonio is kind of AB, without the discipline and dedication to the craft. Both are 5’11”. Both were fast and quick.

AB is what Santonio could have been if he just had the same work ethic. Maybe that’s the difference between being a 6th round pick and a first round pick. AB had a chip on his shoulder that Santonio never had.

Of course, he’s on the list because of his performance in Super Bowl XLIII. He never made a Pro Bowl, was never All-Pro, but in that Super Bowl, he was awesome.

Some may have heard me make this declaration before, but since I’m talking about that game, I’m going to do it again. As good as he was, he wasn’t the MVP. In my personal opinion, James Harrison was the MVP. That 100-yard pick and return turned the game. That was a 14 point swing, and without it, we may not have won that game.

Santonio isn’t even my second choice for MVP – that goes to Ben. As great as his catch was, the throw was even more impressive, and Ben makes that throw consistently. But that doesn’t detract from the game Santonio had, and it’s that single game that gets him on this list.

Johnny “Blood” McNally

75 – Johnny “Blood” McNally

Halfback/Coach, Player 1934, 1937-38, Coach 1937 – 1939

This comes from watching the History of the Pittsburgh Steelers DVD, because frankly if I hadn’t watched that thing about 20 times, I probably wouldn’t have ever heard of Johnny McNally.

However, I’m glad I did. Art Rooney is quoted as saying that he was “the most memorable character he knew”.  My favorite story, and the reason he makes the list goes something like this:

McNally coached the Steelers (actually the Pirates at the time) and the team was supposed to be playing a game against the Eagles. Anyway, McNally was in the Rose Bowl in LA watching a game, and when he was asked why he was there, he said that the Pittsburgh had an off week. Then the scoreboard showed the scores from other games, and it showed that the Pirates were on the road playing the Eagles.

That story always reminds me of the movie that George Clooney made about the old days of pro football called Leatherheads. If you haven’t watched it, give it a try. It cracks me up. I think that’s a movie that fits with the stories told about Johnny McNally, and those stories are why he’s on the list.

I looked up a few of his most legendary exploits, and here is I found:

  • Played almost an entire game with a collapsed kidney.
  • Riding the blinds between trains on the way to training camp to avoid having to pay a fare, which earned him the nickname “The Vagabond Halfback.”
  • McNally was famous for perching on hotel ledges and the tops of bar tables as he sang the song Galway Bay.
  • Jumping across a narrow ledge six stories from the ground to gain access to a Los Angeles hotel room.

If those aren’t all from his time in Pittsburgh, that’s okay. He still gets on the list just for being perhaps the most colorful guy in the history of the game. (Frenchy might come close.)

Elbie Nickel

74 – Elbie Nickel

Tight End, 1947 – 1957 / PS4L!

Up until recently, the best tight end in the history of the Steelers was probably Elbie Nickel. A three-time Pro Bowler, and a member of the All-Time Steelers Team. He was, if you know your Steelers history, part of what might be considered the third, maybe fourth, maybe fifth now, most famous play in Steelers history.

At one point, it was probably the most famous play, but you know, we have the great luck to be fans of a team that continues to have historic type amazing plays. The play has a picture or a drawing or something still hanging in the UPMC facility. Essentially, it was a long pass from Jim Finks to Elbie to beat the Philadelphia Eagles.

I know I read an article about his passing several years ago, and don’t remember much more, but the fact that he was a part of what is still considered a legendary play, even if most of us don’t know a thing about it, stuck with me. Unless I’m mistaken, that article was written by Ed Bouchette, so thanks, Ed!

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73 – Ray Mansfield

Center, 1964-1976

As you may be aware, the Steelers have a history at the center position. Some of the very best to ever play the game have played wearing the Black and Gold.

Before there was Webbie – there was Ranger. He was maybe the first dominant center the Steelers ever had, and he is one of the very few players who survived “the purge” when Chuck Noll took over.

Chuck Noll said this about Mansfield:

He was one of the guys who was a Steeler when I arrived in 1969, and he was great in the locker room. He was a guy that everybody rallied around. He always had a certain amount of levity, but he was a tremendous football player.

The other thing I remember about Ray Mansfield is that he kicked a field goal, or maybe an extra point when Roy Gerela pulled a hamstring or groin. You could say he was the beginning of the tradition of great Steelers centers.

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72 – Buddy Dial

Wide Reciever, 1959 – 1963

Dial was a three-time Pro Bowler when he was in Pittsburgh, teamed up with Bobby Layne at quarterback.

When I was doing a recent exploration of the top-five wide receivers in the history of the Steelers, I learned a lot about Buddy Dial. He scored more touchdowns per reception than any Steeler in history, and despite a short stay with the Steelers, he still is among the historical leaders in several key receiving areas. As, in my opinion, the fifth best receiver in team history, he had to find his way onto this list.

I will ignore the fact that he went and played for those cowgirls when he left Pittsburgh.

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71 – Jason Gildon

Linebacker, 1994 – 2003

How could I possibly leave Jason Gildon off of this list?

Again, some people might want him higher on the list. I’ve met him twice, and he’s the nicest guy, or at least he comes off that way. He was super sweet taking a picture with Emily in the Legends Club, so you know, he kinda has a little extra mojo in my mind.

Not that he needs it. Up until last season, Gildon was the Steelers all-time sack leader. Considering the talent we’ve had on defense, the fact that he is still second behind James Harrison is still pretty impressive. Think about it – we’ve had guys like Lloyd, Porter, Greene, and a bunch of other sack masters and the Jason Gildon is ahead of all of them.

A three-time Pro Bowler, and one time All Pro, he was teamed up for several years with Greg Lloyd and is the guy who supposedly chased Kevin Greene out of town.


30 down, 70 to go! In the next grouping, we will deal with numbers 61 through 70. As we move up the list the argument becomes less about if they belong and more about if they are in the right spot!

So, once more I’ll ask the same question I did last time – Did I get it right? Who doesn’t belong here? Who is too low? Too high? There are definitely some arguable guys in here! So argue!

Next: 61-70.

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