Top 100 most influential people in Steelers history: 41 – 50

I’m sure at this point many faithful readers are wondering if I’ve snapped, lost my marbles or otherwise gone over the deep end.

I promise, I haven’t. Just a quick reminder that while I am doing some research to make sure I’m not misremembering some things, the list is mine, and based on my own opinions and bias.

It started out more as an exercise in seeing how many current and former players and/or contributors I could name, without having to resort to the internet. Then while spending far too much time wondering about the validity of the NFL’s annual top 100 players, I used my own list to create a Steelers top 100.

So here we are, halfway through (and if you count honorable mention, more than halfway through). The names start getting more familiar and dear to our hearts, and I expect the veracity of my conclusions to be questioned at length.

Let’s get to it.

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50 – Sam Davis

Davis played guard next to Jon Kolb, and while he never made a Pro Bowl or All-Pro status, he was a stabilizing force with Kolb for 10 years. I know he missed two of the four Super Bowl’s he was in due to injury (IX and X) and regular reserve Jim Clack actually started in his place in Super Bowls IX and X. In 1980, he was replaced by Ray Pinney.

However, he was a part of the line that made up a formidable running attack. He makes the list ahead of Kolb and Mullins and Larry Brown more because of sentimentality than anything else. I met Davis at a signing a long while ago, and let’s just say that while most pro-football players have lost something because of playing the game, Sam Davis has lost a good amount. He was a really nice man (Emily wasn’t around at the time, so the Emily Rule doesn’t come into play, but he was really cool to talk to), but the thing that struck me more than anything else walking away from meeting him was that you felt bad for him. You wished he was living a better quality of life in his retirement. The price of glory.

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J.T. Thomas
Defensive Back
1973 – 1981

The first of two 24’s who show up in this part of the list.  Thomas made one Pro Bowl, and when you consider that he played with Mel Blount you understand that he was going to be overshadowed, just like Carnell Lake and Rod Woodson. Look, to be fair, I should probably have switched Carnell and J.T., Carnell made more Pro-Bowls, and made the All-Pro team, and J.T. only made one Pro Bowl, and was never an All-Pro, but the reason they are where they are is that J.T. won 4 Super Bowls, and Carnell won 0. That and I met J.T. and the Emily Rule applies. (So far, I’ve yet to meet a Steeler who wasn’t gracious and nice!).

Roy Jefferson
Wide Receiver
1965 – 1969

Jefferson is an example of the volatility of this list. When I started writing this entry, he was 41, but now that I’m finishing it off, I just can’t put him higher on the list than the guys below! It made sense to me on the first, second or 14th pass through the list, but as I’m writing about some of these guys, I just can’t put Roy Jefferson ahead of them. He was one of the best pre-Noll era Steelers that stayed with the team. He made the Pro Bowl 3 times and led the NFL in receiving yards in 1968. He was 1st Team All-Pro that year. However, he was gone before we started our Super Bowl runs, and was with Washington when he finally won a Super Bowl. He probably makes the list of greatest Steelers and the list of greatest Redskins, and that’s gotta be worth something, just not 41!

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Joey Porter
Linebacker / Coach
1999 – 2006 / 2014 – present

4 Pro Bowls, First-team All-Pro in 2002 and part of that magical run towards Super Bowl XL. None of that is why Joey Porter makes the list. It’s not because he’s Coach “Peezy”, and that he’s come back into the fold to help mold and shape the linebackers, and give them some of that Joey Porter attitude. It’s not because he quietly goaded Pac-man Jones into one of the biggest bone-head moves ever seen (I mean, he didn’t even say anything. He just stood there, and his smirk was enough to drive Pac-man over the edge. C’mon now, being honest, who didn’t love how he just smiled at him?). Ok, well, to be fair – it has something to do with him being on here. But it’s the “Peezy being Peezy” stories that make me laugh. Who knows if he really banged on the door of the Raven’s bus in 2003 and challenged Ray Lewis to a fight? I want it to be true, and even if it’s not completely 100% accurate, it’s how I’ll always remember it.

It was that same kind of, well, aggression, that gave someone else a chance to play. I’m sure we all remember how Joey got ejected along with some running back from the Browns, and it paved the way for a guy who we all affectionately call Deebo.

Greg Lloyd
1988 – 1997

Mr. “I wasn’t hired for my disposition”. He was mean, he was tough, he was awesome. 5x Pro Bowler, 3x All-Pro, 2x Steelers MVP and 1994 Defensive Player of the Year. Greg Lloyd missed the better part of 3 years to injury (but nobody called him “injury prone” I bet – at least not within hearing distance!) Give him those three years back, and maybe find a way to keep him from going to Carolina for his last year and he’s almost certainly the career sack leader. Those years with Rod Woodson, Lloyd, Kevin Greene, man this was an awesome defense. It still just makes me ill to think back to Super Bowl XXX, and “he who shall not be named”. Woodson, Lloyd and all of them deserved better. It’s a crime this guy never won a Super Bowl. There is no way Lloyd was going to avoid this list!

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Andy Russell
1963 – 1976

The only reason Andy Russell is not in the Hall of Fame is because he played with the Double Jack’s (Lambert and Ham). A 7x Pro-Bowler, 1st Team All-Pro once, and 3 times Second Team. 2x Super Bowl champ and Steelers MVP in 1971. He played before stats for sacks and tackles were being kept, so it’s impossible to compare him directly to Ham and Lambert, and the truth is, as good as Russell was, he wasn’t as good as those two guys – but that’s really not a fair comparison. There are many Hall of Fame linebackers who weren’t anywhere near as good as Ham and Lambert. Those two guys were generational! Russell was a Hall of Fame caliber linebacker, and he deserves that recognition, but I don’t know that he’ll ever get it. Maybe the veteran’s committee will get him in, but somehow, I doubt it. I think that there is a mindset that there are enough Steelers from the 70’s in already. Stupid logic, but you know, jealousy is an insidious thing!

The other reason Russell sits this high on my list is those DVDs. I remember watching Russell play, but he retired in 76, and so there are really only a couple years that I can really remember. But I remember the stories he tells on those DVD’s (specifically on the History of the Pittsburgh Steelers) and they stick with ya, you know? He had a great career. A Hall-worthy career. I can’t get him into the Hall of Fame, but I can put him high on my list, which I think is where he deserves to be!

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Bill Cowher
1992 – 2006

Cowher remains so beloved by Steelers Nation that many have lost any semblance of perspective. He was a great coach, and in my mind a potential HOFer. He won Coach of the Year in 1992, got to two Super Bowl’s and won one. He led the Steelers to AFC Championship 6 times. He made it to the playoffs 10 times out of the 15 seasons he was in charge. He had, at the end of the 2005 season, the best overall record of any team in the NFL since his hiring. The best thing, I think, about Cowher is that when we got ahead, we won. We only had 1 loss during his entire career when we led by at least 11 points.

He’s an iconic figure. He is the Chin! Men wanted to be him, and women wanted to have his spittle fly on them! (Well, probably there were some!) I loved Cowher, loved his passion, as did the rest of us, but he wasn’t perfect. The fact that we made it to 6 AFC Championships and only went to 2 Super Bowls means we were 2-4 in those games. Yes, you can blame a lot of that on the stupid Patriots and there possibly dishonest ways, but the fact is we still lost more than we won when it really counted. He had limited resources, and that plays in his favor. He never really had a franchise QB until he got Ben in 2004.

What happened then? We went 15-1, and the next year he finally got that elusive Super Bowl ring. For everyone who keeps claiming that Tomlin only won with “Cowher’s guys”, let’s remember, that Lloyd and Woodson were both drafted by Chuck Noll, so you could make the argument that Cowher initially only won with “Noll’s guys”. That’s just how it goes when coaches retire or move on. Eventually, Cowher won with his own guys, and so has Tomlin.

I hope that Coach gets a gold jacket sometime soon. He deserves to be there, along with the Bus, and Woodson (and even though nobody else is likely to agree with me, I think Lloyd!).

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Myron Cope
1970 – 2005

I love how Bob Labriola spent some time giving Cope his due as a sportswriter in his “Labriola On…” columns on For most of my youth, living in Ohio, I didn’t get to read Cope’s columns, so I didn’t know him that way, and it’s great, at least in my mind, to be able to discover new aspects of someone who you “thought” you knew.

“Double Yoi!” Clearly, Cope belongs on this list, the real question is where? I thought maybe in the upper 50, and then I thought, what would my Steelers fandom be like without the Terrible Towel? It would still be awesome, but it wouldn’t be the same. For any Steelers fan who has never made it to Heinz Field to see those towels twirling, put it on your bucket list. Man, it’s an awesome sight, and it’s all due to Myron Cope.

Cope was a part of the Steelers broadcasting team for 35 years – the longest term with a single team in the history of the league as far as I know! It makes sense, doesn’t it? The Steelers are a loyal organization and they are a pillar of stability, and so why shouldn’t the team that has had only 3 head coaches in a million years also have had the longest tenured broadcaster? He was the voice that you thought of when you thought of the Steelers. He was fun, he was funny, and did I mention, he created the Terrible Towel?

For all that and the fact that I believe he was the first person to coin the term “Cincinnati Bungles”, he is on the list.

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Mike Wagner
1971 – 1980

I don’t know why, I really just don’t remember, but forever Mike Wagner has been one of my all-time favorite Steelers. In the cobweb filled recesses of my aged and probably addled mind, I seem to remember some hits where I just went “YOI!” and that cemented Wagner in my mind. That doesn’t mean I’m right – it could’ve been one of his 36 interceptions that did it. I just know I always loved Mike Wagner. 2 Pro Bowls, All-Pro (second team) and he was co-interception leader in 73. That plus 4 big honking Super Bowl rings make him a no-brainer for the list. I toyed with him being much higher than this because of my own bias, but in the end had to pull back and so he lands here in the forty-second spot.

He’s one of the Steelers I wish I had the chance to meet, and I finally got my chance at a signing earlier this year at TSE in Pittsburgh. He was one of the nicest guys and even though I tried to grab, subdue and tackle my inner fanboy, I may have tittered just a little bit. Hey, he was a favorite, so sue me!

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Ike Taylor
2003 – 2014

The only reason Ike Taylor doesn’t have a bunch of Pro Bowl berths and All-Pro elections is that the man just couldn’t catch. There was a reason that “Stone Hands” was one of his nicknames. The TV broadcasters used to say it every single week when the games were on “Ike Taylor is a great cornerback, but he doesn’t get the attention of some others because he doesn’t make a lot of interceptions.” Still, every week for the bulk of his career he would line up against the best receiver the other team had, and he would shut them the down! I don’t care what anyone says, Ike was a Pro Bowl caliber player for the better part of his career. I like Ike! One of my favorite pieces of memorabilia is a Bumble Bee jersey signed by Ike.

And isn’t it funny that a guy who couldn’t seem to catch a cold holds the record for most consecutive postseason games with an interception? (Yep – you can look it up, and maybe I’m wrong at this point, but I know it was true at one point!)

Ike would make my list regardless of how good he was for the simple reason of inventing “Swaggin’”. I remember the first time Al Michaels had to react to that, and it just cracked me up. That plus Ike and Dan Rooney have such a cool relationship, how could I keep him off the list!


I hear you Nation – I know some of you are saying “Ike higher than Lloyd and Porter – you’re nuts!”, and maybe I am, but remember, these are opinions based on my recollections – and as such, they are subject to change at any time! You could be the one to change them if you remind me of something I’ve forgotten. It probably won’t be hard!

From here on out the choices get harder to make, and the placement on this list for nearly every player in the top 40 has been volatile.

Next up -31 – 40.

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