Top 100 most influential people in Steelers history: 9 – 10

Well, it took a while, but we are finally into the top 10.  The 10 most (in my humble opinion) influential people in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

So what’s left?

6 Players, 1 Scout, 1 Coach and 2 Owners.  Someone once asked me who should be on the Mt. Rushmore for the Steelers (in fact we once did a series of articles on just that), and I said: “Can’t be done”.  You need one for players and one for non-players.  In my mind, the 4 most important people in the franchise’s history are not players.  But you couldn’t have a Mt. Rushmore without Joe Greene.  It just wouldn’t be right.

2 QB’s, 1 RB, 1 DL, 1 OL and 1 LB.  Should Ben be here?  I think so, but I can certainly understand the argument that says he shouldn’t.  At least not yet.  How does Webbie get placed so high?  Who should be the top player?  Greene?  Franco?  Lambert?  They are all here and how do you choose between them?

Man, it’s been a long road to get here, and, at least for me, a lot of fun.  A lot of memories and a lot of time thinking about days gone by.  Let’s get to it by looking at numbers 10 and 9.

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10 – Terry Bradshaw
1970 – 1983

3x Pro Bowler, All-Pro in 1978, 4x Super Bowl Champion.  Brad is….wait for it….LEGENDARY!  (sorry, had to be done).  C’mon, he was in Hooper!  He called his own plays, and was one tough SOB!  We all know the story of Bradshaw in Pittsburgh – how he started out rough, lost his confidence (and his job temporarily) and how with a boost from a certain “mean” teammate turned it around to become the Hall of Fame, Super Bowl MVP champion that he eventually turned into.

Why is Bradshaw 10 and not higher?  He has 4 Super Bowls!  C’mon man!  Bradshaw sometimes reminds me of William Shatner.  Shatner does some dumb stuff, missing events that he should show up at, and Bradshaw has done the same thing.

I was lucky enough to watch all of Terry Bradshaw’s career.  If that is all I was taking into account, he’d be higher.  Unfortunately, I also got to watch all of Terry’s post-career, and as we all know, he has kind of a love/hate relationship with the Steelers and the city to this day.  He didn’t show up for Art Rooney’s funeral.  Or Chuck Noll’s.  Or Dan Rooney’s.  He still says on Fox Sports that these are “his Steelers” and that he loves them and the city – but actions speak louder than words.

He rarely, if ever, shows up at Heinz for any of the events.  I was at the game where Joe Greene’s jersey was retired, and it stuck out to me that Franco, Stallworth, Swann, and Blount were all there, but Bradshaw wasn’t.  It really struck me because of the story of how Joe had Bradshaw’s back at a time when he was down.   So Bradshaw still has some issues with the town, the team and probably the fans.

Bradshaw is a Hall of Famer.  He used to own every Steelers passing record, and he still holds a couple of them, like these:

  • Most Playoff Wins (14).
  • Best Postseason Winning Percentage (.737).

He also still holds the mark for most interceptions (210).  The rest are owned by someone else (and we’ll get to that in a second). I know the arguments, the biggest being that Bradshaw played in a totally different era, and it was a run first league that won by defense.

Give him the benefit of the doubt for a second, and look at his seasons after the “Mel Blount” rule went into effect, and when passing started to become king.  Compare his 4 best seasons (1978, 79. 81 and 81) to his career averages (minus those four years):

Season Yards Career Avg. TDs Career Avg.
1978 2915 1660 28 11.6
1979 3724 1660 26 11.6
1980 3339 1660 24 11.6
1981 2887 1660 22 11.6

Obviously Bradshaw took advantage of the rule changes and elevated his game.  But even given his average season over those four years (3216 yards, 25 TDs) extrapolated over the entirety of his career would have put him second in most statistical categories (41,808 yards, 325 TDs over 13 years).

Bradshaw was a great field general and leader (eventually). He was blessed with one of the best defenses that ever played the game.  He played with Hall of Fame wide receivers (Swann, Stallworth) a Hall of Fame running back (Harris) for the vast majority of his career, and certainly for the parts of his career where he was performing at his best.

In no way am I questioning Bradshaw’s greatness or legacy.  The numbers, and the championships, speak for themselves.  Even with the majority of his records being surpassed by someone else, the Playoff wins and Super Bowl wins would probably earn him a higher spot in most lists.

However, I cannot ignore the fact that, at least for me (and this is my list dagnabbit!), the bitterness and acrimony that Bradshaw holds for the team, his ex-coach, and the city has tarnished that legacy for me. That is why he sits at 10, rather than a few spots higher.

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Ben Roethlisberger
2004 – Present

4 Pro Bowls, 2x Super Bowl Champion, NFL Offensive Rookie of the year, and probably the most disrespected quarterback in the league.  It is fair to say that the Ben of 2004/05/06 isn’t the Ben playing right now.  Back then, Ben definitely benefited from the fact that the Steelers defense was perhaps one of the best of all time (as did Bradshaw).  He could make mistakes, and get away with them.  That doesn’t mean he wasn’t pretty damn good.

In his second year, going against Peyton Manning in the playoffs, Ben went 14 of 24 for just shy of 200 yards, and 2 touchdowns.  That’s not a bad state line.  The next week in the AFC Championship game against Denver, he went 21 of 20 for 275 and two touchdowns.

Ben has always been a different kind of quarterback.  He’s almost a throwback in some ways.  As fans we love to claim he’s whiny and he’s a drama queen, but the truth is he’s probably the toughest quarterback in the league.  In 14 years, Ben has been sacked 471 times.  That’s ridiculous.  That’s an average of 33.6 sacks a year.

In 2009 alone he was sacked 50 times.  50!  It doesn’t matter if it’s the line, or his “style of play” that is the root cause – that is a lot of hits, and he’s still missed only 23 games in those 14 years, and 4 of those were due to suspension.   There are times I feel like we are the only ones who don’t get how tough he is.  The dude got his nose broken against the Ravens and nobody threw a flag!  When asked why, a ref responded “He’s a big guy – he can handle it”.

He has been manhandled by opposing players, and the refs don’t offer him anything like the protection they offer the Brady’s of the league.  He’s tough.

On top of the toughness, he’s just freaking good too.  He’s accurate as hell at times, and I mean scary accurate.  He’s the only quarterback in the history of the NFL with two 500 yard games (and I’d bet dollars to donuts he gets a third at some point).  Two 6 TD pass games.   He hasn’t won four championships, and he blew his chance to be the hero in SB XLV because they couldn’t get their act together.  Still, he has an opportunity to get more rings, and while stats sometimes do lie, sometimes they don’t lie.

I know there are some old-timers who, unlike me, will always think Bradshaw was the best.  Bradshaw was great, no question.  When you think about it, the comparisons between Bradshaw and Ben are pretty amazing.  Both have a kind of gunslinger mentality.  Both depended on great defenses to win early, and then as they matured were able to become field generals and game changers in their own right. The bottom line though is this, Ben is more talented than Bradshaw, I don’t think we can argue that.  However, Brad still has 4 rings, and Ben only has 2 (at this point).  Bradshaw defined an era, and Ben is on his way to doing the same thing.

Just look at the records Ben current holds:

NFL Records:

  • Most regular season wins in a season, rookie QB.
  • Longest regular season win streak to start a career for a NFL QB (15).
  • Most wins as a starting quarterback in first five NFL seasons (51).
  • Most games with a completion percentage of 70.0% or higher, rookie season (min. 10 attempts) (6).
  • Most games with a completion percentage of 80.0% or higher, single season (min. attempts) (4).
  • Most touchdown passes, Monday Night Football (tie) (5).
  • First QB to start two Conference Championship games in first two seasons in the NFL (2004 & 2005).
  • Youngest starting QB ever to win the Super Bowl.
  • Second QB in NFL history (along with Peyton Manning) to register 3 perfect passing games during the regular season.
  • Only QB in NFL history to record two perfect passing games in a single season.

His list of Steelers records is even longer.  In fact, if you include single season, career, postseason, rookie season records it’s 60 different records he either owns or shares.

Just look at this basic comparison between Bradshaw and Roethlisberger:

AV Comp. Cmp % Yds TD TD% INT INT% Rate
Ben Roethlisberger 157 4054 64.1 49762 321 5.1 172 2.7 93.8
Terry Bradshaw 137 2025 51.9 27989 212 5.4 210 5.4 70.9

Just recently, Ben led his 41st game winning drive.  Bradshaw had 27.

As I said, stats sometimes lie, but sometimes they don’t.  The only thing Bradshaw has that even remotely compares to Ben is rings, and while that is a lot, it’s not enough.  Include the tension and the disrespect I think he’s shown the franchise and the city, well – he’s still a top ten guy, but he’s not going to end up higher on any list of mine than Ben.


That’s the first two of the top 10, we’ll look at spots 8 and 7 next time around.  I’m sure I started enough controversy with this one anyway.  Until next time.

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