When most people think of Pittsburgh Steelers' football they think of a hard-nosed, punch you in the mouth attack, and that has been the case in nearly the entire history of the team. The six-time Super Bowl-winning organization has relied on intimidation and fortitude that perfectly embodies the demeanor of the Steel City.
However, for championship-level success, even the toughest and most rugged teams need to balance that out with speed, agility, and most important: skill. Pittsburgh has played host to some of the greatest skill position players in the history of the game that deserve just as much recognition.
For that reason, I have compiled a three-deep list of each of the greatest skill position players in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history. Each list includes the best of the best from the storied franchise at positions such as quarterback, running back, wide receiver and tight end.
The scale for these rankings was simple: only the player's time as a member of the Steelers was evaluated, with individual accolades, team success, overall impact, and longevity being the greatest weighing factors in said order.
In this part of the series I take a look at the wide receivers.
1. Hines Ward
Like many others that made this list, Hines Ward was a Pittsburgh Steelers lifer, spending his entire 14-year career in the Steel City. Among Ward’s best attributes as a wide receiver was his durability. Ward never missed more than three games in a season, competed in all 16 regular season games 10 times, and had at least one reception in all but one of his 18 playoff appearances. Alongside his two Super Bowl Wins, Ward was also a four-time Pro-Bowler, leading the Steelers franchise with 1,000 receptions, 12,083 receiving yards, and 85 touchdown receptions. Known for his iconic smile, Hines Ward will be forever remembered by Steeler Nation for the passion and consistency he brought to the game.
Brown was quite arguably the greatest valued draft pick in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history. When they drafted him in the sixth round with the 195th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft, not many knew about what a versatile wide receiver he would become. By his sophomore season Brown formed a strong relationship with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, resulting in his first 1,000-yard receiving season. From then on, Brown became a household name filling up the stat sheet on a weekly basis. The seven-time Pro-Bowler connected for over 1,000 receiving yards in seven of his nine seasons with the Steelers while also recording double-digit receiving touchdowns four times. From 2014 to 2017, Brown was voted an All-Pro four consecutive seasons while averaging an astonishing 1,587 yards per season in that same stretch. In all, Antonio Brown quickly climbed up the Steelers All-time receiving list, totaling 837 receptions for 11,207 receiving yards and 74 receiving touchdowns. Had it not been for his falling out with the team following the 2018 season, Brown was on pace to shatter every franchise receiving record. But after his recent off-field antics, many believe those records are better in the Hands of Hines Ward.
It is no surprise that yet another player makes this list from the historic stretch of Steelers’ Super Bowl victories in the 70’s and 80’s. John Stallworth spent the entirety of his 14-year career in the city of Pittsburgh. Stallworth, like many of his teammates at the time, had a decorated career as he was a four-time Super Bowl champion, three-time Pro-Bowler, one-time All-Pro, and received the PFWA Comeback Player of the Year in 1984 backed off a 1,395 receiving yard and 11 touchdown season. Stallworth became a postseason force for the Steelers, participating in 18 playoff games, catching 57 passes for 1,054 yards and 12 touchdowns. His career receiving statistics include 537 receptions, 8,723 receiving yards, and 63 touchdowns. In 2002, Stallworth’s dominance at the wide receiver position was recognized when he was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.