When I started to write an article on the top 10 Pittsburgh Steelers of all time I realized that ten players was just not enough. The Pittsburgh Steelers have so many Hall of Fame players, Pro Bowl players and Super Bowl Champions that it is necessary to break it up into two lists. The ten best defensive players in Steelers history and the ten best offensive players in Steelers history. These are the ten best offensive players in Pittsburgh Steelers history.
10) Rocky Bleier
Rocky Bleier is not as famous as Terry Bradshaw, Ben Roethlisberger(notes) or a number of other Pittsburgh Steelers but he has one of the most fascinating stories. After his rookie season Bleier was drafted to the U. S. Army and was shipped off to fight in the Vietnam War. Bleier was shot in the left thigh by a rifle and the doctors told him he would never walk again. While in his hospital bed Art Rooney sent him a letter saying they weren't doing too well and they needed him. Bleier returned to the Steelers but for the first full year still felt pain in his leg. The next two years he was waived twice but kept on trying to make the team. Bleier didn't give up and made the starting team in 1974, rushed for 3865 yards and scored 25 touchdowns in his career, won four Super Bowls and had the eventual winning score in Super Bowl XIII.
9) Dermontti Dawson
It's always difficult replacing a legend but Dermontti Dawson did about as good as possible. Dawson replaced Hall of Fame center Mike Webster in the starting lineup. Dawson was named a Pro Bowl every season from 1992 to 1998 and made the First Team All-Pro six times. If you're a current Steelers fan and you've seen the current offensive line in shambles then imagine having Dawson, a Pro Bowl caliber offensive lineman, start for 170 consecutive games. Dawson is one of the few players on this list that is not in the Hall of Fame, at least not yet. Dawson might finally get voted into the Hall this season.
8) John Stallworth
Everybody knows Terry Bradshaw but to win four Super Bowl rings there have to be some good targets on the field. Stallworth was instrumental in the Steelers success in the 70's and caught two huge passes in the Super Bowl. In Super Bowl XIII Stallworth caught a 75 yard touchdown pass. One year later the Steelers were losing to the Rams in the Super Bowl until Bradshaw again hit Stallworth for a deep pass, this time for 73 yards. During his career with the Steelers Stallworth caught 537 passes, compiled 8,723 yards and scored 63 touchdowns.
7) Mike Webster
Bradshaw needed targets to throw to and he also needed somebody to protect him. Mike Webster is one of the all-time great centers and he has a laundry list of great accomplishments. Hall of Fame player, 9-time Pro Bowl player, 9-time All-Pro selection, 4 Super Bowl rings and he was named to the NFL's 1970s All-Decade Team, the NFL's 1980's All-Decade Team and the NFL's 75th Anniversary All-Time Team. When it was clear his career was coming to an end Mike Webster gladly mentored his replacement, Dermontti Dawson, because Ray Mansfield did the same thing for Webster when he arrived in Pittsburgh.
6) Ben Roethlisberger
There will be some NFL experts that think it is too soon to count Ben Roethlisberger as one of the Pittsburgh Steelers' greats but it's hard to argue against a player that has been to three Super Bowls at the age of 27 years old. Even if Roethlisberger isn't there yet, he should be by the end of his career. Roethlisberger also gets bonus points for being such a unique player. There is no quarterback in the NFL that is more difficult to tackle than Roethlisberger and only Tom Brady(notes) has shown the ability to be as clutch as Roethlisberger in the biggest pressure moments.
5) Lynn Swann
Lynn Swann's total numbers aren't as impressive as the all time greats but Lynn Swann is remembered as a great player for two reasons. The first was his sensational grabs. Lynn Swann was the human highlight film of professional sports before Dominique Wilkins was playing basketball. Swann also gets the distinction of one of the best Steelers offensive players because of his performance in the playoffs. Swann played in four Super Bowls and was just two yards shy of averaging 100 all-purpose yards in those four games. Swann also won a Super Bowl MVP trophy in Super Bowl X after he caught four passes for 161 yards and a touchdown. It was the first time a wide receiver won the Super Bowl MVP.
4) Jerome Bettis
If you were to ask any fan on the street to name the top five rushers of all-time then not many would guess Jerome Bettis but he currently ranks 5th all-time behind Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton, Barry Sanders and Curtis Martin. Bettis originally started with the Rams but when his playing time was reduced in 1995 the Steelers offered a 3rd round draft pick for Bettis. Bettis than ran 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons for the Steelers. After age and injuries took their toll Bettis was a short yard runner in 2005 but he came through with two huge performances in important games for the Steelers. The Steelers were fighting for a playoff spot in Week 14 when Bettis ran over Brian Urlacher(notes) on a goal line run to score a pivotal touchdown. Then on the last week of the season Bettis scored three touchdowns to clinch a playoff berth. That turned out to be important since the Steelers would go on to win the Super Bowl in the last game Jerome Bettis played.
3) Hines Ward(notes)
Hines Ward has quietly been racking up receiving yards for 12 years now. Terrell Owens(notes), Randy Moss(notes) and Derrick Mason(notes) are the only active receivers with more yards. With another 2,000 receiving yards or so Ward will finish in the top 10 all-time in yards. Ward also needs only 5 touchdowns to rank in the top five in receiving touchdowns. Ward holds the Steelers' career records for receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
2) Franco Harris
Franco Harris was a Rookie in 1972 and immediately made an impact. Harris rushed for 1,005 yards and 10 touchdowns on his way to winning Rookie of the Year. Franco Harris ranks 12th in NFL history in rushing yards and 10th all-time in rushing touchdowns. Harris was named to the Pro Bowl in nine consecutive seasons from 1972 to 1980. Harris was also named to the All-Pro team seven times. When Franco Harris ran for 158 yards in Super Bowl IX he became the first African-American to be honored with the Super Bowl MVP.
1) Terry Bradshaw
When choosing the best offensive player in Steelers history it is hard to choose anybody other than the quarterback that won four Super Bowls. When the Steelers drafted Terry Bradshaw they were able to pick him first overall because the franchise was so bad at the time that they were coming off a 1 - 13 season. It took Bradshaw a few years to get comfortable in the NFL (and for the team to get him a good team around him) but he eventually became one of the premier plays in the league. Everybody knows about Bradshaw's four Super Bowl wins but you might not know he went to the AFC Conference Championship eight times. Bradshaw threw for 27.989 yards and 212 touchdowns in his career and was the MVP in two of the Steelers' four Super Bowl wins during that era.