This is an exciting time to be a fan of the NFL and the Pittsburgh Steelers in Ireland as with the recent news that they will have the marketing rights for our little island. This news brings with it the chance that they might once again play a game in Ireland like they did in 1997, the day I became a Steelers fan, (I assume) like many other Irish Steelers fans!
So in this multiple part series, I decided to build my Steelers “Dream Team” looking at players from every era of the Pittsburgh Steelers to put together what I believe would be the greatest team to wear the black and gold!
Some choices are based on achievements, awards and statistics and some are based on pure opinion, it’s all about having fun!
Starting first with the Offense, I have picked 11 players who in my opinion would “start” on this fictional dream team and their backups will be included. For each player I pick as a starter I will do a little dive into their career with the Steelers.
Quarterback: Terry Bradshaw
From 1970 to 1983 Terry Bradshaw was the Quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers. In that period he won 4 Super Bowl titles (IX, X, XIII, XIV), was named Super Bowl MVP twice (XIII, XIV) and named the NFL MVP in 1978 and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Check out his Super Bowl Highlights
While many may would argue for Ben Roethlisberger to be in place of Terry Bradshaw due to the statistical dominance he holds over the Steelers passing records, while also making a comeback after suffering a similar elbow injury that caused Bradshaw to retire, however he does only have two Super Bowl titles (XL, XLIII) and was never named Super Bowl or NFL MVP.
Kordell “Slash” Stewart was a head of his time with his play style (like Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson) and was an exciting player to watch and while he made the AFC Championship game once in his career, he never achieved the same success as Bradshaw or Big Ben.
Roethlisberger was the first consistent Quarterback after Bradshaw, and while Bradshaw was before my time, Roethlisberger was a hero who lead the Steelers to 3 Super Bowls, winning 2 of them and after seeing the likes of O’Donnell and Maddox playing, even with the exciting plays Big Ben was involved in nearly weekly, Bradshaw still wins this head to head.
Having Bradshaw under centre would be a nightmare to defend against as not only does he have a cannon for an arm but he could escape pressure like Big Ben and regularly took hits in order to get that ball deep down field!
Alternatives: Ben Roethlisberger
Running Backs: Franco Harris & Jerome Bettis
Franco Harris, the man behind the “Immaculate Reception” which lead the Steelers to their first ever playoff win. This one play kick started a team that would become a dynasty and see the Steelers win 4 Super Bowl titles during the 1970s. He was a 4 time Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV), a Super Bowl MVP (IX), won the Offensive Rookie of the Year in 1972 and was selected to 9 consecutive Pro Bowls and is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He still holds the individual team record for the most rushing touchdowns in a single season at 14, most rushing yards in franchise history at 11,950 and most rushing touchdowns in franchise history at 91.
Franco had his own fan club “Franco’s Italian Army” and Frank Sinatra was a “member” of his fan club! The #32 was retired in his honour and sadly Franco passed away three days before the retirement ceremony which was being held on the 50th Anniversary of the Immaculate Reception.
Jerome Bettis, otherwise known as “the Bus” originally wasn’t a Pittsburgh Steeler, he started his NFL career with the then St. Louis Rams before being traded to the Steelers at the end of the 1995 season. He was selected to 6 Pro Bowls, won Offensive Rookie of the Year (1993), NFL Comeback Player of the Year (1996) and is a Super Bowl Champion (XL). He is second to Harris in rushing yards with 10,571 and touchdowns scored with 78 in franchise history.
Bettis was a great power back, almost unstoppable on short yardage situations but could also explode down field for a big back! He was also used to close out games and chew up the clock, which he got to do in the Super Bowl as “The Bus” made his final stop in Super Bowl XL and there is no better way to retire, than retiring a Super Bowl Champion!
Combine Harris and Bettis together it would rival, if not excel the combination of Harris and Bleier who won four Super Bowls together, teaming the Bus with Franco is a no brainer when you consider the Steelers history of having a smash mouth rushing attack!
Alternatives: Rocky Bleier, Le’Veon Bell, Willie Parker
Wide Receivers: , Lynn Swann, Hines Ward, Santonio Holmes
Lynn Swann, a 4 time Super Bowl Champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV), Super Bowl MVP (X), 3 time Pro Bowler and part of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He finished his career with 336 receptions, 5462 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Swann was never seen as a “blue collar” player on a team that prided itself on the image and his fancy footwork and almost ballet like moves by the track star often caused fans to not support Swann, but what he lacked in the “blue collar” style of play he made up for with his dramatic catches, like in Super Bowl X there was the “Circus Catch” which gave the Steelers the momentum change they needed to come back and win Super Bowl X!
Hines Ward, 2 time Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII), Super Bowl MVP (XL), 4 time Pro Bowler and holder all all the Steelers franchise records for receptions (1000), yards (12,083) and touchdowns (85).
He was always smiling! As a player Ward wasn’t afraid to block, go across the middle or deliver some devastating hits, like this jaw breaking hit and was always known to get a manicure before each game, he said it helped him catch better! Ward was often delivering hard blocks and hits but he played the game within the rules until they introduced the “Hines Ward Rule” to try and limit how players could block, which Ward was not a fan of!
Santonio Holmes, was a speedster who would burn opposing cornerbacks regularly. With career total yards of 6,432 and 41 touchdowns, a Super Bowl MVP (XLIII) and a Super Bowl Championship (XLIII) not only was he a difficult player to handle in coverage, but he even managed to beat triple coverage and make the greatest catch in Super Bowl history!
Pairing Swann, Ward and Holmes together on the field would make match up problems for most defensive co-ordinators then and now! Many will question leaving Antonio Brown off this list and while he was a phenomenal player, his issues off the field (and sometimes on the field) make him too much of a liability to include him here. I know many will question why Stallworth isn’t a starter in this line up, and it comes down to a pinch of opinion and a dose of memory. The Super Bowl winning touchdown is burned into my memory, smiling Hines Ward is equally as burned into my memory but when it came down to Stallworth vs Swann, being a Super Bowl MVP edged it for Swann.
Alternatives: John Stallworth, Louis Lipps, Buddy Dial
Tight End: Heath Miller
Could you really put anyone else at this position other than HEEEEEEATH? Playing for the Steelers for 10 seasons, not only was he a passing catching machine but he could block as well. The perfect tight end and the greatest tight end in team history.
He finished his career with 592 receptions (3rd in team history), 6,569 yards (4th in team history) and 45 touchdowns (5th in team history), all records for a tight end in the franchise. He is also a 2 time Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII) and until Ben Roethlisberger retired, no player was allowed wear #83.
With Heath on the field your Quarterback has the ultimate safety valve and a nightmare to pick up in zone or man coverage!
Alternative: Bennie Cunningham, Pat Freiermuth
Offensive Line: Jon Kolb, Alan Faneca, Mike Webster, David DeCastro, Marvel Smith
Jon Kolb spent his career protecting Terry Bradshaw’s blindside, he was also one of the first Offensive Linemen to tape up their jersey sleeves to stop them being grabbed and to show off his biceps as he was a power lifter and player. He even completed in the World Strongest Man contest in 1978 & 1979. He played 177 games over 13 seasons and is a 4 time Super Bowl Champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV).
Alan Faneca is one of the leagues greatest pulling guards. His pull in Super Bowl XL allowed Willie Parker to run for the longest rushing touchdown in Super Bowl history. While he played the majority of his career in Pittsburgh where he was selected to 5 Pro Bowls, 6 All Pro nods and Super Bowl Champion (XL) he did play two season for the Jets after the Steelers where he gathered another 2 Pro Bowl nods and totalled 158 games played over 10 seasons. In 2021 he was induced into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Mike Webster also known as “Iron Mike” started his career as a backup centre for the Steelers before becoming the starter, 4 time Super Bowl Champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV) and being inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Webster and Bradshaw became one of the greatest Quarterback/Centre pairings in the history of the NFL and occasionally called audibles to Bradshaw. He was an avid weight lifter and always played with bare arms to prevent players grabbing sleeves. He also made 9 Pro Bowls and received 5 All Pro nods. He played for 15 seasons and 220 games and Mike Webster is considered one of the best centres to ever play football.
David DeCastro was the first Offensive Guard taken in the first round (24th overall) of the NFL draft since Kendall Simmons at his point in Steelers history. He did not make his first start until December that year due to a knee injury suffered in a Pre-Season game. DeCastro was involved in the infamous Mason Rudolph vs Myles Garrett fight. He played 9 seasons for the Steelers and 125 games. He got 6 Pro Bowl and 2 All Pro nods in his career. He was a powerful and athletic player and would of played for the Steelers longer if mounting injuries were not a factor.
Marvel Smith helped to protect a young Ben Roethlisberger and was key in opening holes for Willie Parker and Jerome Bettis. During his 9 seasons he played 111 games and is a 2 time Super Bowl Champion (XL, XLIII) and was part of one of the best offensive lines in Steelers history, however back injuries would reduce his ability to play later in his career before his eventual retirement in 2009.
This offensive line combination brings toughness, athleticism and a unit that will keep your Quarterback upright and keep pressure off them as they throw the ball. They will also bully and open massive holes for your running backs, whether its up the gut, or pulling to bounce outside, they would dominate.
Alternatives: Jeff Hartings, Maurkice Pouncey, Ramon Foster, Chris Kemoeatu, Willie Colon
And there we have it, this would be my starting 11 players on Offense covering multiple eras of the Pittsburgh Steelers. How many points per game could this roster put up per game even against the best defences of 2023? Who knows, this is just a fun idea and also a way to introduce some new Steelers fans to some of the greatest names to play on the Offensive side of the ball!
Stay tuned as next I will be looking at the Defence and Special Teams in part 2!