One of the worst-kept secrets in the world of professional sports is that pockets of National Football League players have experimented with using steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs throughout the past 50 years. Football is arguably the most physically-demanding sport among the supposed “big four” played in North America, so it’s only understandable individuals hoping to make fortunes and provide pleasant lives for themselves and their families would want to obtain any possible advantages that would allow them to gain and maintain roster spots. While the dangers of steroids and other similar substances are well known as of the fall of 2017, some feel that the risk that comes with taking such drugs are worth the financial rewards that come with playing in the NFL for even a short period of time.
Multiple famous former NFL players have admitted to using steroids during their careers. Some have even appeared to be proud of the fact that they were able to perform while using banned substances. Other huge NFL players have been accused by different entities of using steroids even though they were never officially caught and/or punished for doing so by the league. One Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker who is built like a tank and looks like a young man in his 20s even though he is, theoretically speaking, in the twilight of his career continues to be accused by some fans of using steroids or other PEDs even though he’s never dodged a test throughout his career. We can only wonder if he’ll ever be able to fully clear his name before he rides off into the sunset.
15 Clay Matthews: Did Not
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews became a star featured in national advertising campaigns and commercials because of his stellar play, his flowing blonde locks and also the fact that he seemingly has muscles on top of muscles. In late 2015, Matthews was one of several players linked with using PEDs in a report distributed by Al Jazeera.
Matthews has denied using steroids and any other similar drugs throughout his career, and the league eventually cleared his name after an investigation. While some out there may still wonder if this huge face of the NFL is fully clean, we are going to believe his claims and assume that he's merely lucky to be blessed with being a member of one of the football’s most well-known families.
14 David Boston: Did
During his time as a wide receiver in the NFL, David Boston was known for being a jacked target who had massive arms and looked like a bodybuilder. It appears Boston wasn’t just a gym rat who lifted weights whenever he wasn’t training on a football field or watching film inside of a classroom.
In December 2004, Boston was suspended for using steroids while he was a member of the Miami Dolphins. Those who had followed Boston’s rise in the NFL likely weren’t surprised by the news, as rumors about his physique had hovered over him for years before he was officially popped by a league drug test. It has since been learned that Boston suffered no fewer than four concussions while playing football, and it’s been suggested he's dealing with a brain disorder that has nothing to do with PEDs.
13 Sebastian Janikowski: Did Not
Oakland Raiders placekicker Sebastian Janikowski looks like he could and maybe even should play a different position. Janikowski, who has never officially been accused of taking steroids or any other banned substances during his career, should be considered one of the greatest players in the history of the Raiders and probably one of the best kickers of his generation. In fact, it wouldn’t be all that shocking to see Janikowski enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame at some point after he retires from the league.
After all, Janikowski holds multiple team and NFL records, and he set those records and achieved so much success since entering the league back in 2000 without the help of steroids or any other drugs.
12 Steve Courson: Did
The harsh truth of the matter is that you could probably mention multiple players from those Pittsburgh Steelers teams that dominated pro football in the 1970s among individuals who allegedly used steroids during their careers. There are no questions about if the former offensive lineman used PEDs while in the league, as Courson openly admitted to doing so via a book that he penned long after he stepped away from the sport.
In fact, Courson even claimed that he continued to use steroids after he finished playing in the NFL. Unfortunately, this story has a sad ending. Courson was tragically killed in November 2005 after he saved one of his dogs from being struck during a tree-cutting accident. The two-time Super Bowl champion was only 50 years old at the time of his passing.
11 Jason Pierre-Paul: Did Not
Jason Pierre-Paul was a physical freak capable of performing remarkable feats for an individual his size even before he was drafted by the New York Giants in 2010. The defensive end affectionately known as JPP has never once been linked with steroids throughout his NFL career, but he was in headlines on July 4, 2015 for a regrettable incident involving fireworks.
Pierre-Paul famously suffered a serious injury to his right hand during an accident with explosives, but he managed to work his way back to the field and even earn multiple contracts from the Giants. We may never know how great Pierre-Paul could’ve been if not for that accident, but all should give him credit for working to save and reclaim what could’ve been a career that ended in an instant.
10 Jim Haslett: Did
NFL fans who only know Jim Haslett as a former head coach and as the current linebackers coach of the Cincinnati Bengals may find it hard to believe that he took steroids during his career that began in 1979. Decades after he first entered the league, Haslett openly and willingly admitted to using steroids when he was a starting linebacker for the Buffalo Bills.
Per his own words, Haslett took steroids because he suspected roughly half of the players around the league were using such drugs to gain advantages, and he felt he had to follow the same path to keep his job. It is widely believed the NFL has worked to eliminate widespread drug use among players, but nobody would blame any fans and critics out there for remaining skeptical.
9 Jared Lorenzen: Did Not
This piece pertains to “huge” NFL players, so we couldn’t help but mention the quarterback who was known as the “Hefty Lefty” during his time with the New York Giants.
Jared Lorenzen looked more like an offensive lineman or a linebacker than a QB throughout his college and NFL careers, but the oversized signal-caller was never accused of taking steroids or any other banned drugs as a pro. While Lorenzen was never anything more than a backup who sat behind Eli Manning during his best days in the NFL, he was still a beloved figure among Big Blue fans. Best of all, Lorenzen was on the New York roster that defeated the New England Patriots and won Super Bowl XLII in one of the greatest championship games in league history.
8 Lyle Alzado: Did
Depending on your age and when you began following the NFL, former defensive lineman Lyle Alzado may be the face of steroid use among football players. Alzado openly discussed using steroids and PEDs, and the Super Bowl champion who had a reputation for being an intense figure on the field once estimated he spent roughly $30,000 a year on substances. He went so far to say he was addicted to taking steroids and continued to use the drugs even after his career ended.
In 1991, Alzado was diagnosed with a brain tumor, and he stated that he believed his steroid use resulted in the illness that killed him. While Alzado passed away in the spring of 1992, it was never proven that his steroid use caused his death.
7 J.J. Watt: Did Not
Cynics who automatically assume the worst would likely believe Houston Texans Superstar J.J. Watt must be taking steroids or some other substances because he looks as if he was cut from granite. In the past, Watt has scoffed at the notion that he needs banned drugs to be so ripped and in shape, and he has, over the years, gained a reputation for having an insane workout regimen that explains why he is so jacked.
Watt, one of the best defensive players of his era, has never officially been linked with any drugs, and he has publicly stated that he welcomes league testing because he has nothing to hide. We highly recommend you don’t mention anything about steroids if you encounter Watt face to face.
6 Shawn Springs: Did
The Seattle Seahawks, specifically Mike Holmgren, who was the club’s head coach at the time, were shocked to learn cornerback Shawn Springs was suspended for violating the league’s policy regarding steroid use in November 2001. Holmgren even went so far to say such suspensions weren’t happening “too much” as of that fall.
While the exact drug Springs allegedly took at the time was never confirmed, it was believed that he used a substance that he hoped would allow him to avoid suffering hamstring issues that plagued him in the past. It was suggested that he unknowingly used a banned substance after he learned of his suspension, but his name is now nevertheless linked with other former and current players who were punished by the league for violating this particular rule.
5 Tim Tebow: Did Not
Former quarterback Tim Tebow, who is now trying to make it as a baseball player within the farm system of the New York Mets, is built more like a fullback than somebody who would line up directly under center. Don’t think for even a second that Tebow is not all natural, however, as the failed NFL QB who has a playoff victory on his resume has never been linked with using any steroids.
We can’t say for sure that Tebow will ever be anything of note as a professional baseball player. Heck, we wouldn’t be surprised if somebody suggested Tebow should try some PEDs to improve as a hitter. Don’t hold your breath, though, as Tebow has a long history of playing by the rules and serving as a role model for younger athletes.
4 Shawne Merriman: Did
Do you believe former San Diego Chargers linebacker Shawne Merriman knowingly used steroids, or do you merely think that he was a victim who accidentally took the wrong thing at the wrong time? Merriman and his attorney claimed the latter after he was popped for having the steroid nandrolone in his system in the fall of 2006, as they stated he merely took a tainted supplement.
Say, for the sake of argument, Merriman told the truth and never purposely used any banned substances throughout his career. The huge defensive presence nevertheless serves as a reminder to all who want to make it in the sports world that athletes must know everything they put into their bodies at all times. Even one wrong pill could lead to a career’s demise.
3 Steve Weatherford: Did Not
Some NFL punters are so tiny that they look as if they would actually break in half if they had to attempt to make a tackle or if they were hit with an unexpected block. That wasn’t the case with former New York Giants kicker Steve Weatherford, who famously yelled out “I’m going to the f——— Super Bowl!” after the Giants beat the San Francisco 49ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game.
In fact, Weatherford became more known for being a workout wonder and for being jacked than for punting footballs inside 20-yard lines. The one-time Super Bowl champion has since retired from the sport, but we have no doubt he'll do whatever possible to remain in the best shape possible. It’s not crazy to suggest he’s working out right now as you read this sentence.
2 Bill Romanowski: Did
Some stories about well-known professional athletes using steroids catch us off-guard and leave us speechless. That was not at all the case when former NFL linebacker Bill Romanowski confessed during an interview with CBS’ 60 Minutes in the fall of 2005 that he had used steroids during his career.
Romanowski, known as “Romo” before and after his playing career, was known to have quite the temper, and it was not uncommon for his emotions to get the better of him during games and even in practices. While Romanowski was unquestionably a gifted player, not to mention a huge man, during his prime, his links with what is commonly referred to as “roid rage” tarnished his legacy in the eyes of many observers and critics who lash out at players who bend the rules.
1 James Harrison: Did Not
Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker James Harrison is 39 years old, but he still looks like a create-a-player in his early 20s who belongs in weightlifting competitions rather than on the field. Like the previously mentioned Clay Matthews, Harrison had his name cleared regarding allegations he used steroids following an Al Jazeera report, and he has denied any wrongdoing throughout his impressive tenure in the league.
The veteran even jokes via social media when he is “randomly” tested by the NFL. Workout videos that Harrison shares via his personal Instagram page may lead you to assume he must be taking steroids or some other PEDs, but there currently exists no proof that he has ever violated the league’s policy. Perhaps Harrison truly is just a freak of nature.