The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most storied franchises in the NFL. The team has been so successful since their conception, that it wouldn’t be inaccurate to call them one of the most successful sports franchises in general. With six Super Bowl championships to their name, Pittsburgh is a powerhouse franchise that players know will be in a good position to win year in and year out. The team is good to its players, and it’s a big reason why people like to go and play for them. However, being one of the more old school teams in the NFL, Pittsburgh handles their in house business with a very stern philosophy.
No one should ever make the team look bad. That goes for any NFL team, but especially for the more high profile organizations like the Steelers. That being said, it takes a certain kind of player to truly be a Steeler. The greats have always been talented of course but in order to be recognized as a true Pittsburgh Steeler there are certain qualities such as resilience, dedication and toughness that a given player must possess. Though it’s something the organization looks for it hasn’t always reflected in the talent they’ve brought in. Let’s look at 8 players who loved being a Steeler and 7 who hated it.
15. Loved It: DeAngelo Williams
A veteran running back on wrong side of 30, there’s no real way of knowing if DeAngelo Williams will play for another NFL team until training camp hits. After spending years with the Panthers, Williams made his way to Pittsburgh as a free agent depth signing. With Le’Veon Bell on the roster Williams wasn’t expected to make much of an impact for the Steelers. However, Williams had to fill in for Bell on several occasions in his two year Steeler stint due to suspensions and injuries. Williams was actually pretty well liked by the fan base due to his efforts. The feeling was mutual and while it doesn’t look that likely to happen, a return to Pittsburgh could still happen for DeAngelo Williams at some point.
14. Hated It: Mike Wallace
Mike Wallace’s career has taken a complete nose dive. Some players hit their stride as they grow older. Other’s hit a wall, be it due to change of scenery, scheme or just plain regression as they go in playing. Wallace is part of the latter group. As a member of the Steelers, Wallace was considered one of the league’s best young players. But soon after leaving the franchise, the sentiment changed. Wallace was dubbed as a one trick pony with his hands and route running skills being called into question. His time with the Steelers was full of tension towards the end, with Wallace leaving the team in free agency feeling underappreciated by the top brass. It turned out well for Pittsburgh but not the same can be said for Wallace.
13. Loved It: Santonio Holmes
A player’s career can be summarized by a single play. Regardless of the accolades, awards and longevity of it all, a single highlight will be the sole thing burned into people’s minds. That can be good and bad depending on how you look at it. For Santonio Holmes, it was great. Holmes’ catch at the end of Super Bowl 43 was the biggest highlights of his playing career. After leaving the Steelers, Holmes’ career muddled a bit and as the years went on he became more and more mediocre. It happens to the best of players, but in Holmes’ case it happened somewhat earlier than others. One bright spot during his career though, was playing for the Steelers. Holmes loved it and by the timer he retired was left wanting more.
12. Hated It: Shaun Suisham
Kickers don’t get much love in the NFL. It’s one of the most laid back jobs that also holds very little job security. A kicker in a bad enough slump will be cut without hesitation – regardless of whether they’ve been on the team for five months or five years. Shaun Suisham was with the Steelers for several years. Like most kickers, his career was nothing to write home about. It actually started in 2005 during his rookie year. Suisham was cut from the team though and would return five years later. His second stint was longer, but ended worse off. After injuring his leg, Suisham was placed on Injured Reserve. The Steelers wasted no time in cutting him loose – effectively ending his NFL career.
11. Loved It: Lynn Swann
Among Steelers greats, few have the same amount of prestige that Lynn Swann does. Swann has had his share of critics – namely among the rival Oakland Raiders – but the majority of the league considers him to be one of the greatest of his time. He’s one of the key Steelers of the ’70s and has made some of the most jaw dropping catches in NFL history. For an iconic great like Swann, you have to assume that his time in the steel city was well enjoyed. Years of success and accolades piled on top of each other made Swann’s years as a Steeler incredibly memorable, for both him and fans.
10. Hated It: Ben Tate
Ben Tate came into the league with a lot of promise, but that was cut short almost instantly. After being placed on injured reserve his rookie year, Tate’s stock dropped significantly. In the case of draft busts, there are always a few unlucky players that earn the designation due to injury. If you look at it that way then it’s very likely that Tate didn’t enjoy any of his time the NFL. But his time in Pittsburgh was undoubtedly the worst of it all. His third team that year, the Steelers were Tate’s last hope at NFL success. It was undeniably his worst effort as a pro. Tate’s career ended with nineteen yards, a fumble and a devastating playoff loss that say him leave the NFL scene for good.
9. Loved It: Terry Bradshaw
Terry Bradshaw’s NFL career got off to a bumpy start. The face of the Steelers in the 70s had to work for his starting job. He came under mass scrutiny for his turnovers and perceived lack of intelligence due to his rural roots. But Bradshaw persevered. In time he would lead his team to a string of dominating victories. Throughout his career, Bradshaw got progressively better and enjoyed the high life many successful quarterbacks of his time were allotted to. Bradshaw might’ve had his critics early on, but by the end of his career was making his case for the hall of fame. Like many of the great players from his era, Bradshaw spent the entirety of his career with his team, enjoying every minute of it.
8. Hated It: Rashard Mendenhall
You might not know it now that the Steelers have Le’Veon Bell in the backfield, but they had once invested a high draft pick on another runner. Steelers fans haven’t had to worry about who’s manning the backfield for a while now. From Bettis, to Parker to Mendenhall and now Bell, the Steelers have had great runners over the years. While Mendenhall was successful early on in his career, his lack of focus in Pittsburgh quickly dropped off his production. After trying a comeback in Arizona, Mendenhall was done in the NFL. He recently that he suffered a lot of “emotional abuse” during his time in the NFL, with some perceived close relationships crumbling soon after he was out of the league. It’s a sad story but he seems as though he’s moved on with his life.
7. Loved It: Franco Harris
From one Steelers running back to another, this time it’s one of the franchises all time greatest players. Franco Harris was a fantastic runner in his time. Physical, but shifty enough so that he could adjust his play style based on what kind of defense he was taking on. In the Steelers community, Harris is a popular former player that’s held on to the hearts of fans for years. His “Immaculate Reception” still stands as one of the most polarizing plays in league history; and will continue to run on “greatest moment” highlihgt reels for years to come. It served as the single draw of the majority of ire aimed towards the franchise for years. But it also served as an incredible moment in Steelers history, one Harris is directly responsible for.
6. Hated It: Dri Archer
Sometimes a young player’s career takes off faster than you’d expect it to. They burst on to the NFL scene and quickly make a name for themselves. That’s the hope teams feel when they draft players within the first couple of days of the NFL draft. Dri Archer came to Pittsburgh with those same hopes and expectations. The multitalented runner figured to be a huge weapon in the Steelers offense as a runner and receiver. But Archer never made much of an impact in his career. The Steelers essentially let him rot on the bench, with the limited opportunities he did get bearing no fruit. In time Archer found a spot on the Bills roster, but is now a free agent that probably won’t see much interest till someone gets hurt.
5. Loved It: Hines Ward
One of the most recent Steeler greats to find his way on this list is Hines Ward. Ward was one of the toughest receivers of his generation, making his presence felt on both offense and special teams. Ward was pretty much the modern embodiment of a Steeler, a blue chip guy who had to claw his way up the ranks and made the most of his opportunity when he did. Steelers fans love him, the organization loved him and the feeling was mutual. For someone as seasoned as Ward, coaching changes are an inevitable part of the game. In Ward’s case he went his entire career with two head coaches. He recently gushed about how much he enjoyed playing for current Steelers coach Mike Tomlin.
3. Hated It: LeGarrette Blount
LeGarrette Blount came into the NFL a problem case. Sometimes these kinds of players pan out and other times they don’t. It’s a reality of the game. Off the field issues are certainly a reality that some players have to deal with, and while some can overcome them – others take longer to do so or need the right environment to thrive. Coming to Pittsburgh from the Pats, Blount was never thought to be the guy in the Steel city. Maybe that was the problem. Overshadowed by Le’Veon Bell, Blount took a backseat role in the Pittsburgh offense – and it eventually boiled over. Blount was released from the Steelers after leaving a game in which he saw no touches early. Steeledrs brass was swift in sending him packing.
3. Loved It: Ben Roethlisberger
It’s weird to think that at any time in the immediate future, Ben Roethlisberger could be one of the former Steelers on this list. The veteran passer has been flirting with retirement this offseason, and while he’ll probably suit up this coming September – you never do know in regards to these matters. Roethlisberger has been a tank for the majority of his career. Injuries have hit hard but he’s always come back from them way earlier than expected, like he has some sort of superhuman recovery. But whether or not Big Ben calls it quits, he was a great player through and through. His success and accolades have made him one of the best passers in Steelers history and his place in the hall of fame is pretty much assured.
2. Hated It: Joe Gilliam
Joe Gilliam came around in a time where black quarterbacks were a rarity. Gilliam was a pretty talented passer and so had created some opportunities for himself early on in his career. He’s known for beating out Terry Bradshaw for the starting gig at one point in large part due to Bradshaw’s struggles and Gilliam’s strong play in the preseason. But as is sometimes the case in the NFL the success was not sustained. Gilliam soon found himself being shown the door. Bradshaw was the team’s future and Gilliam a placeholder. His NFL career soon burned out and Gilliam’s struggle with drugs all but assured his playing days were over. Gilliam has suggested that racism played a part in his release and subsequent end of career.
1. Loved It: Jerome Bettis
Some players spend their entire careers with a team. They get drafted, sign a few extensions and then ride off into the sunset content. Others manage to bounce around a little, playing for two, three or more teams in their careers. While some of these players find more success in their new surroundings, others falter. Jerome Bettis belongs to the former category. Bettis started out as a member of the Rams, but was traded to the Steelers early on in his career. It was there that Bettis found the majority of his success, running over defenders and establishing himself as a dominant power back. Though he saw his role decrease as he got closer to retirement age, Bettis closed out his career with a Super Bowl win in his home state. A Cinderella ending to a great career.
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