I love the NFL Network. It has helped complete my life more than any potential wife ever could unless I meet one who starts complaining about what a fascist Roger Goodell is on our first date without my prompting. The network repeatedly shows the big, legal hits — like those James Harrison unleashed last week against a soft Cleveland team — that have helped make today’s NFL the most popular sports league in U.S. history.
While you can also get non-stop NFL news on the ESPN stations, it is the history and film-heavy documentaries of the league that makes the NFL Network so joyous.
One of its coolest documentaries is the ongoing series entitled, “The Top 100: NFL’s Greatest Players,” which airs every Thursday at 9 PM ET and is slated to unveil No. 21-30 tonight, with mini-segments on each player.
For those who have not followed the rankings thus far, here are the players who spent the better parts of their careers with the Steelers: (41) DB Rod Woodson, (44) CB Mel Blount, (50) QB Terry Bradshaw, (60) LB Jack Ham, (68) C Mike Webster.
It now seems logical that just three long-time Steelers greats will be honored among the top 30. MLB Jack Lambert and TB Franco Harris should both be honored in the next two weeks somewhere between No. 11-30, while DT Joe Greene will likely be in the bottom half of the top 10 players of all-time. My guess is the top-five overall will consist of some order including TB Jim Brown, WR Jerry Rice, OLB Lawrence Taylor, QB Joe Montana and RB Water Payton.
I cannot complain too much about any of the Steelers snubs. While bigger names were omitted, the strongest cases should have gone for the late DT Ernie Stautner and C Dermontti Dawson.
Stautner spent his entire 14-year career (1950-63) playing for lousy Steelers teams but still was honored as NFL All-Pro in 10 seasons. A member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, he was probably the best defensive tackle in NFL history before the league was fully integrated, although African Americans did start playing professional football in 1946.
From a national perspective, Dawson is by far the most underrated Steelers player of all-time. He has only been a Hall of Fame finalist twice in his six years of eligibility, not advancing past the semifinals in the other four years.
Dawson’s career was cut a little short due to injury, but the six-time, first-team NFL All-Pro is one of the four or five greatest centers of all-time and rivals former Dolphins anchor Dwight Stephenson as the most versatile center ever from an athletic standpoint.
Dawson’s overall athleticism, and particularly his rare ability to pull from the center position, were the keys to a Steelers’ rushing attack that was the best in pro football throughout much of the 1990s. Stephenson’s career was cut short due to injury but he is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He also did not make the list so Dawson backers have little to gripe about.
The biggest Steelers name omitted was RB Jerome Bettis, who currently ranks fifth on the NFL’s all-time rushing yardage list. However, while he was highly productive and durable for a predictable run-based Steelers offense, Bettis was never really considered the best or even the second best tailback of his era, so it is hard to argue for his inclusion.
Regarding where the Steelers have been ranked, I do have a couple of disagreements. First, Ham at No. 60 is way too low. He should rival Harris as the second highest-ranked Steelers player on the list behind only Greene. Although the iconic Lambert is one of my two favorite Steelers ever, along with Hines Ward, Ham was the best linebacker of the Steelers of the 1970s and maybe the most complete outside linebacker to ever play the game. He should have been in the top 25.
Bradshaw is ranked too high at No. 50. He deserves to be on the list for sure, since he is one of only two quarterbacks (Joe Montana) to start for four Super Bowl championship teams and is one of the best big-game players in NFL history.
But Bradshaw’s career was overrated. I can count the number of superb seasons he had on one hand without using my thumb, and several quarterbacks of his era (e.g., Roger Staubach, Fran Tarkenton, Dan Fouts) could have also led the Steelers to Super Bowl titles in 1974 and 1975.
In fact, the Steelers might have won titles in 1972 and 1976 with either Staubach or Tarkenton at quarterback. However, both were in decline in 1978 and 1979, a period when Bradshaw was the best quarterback in the NFL and the Steelers needed his superlative play and deep passes to win, especially after the implementation of the Mel Blount rule resulted in higher-scoring games throughout the league. Still, the starting quarterback on my Steelers’ all-time team is already Ben Roethlisberger, because Bradshaw was way too inconsistent and error-prone.
While the series has been great so far, I pray that Dennis Miller does not serve as the narrator for any of the remaining Steelers segments.
I know he is from Pittsburgh, but the guy is not funny, is not even trying to tell jokes during his narrations, and clearly does not know football. In contrast, former Bengals Hall of Fame tight end Bob Trumpy did the narrative about how Mel Blount not only shut down but also frightened NFL receivers, highlighted by Trumpy talking about how Blount knocked him cold in the hardest hit he ever received. It was a segment that had me standing by the end.
Commentary from former opponents, (Boomer Esiason did the narrative for Rod Woodson), coaches and teammates is far more appealing than hearing the pompous laughing and incoherent drivel of a second-rate comedian.