Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Famers
With this year’s Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2021 announced, in that group is Alan Faneca who had been trying to get in for years and now he joins a long list of former Pittsburgh Steelers who are enshrined in the hallowed halls in Canton, Ohio.
Of all the NFL teams, the Chicago Bears have the most men enshrined in Canton with 35. The Washington Football Team/Redskins and L.A. Rams are next with 32. Then you have the Packers and Giants with 31 players in the Hall of Fame followed closely by the Steelers who now have 30.
Ben Roethlisberger and Maurkice Pouncey will one day be hall of fame members for sure so that list will continue to grow. I believe that Hines Ward also deserves a bust in Canton but that remains to be seen as he has yet to be inducted. Ward did make it to the semi-final vote this year but failed to be named a finalist.
As a die-hard Steelers fan and for those in Steelers Nation, I give you profiles of all 31 members of the Steelers players inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in alphabetical order and with the years they spent wearing the uniform of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Bert Bell (1941-1946)
Bell represents the Steelers in the hall because he was the head coach for one season (1941) and also shared ownership of the team with Art Rooney Sr. From 1940-1946. He was also the NFL Commissioner from 1946-1959.
Jerome Bettis (1996-2005)
Unhappy as a member of the Los Angeles Rams, L.A. gifted the Steelers via trade in 1996 that redirected the Bus through Pittsburgh where he played until he retired and hung up the cleats as a Super Bowl champion when Pittsburgh won Super Bowl XL. Thanks to a miraculous tackle by Ben Roethlisberger in the divisional playoffs Bettis avoided a near-disastrous fumble.
John 'Blood' McNally (1934, 1937-1938)
One of the early great players in the NFL, McNally had three stints with the Steelers in 1934 and then as a player/coach from 1937-1938 and as just coach in 1939. McNally is also in the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.
Mel Blount (1970-1983)
A member of all four of the Steelers' 1970s Super Bowl champions, Blount was one of the league’s all-time best defensive backs and a hard hitter.
Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983)
Thomas “Hollywood” Henderson once said of Bradshaw, “He couldn’t spell CAT if you spotted him the C and A.” Of course, Bradshaw got the last laugh beating the Cowboys in two Super Bowls. Bradshaw owns four rings but his stats keep him from being amongst the best ever. Still, he made it into the highest honor possible, the Football Hall of Fame.
Jack Butler (1951-59)
What’s amazing about Jack Butler is that he was not just born in Pittsburgh, he played his pro ball there was well and passed away in the same city he spent his entire life in. One of the greatest defensive backs ever, Butler played just nine seasons but intercepted an amazing 52 passes along the way. Butler made the Pro Bowl four times, was a four-time First-Team All-Pro, is a member of the NFL 1950s All-Decade Team and the Pittsburgh Steelers all-time team. Butler was 85 when he passed.
Dermontti Dawson (1988-2000)
One inline of some of the best centers to ever play in the NFL, first, it was Ray Mansfield who gave way to Mike Webster who gave way to Dawson who gave way to Jeff Hartings who handed the reigns over to Maurkice Pouncey. Who was the best of the bunch? Dawson and Webbie are in the HOF. Pouncey is headed there one day. This is a tough call but I would cast my vote for either Dawson or Pouncey with a slight edge to Dawson because he was more disciplined.
Len Dawson (1957-1959)
Despite most of his career being in Kansas City, Dawson was drafted by Pittsburgh and played just three seasons there. However, he is listed on the Hall of Fame list as a Steeler. That’s good enough for me to lengthen their list but Dawson’s career marks are littered with honors.
Bill Dudley (1942, 1945-1946)
“Bullet” Bill Dudley was drafted by the Steelers with the NFL’s first overall pick in 1942. He would enter military service missing the 1943 and 1944 seasons then return for two more with Pittsburgh before being traded to the Detroit Lions and then finishing his career with the Redskins. Bill Dudley could do it all. He has passing statistics to his cred as well as leading the league in rushing in his rookie season with 696 yards on 162 rushes. He also punted that year, ran back punts and kickoffs.
Alan Faneca (1998-2007)
Faneca finally got his due in 2021 after several years of trying but most believed he was deserving of the honor. He was after all the best guard of his era during his playing days. Once a massive offensive lineman, today Alan Faneca is slim and trim and his appearance is much different than the sometimes bearded offensive beast he once was.
Joe Greene (1969-1981)
“Mean.” That was the nickname of this mammoth defensive lineman who fits that bill perfectly. A terror on defense, Greene was the cornerstone of the “Steel Curtain” that punished opposing offenses throughout the 1970s. Perhaps the greatest player in Pittsburgh Steelers history.
Kevin Greene (1993-95)
Greene tragically died in 2020 at just 58 years of age but in his three years with the Steelers, he was always a pass-rushing threat and for Steelers Nation despite playing for four other teams, he went into the hallowed halls at Canton wearing Black and Gold.
Jack Ham (1971-1982)
If you want a linebacker that is more of a technician than a physical presence look no further than Jack Ham. When it came to executing defensive maneuvers and plays, there may have been no one better than Ham. Like many other of his teammates, Ham had a following and it could not go unnoticed in Three Rivers Stadium the banner that read “Dobre Shunka” which in Slovak means “Great Ham.” Ham might even be underrated in some eyes because he was an outstanding linebacker that was sometimes overshadowed by another Jack, that being the Lambert type.
Franco Harris (1972-1983)
Two words make football fans automatically think of the running back that wore jersey number 32. “Immaculate Reception.” Despite having an outstanding career, Franco Harris will forever be remembered for one crazy play. For the first time, they made the playoffs in 1972, it was Harris who became an instant hero by picking up a deflected pass at the end of the game with the Oakland Raiders to overcome a deficit in the score and send the Steelers onward to play the undefeated Miami Dolphins. But Harris was a part of all four Pittsburgh Super Bowl teams in the 1970s and he ran with style chalking up numerous 1,000-yard seasons.
John Henry Johnson (1960-1965)
Up until Franco Harris came along, JHJ was probably the best running back in the history of the Steelers. Oddly enough, Johnson went to high school at Pittsburg High School in California. He did play for the Calgary Stampeders, San Francisco 49ers, and the Detroit Lions before coming to Pittsburgh. Like Jerome Bettis many years later, John Henry Johnson came to the Steelers via trade. It took eight years to get the man they drafted in 1953 in the second round but Johnson opted to go to Canada instead saying it was a better monetary offer. Then Steelers owner, the late Art Rooney Sr. Countered by saying Johnson did not want to play in the Pittsburgh cold.
Robert 'Cal' Hubbard (1936)
Hubbard is an interesting Hall of Fame member given the fact that he played for the Steelers just one season (1936) and that came at a time the Steelers were known as the “Pirates” like their baseball counterpart in town. But after football Hubbard would become one of the best baseball umpires in history.
Walt Kiesling (1937-1939, 1940-1942, 1954-1956)
Kiesling is a former NFL player turned coach and head coach. He played for the early Steelers (Pirates) in 1937 and 1938 and later served as a line coach and the head coach for Pittsburgh from 1949-1961. Kiesling is a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 1920s.
Jack Lambert (1974-1984)
“The Count” is my favorite player of all-time. That’s due to his tenacity, attitude, and not to be intimidated by anyone. Jack Lambert was not your prototypical linebacker weighing just around 220 pounds today he would be way undersized for the position. But Lambert played like he was 275 pounds and would hit any opposing player at all costs and then try to intimidate him. In Super Bowl X he came to the rescue of teammate Roy Gerela who had missed a field goal only to be taunted by the Dallas Cowboys’ Cliff Harris. Lambert proceeded to slam Harris to the field in defending his kicker. That was Jack Lambert in a nutshell.
Bobby Layne (1958-1962)
It seems to me that the Pro Football Hall of Fame uses their judgment as to how they list inductees in regards to who they represent in the hall. I say that because most of Bobby Layne’s career was spent with the Detroit Lions and his final five seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But Layne had the reputation of being a wild man who was full of character and liked to go out on the town. If you have never heard it before, there is a myth called the “Curse of Bobby Layne.” It evolved after the Lions traded Layne to the Steelers and he responded to the trade by saying “the Lions would not win for 50 years.” So for the next 50 years, Detroit posted one of the worst winning percentages in the league. While the quote was never published in any periodical, it can only be believed if you believe the word of mouth myth. Regardless, the losing period by the Lions did exist and did come after Layne left the team.
Marion Motley (1955)
Again we have another player who spent nearly all his career with a team other than the Pittsburgh Steelers. For Motley, it was the Cleveland Browns and then he spent just one season in Pittsburgh. Motley was a rugged runner in the mold of a Jim Brown with a little more moxy. But with the Steelers, he hardly played. He was involved in just six games and carried the ball just twice. But, he is listed with the Steelers on the Hall of Fame list.
Chuck Noll (1969-1991)
The man who started it all. Winning that is. It took Chuck Noll a few seasons to get the ball rolling after he was hired in 1969. In fact, his rookie season saw a final record of just 1-13. But by drafting Joe Greene with his first draft that selection began the process of building a dynasty. Noll would coach a long time and was revered in Pittsburgh.
Troy Polamalu (2003-2014)
The “Tazmanian Devil” Troy Polamalu may have been one of the wildest players at defensive back or safety ever in the NFL. Polamalu would play with reckless abandon and sometimes that cost him by missing a tackle. But he was a hard hitter and a sure tackler and one distinct memory of #43 that stands out for me is his return of a Carson Palmer interception in a game against Cincinnati that saw just Palmer in the way of a pick-six. Polamalu simply ran over his former teammate at USC.
Art Rooney (1933-1988)
Roberto Clemente, Bill Mazeroski, Steve Blass, Willie Stargell, Bob Prince...all these former Pittsburgh athletes were adored by Pittsburghers. However, Art Rooney Sr. Might top all of them. If you grew up in Pittsburgh and followed the Steelers, most fans felt like they knew Rooney even if they never met him. Born in the Pittsburgh section of Coulterville, Rooney never left the city and he personified what it meant to be a native of Pittsburgh. He was everything Pittsburgh and was a caring and gentleman that even those who weren’t Steelers fans at the time Pittsburgh won Super Bowl IX, their hearts warmed at the sight of seeing the old man hoisting the Steelers first-ever Lombardi Trophy. Art Rooney was also an athlete. An accomplished boxer he also played baseball.
Dan Rooney (1955-2017)
Art Rooney’s son Dan would eventually take over the Steelers after his father’s death. He too was a fan favorite and he eventually became the Ambassador to Ireland. Athletic like his father, Dan Rooney was a quarterback ad North Catholic High School in Pittsburgh. At his passing, he had been married to his wife Patricia for an incredible 65 years.
Donnie Shell (1974-1987)
It took a long time for Shell to be inducted but I’m sure he feels it was worth the wait. One of the best special teams players of the 1970s, Shell was also an outstanding player in Pittsburgh’s defensive backfield. A very hard hitter, I recall him planting a blasting tackle on the very rugged Earl Campbell.
John Stallworth (1974-1987)
If there was ever a lethal wide receiver combination in the NFL, John Stallworth and Lynn Swann would have to be considered. A dual-threat, Swann led with artistry and Stallworth with an uncanny ability to get open. Stallworth was a deep threat on every offensive play.
Ernie Stautner (1950-1963)
Unfortunately for Stautner is that he played in the 1950s when the Steelers were not very good and didn’t win much. But knowing playoffs were always out of their reach, the Pittsburgh Steelers became one of the least favorite teams to play against because they played so hard and played so aggressively. Pittsburgh’s defenses wanted to beat up other teams and they did it well. That personality was led by Ernie Stautner.
Lynn Swann (1974-1982)
The other half of the dynamic duo, Lynn Swann played with finesse and used his ability to dance ballet on the gridiron. Smooth as silk was Swann and it was a polarizing counter to the athleticism of John Stallworth. When it came to Super Bowls both receivers shined but it was Swann who would make the more graceful and artistic receptions.
Mike Webster (1974-1988)
Mike Webster’s post-football life was a tragedy. He encountered many physical and financial troubles and his health failed because of it. Just 50 years old when he died, but the legacy he left behind on the football field is Hall of Fame worthy. Webster was a beast on the offensive line where he simply manhandled opponents.
Rod Woodson (1987-1996)
Here we have perhaps the greatest all-around athlete to ever play for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Rod Woodson was a track star and an outstanding cornerback. When he left the Steelers via free agency in 1997 and signed with the San Francisco 49ers it left a bad taste in the mouths of Steelers fans who many felt he chose another team over just a few million dollars shunning Pittsburgh’s offer. The hole Woodson left behind has never really been filled with the kind of talent he was.
Home of the Braves: Part One
A series on how "America's Team" became the team to forget.