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hawaiiansteel
07-16-2010, 02:56 PM
Pittsburgh Steelers History: Top 10 Defensive Backs of All-Time

By Jonathan Cyprowski
July 15, 2010


Every team has a forte, something that defines them, and no team has ever been defined more by their defense than the Pittsburgh Steelers.

While the Steelers have been known for the Steel Curtain's Hall of Fame linebackers and defensive linemen, there have been some outstanding defensive backs roaming the secondary behind the likes of Jack Lambert and Mean Joe Greene.

Let's see how the top 10 defensive backs in Steelers’ history play out…

10. Darren Perry—1992-1998
Bill Cowher drafted Perry in his very first draft as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He would combine with Rod Woodson and Carnell Lake to make for one of the most feared defensive secondaries in the NFL for much of the 1990’s under their new head coach.

The Penn State product was the first rookie to lead the team in interceptions since the 1955 season.

He finishd his career ranked seventh on the Steelers’ all-time career interceptions list with 32.

Having done so in seven seasons makes that number all the more impressive, averaging five picks a season during his time wearing the black and gold.


9. Glen Edwards—1971-1977
The two-time Pro Bowler played seven seasons for the Pittsburgh Steelers before being traded to the San Diego Chargers for a sixth round pick prior to the 1978 season.

25 of his 39 career interceptions came while wearing black and gold. That’s a mark good enough to be 11th all-time in Steelers history.

Edwards won two Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in Super Bowls IX and X, having a big play in both victories.

The first came by way of a sledgehammer hit on Vikings receiver John Gilliam.

Gilliam had just caught the ball near the goal line when Edwards made the hit that jarred the ball from Gilliam’s grasp and into the waiting arms of Hall of Famer Mel Blount. His hit stopped a certain touchdown.

The second play was an interception of his own. Edwards sealed a victory for the Steelers in Super Bowl X by intercepting the Cowboys’ Hall of Fame quarterback Roger Staubach in the end zone as time expired.

Edwards would go on to have 14 more interceptions with San Diego over the final four years of his career, but not before making his mark on Steelers’ history.

8. Mike Wagner—1971-1980
Mike Wagner won four Super Bowl rings playing safety for the vaunted Steel Curtain defense of the 70’s.

Wagner had a nose for the football and seemed to be in the right place at the right time leading the league in interceptions once and making two Pro Bowls on his way to 36 career interceptions and becoming the sixth leading pick artist in Steelers history.

The two biggest interceptions of Wagner’s career may have come during the most important times as well, recording interceptions in Super Bowls IX and X.

7. Dwayne Woodruff—1979-1990
The court is now in session. The Honorable Judge Dwayne Woodruff is now presiding.

The fifth leading interception man in Steelers history is now a Judge in the Court of Common Pleas in Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.

Woodruff obtained his law degree from Duquesne University and became the founding member of the law firm Woodruff, Flaherty, and Fardo after retiring from the NFL following the 1990 season.

But before Woodruff started trying cases in the courtroom, he was ruling over the Steelers defensive secondary for the better part of 11 NFL seasons.

His 37 career interceptions, 35 in nine years as a starter, were secondary only to his knack for finding ways to score off of turnovers.

Woodruff mentored and played opposite a young and very talented Rod Woodson from 1986 to 1990, as his career came to a close with the Steelers.

6. Troy Polamalu—2003-Present

It hardly seems possible that it has been seven years since Troy Polamalu was taken in the first round of the 2003 draft by the Steelers.

Whether it seems like ages ago or yesterday, Polamalu has made an impact on the Pittsburgh Steelers franchise and the NFL in ways that few players have ever done before him.

After a slow start in his rookie season, Polamalu has managed to amass 453 tackles, seven sacks, and 20 interceptions in a little over six full seasons.

Those 20 interceptions rank 14th in Steelers’ history and he is certainly far from being done climbing that ladder as he continues to be one of the most feared defenders in the NFL.

Perhaps New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick said it best when asked about him, “If you don’t know where Troy Polamalu is he’ll kill you”.

5. Carnell Lake—1989-1998
Carnell Lake may have been the most versatile defensive back in Steelers history, and certainly was one of the smartest football players the Steelers ever had the privilege to employ.

While Lake’s 16 career interceptions only ranks 21st on the all-time list, his presence on the field proved more valuable than the numbers could ever show.

Lake was named to the Pro Bowl five times in his NFL career, an impressive feat for any player in the NFL.

When you consider the fact that Lake started out as a linebacker in the collegiate ranks, and made the switch to safety, that number becomes even more impressive.

When you factor in the fact that Lake twice had to make the even more difficult move to corner because of injury issues on the team, and made two of his five Pro Bowls as a corner, that number becomes down right incredible.

Lake wasn’t your run of the mill defensive back either. Whether he was playing safety or corner during his 10 seasons in Pittsburgh, his 753 tackles and 15 forced fumbles prove Lake was never afraid to stick his nose in the play against the run and make a tackle

4. Donnie Shell—1974-1987
A man who might be the beginning of a long line of undrafted free agents to become All-Pro defenders for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Donnie “Torpedo” Shell is one of the best strong safeties to ever play the game of football.

Shell finished his career with 51 interceptions, which is third on the Steelers’ all-time list, and still stands as the record for most by any strong safety in NFL history.

The five time Pro Bowler spent 14 seasons in a Steelers uniform, and had at least one interception in each of those seasons.

His hard hitting, “torpedo” style of play was what many present Steeler fans are familiar with from watching current Steelers’ safety Troy Polamalu. Shell always had a nose for the ball, and in turn was notorious for launching himself into the play and blowing it up with a big hit or a signature pick

3. Jack Butler—1951-1959
Having never played high-school football, Jack Butler tried out for the St. Bonaventure football team on a whim, as he was studying to become a priest. One of the priests at St. Bonnies, Father Dan Rooney, made a call to his brother who happened to be the owner/founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers–Art Rooney Sr.

Father Rooney suggested that “the chief” consider bringing Butler on as a player for the Steelers, and the rest is history.

The former apprentice to the cloth became known as the man with the “face of a choirboy and the heart of an arsonist” according to Pittsburgh Press sports editor Pat Livingston.

Butler would end up with 52 interceptions in his nine seasons with the Steelers, second only to Mel Blount in Steelers’ history, and third only to hall of famers Emlen Tunnell and Dick “The Night Train” Lane at the time of his retirement.

That retirement came too soon, as Butler retired at the height of his career making four consecutive Pro Bowls, and averaging almost seven interceptions a season over that span.

His philosophy “The best pass defense is the respect of the receivers. If they know they are going to get hit as soon as they touch the ball, they’re not so relaxed catching it” lives on to this day in the fundamental core of how the Steelers play defense.

2. Mel Blount—1970-1983
A philanthropist, a gentleman, and one heck of a football player, Mel Blount is the symbol of all Steelers defensive backs.

Inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, Blount’s 57 career interceptions are the most by anyone wearing black and gold all-time.

Blount was selected to five Pro Bowls and named the 1975 defensive player of the year after recording 11 interceptions that season.

Blount’s size, speed, and strength were legendary for his time in the NFL. So much so that the NFL had to change the rules concerning pass defense after the 1977 season because of his physical prowess.

Blount was known for setting the mark high.

The story goes that Blount happened to pass some scouts testing a top prospect’s vertical jump one day at Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. Seeing a black mark on the wall he asked what it was. The scouts told Blount that the mark was the height of the vertical jump that the prospect had just performed.

Without another word, Blount, who was dressed in street clothes, proceeded to jump and touch a height much higher on the wall. He then looked at the prospect and said with glaring certainty, “That’s the Steelers’ mark.”

The year was 1982, Blount was 31 years old, and the prospect was Renaldo Jeremiah, an Olympic athlete and the world-record holder in the 110-meter hurdles.

1. Rod Woodson—1987-1996
Pick an area of the game and you could most likely agree that if he wanted to, Rod Woodson could have done it better.

The 2009 Hall of Fame inductee was selected to 11 Pro Bowl teams (6 with the Steelers), and finished his 17-year career with 71 interceptions (38 in 10 seasons in Pittsburgh).

His interception totals with the Steelers lands him fourth on the Steelers’ all-time interceptions list behind only the likes of Mel Blount, Jack Butler, and Donnie Shell.

Woodson’s all around contributions to the team also allowed him to finish his time in Pittsburgh as the all-time leader in punt and kickoff returns.

Perhaps somewhat overlooked was Woodson’s propensity for creating the turnover or making the big play at the biggest of moments due to his fundamental prowess as a technician of the game.

Whether it was blocking a field goal, running back a kick, making an interception, or forcing one of his career 20 forced fumbles, the 1993 defensive player of the year was the best the storied Steelers defense ever had to offer.

http://bleacherreport.com/articles/4...ll-time#page/1

RuthlessBurgher
07-16-2010, 03:52 PM
My personal top 5 would be Rod, Mel, Troy, Lake, Shell (although it was difficult keeping the likes of Ricardo Colclough, Scott Shields, Anthony Smith, Hank Poteat, and Tim McKyer off that list :wink: ).

Slapstick
07-16-2010, 03:55 PM
Renaldo Nehemiah

ANPSTEEL
07-16-2010, 04:08 PM
...(although it was difficult keeping the likes of Ricardo Colclough, Scott Shields, Anthony Smith, Hank Poteat, and Tim McKyer off that list :wink: ).

That my friend, is a truly craptacular list.

bravo.

Tim McKyer, indeed. :shaking head

ramblinjim
07-16-2010, 04:22 PM
I'll never forget screaming at the TV watching Tim McKeyer get beat on the long touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game against San Diego. I almost threw my TV set through the window that afternoon.

ramblinjim
07-16-2010, 04:23 PM
What? No Chad Scott? No Dewayne Washington? Where's Delton Hall? Lee Flowers? What kind of list is this?

ANPSTEEL
07-16-2010, 04:32 PM
...although it was difficult keeping the likes of Ricardo Colclough, ... ).

Good news. Your boy, found a home!!

http://www.ufl-football.com/omaha-night ... yer-roster (http://www.ufl-football.com/omaha-nighthawks/player-roster)

No word on when they are going to sign Hank Poteat though.

phillyesq
07-16-2010, 04:47 PM
My personal top 5 would be Rod, Mel, Troy, Lake, Shell (although it was difficult keeping the likes of Ricardo Colclough, Scott Shields, Anthony Smith, Hank Poteat, and Tim McKyer off that list :wink: ).

Don't forget the SLOW, but savvy, Brent Alexander.

frankthetank1
07-16-2010, 04:57 PM
odd that troy isnt higher up on the list. was darren perry really that good? i remember him being a pretty average player. i would of put DJ Johnson ahead of perry

Jooser
07-16-2010, 05:22 PM
Delton Hall ruled. 8)

SteelAbility
07-16-2010, 05:34 PM
What? No Chad Scott? No Dewayne Washington? Where's Delton Hall? Lee Flowers? What kind of list is this?

Dewayne Washington? You mean the guy who got torched down the sidelines in the 03 season divisional playoffs to put the Titans inside the 10 in OT? The same guy who compounded that error with running into the kicker after a missed FG just a few minutes later? The same guy who was routinely getting burned deep week in and week out? :P

steeler_fan_in_t.o.
07-17-2010, 02:08 PM
I was too young to be able to compare Edwards and Wagner but I would definitely have Ike ahead of Perry.

NJ-STEELER
07-17-2010, 03:33 PM
I'll never forget screaming at the TV watching Tim McKeyer get beat on the long touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game against San Diego. I almost threw my TV set through the window that afternoon.

i've always wondered where the Deep help was on that play.

on the overhead replay. perry stays in the middle of the field instead of getting deep.

i wonder if he the deep help responsibility there

fezziwig
07-17-2010, 05:58 PM
What ? No Harvey Clayton ?


Can you imagine if we had Rod and Mel playing at the same time along with mixing in Troy and Donnie Shell ? The only way the offenses could connect a pass if one of our guys fell down.


I think Mel was better than Rod but, I think Rod could have been better if he didn't gamble so much. I still have a picture in my head with a receiver catching a ball, not thrown on Rod, with this receiver streaking down the field and Rod from no where enters the picture and runs the guy down for the tackle. Rod must have ran 40 yards to catch and tackle that guy.

Mel on the other hand was glue to his receivers. Never out of the picture and always putting on a smack down hit. They're both great with their own way of playing the game.

Dang, those guys made for some good football. Too bad Rod didn't get to win a Super Bowl as a Steeler. Too bad Rod had to suffer through with our so so average quarterbacks.

Shoe
07-22-2010, 02:12 PM
I'll never forget screaming at the TV watching Tim McKeyer get beat on the long touchdown pass in the AFC Championship game against San Diego. I almost threw my TV set through the window that afternoon.

i've always wondered where the Deep help was on that play.

on the overhead replay. perry stays in the middle of the field instead of getting deep.

i wonder if he the deep help responsibility there

Now that you mention it, it had to be miscommunication (missed assignment) on that play. Under that circumstance (the only way they could beat us; they couldn't move the ball), the time in the game (we have game in hand, just no deep plays), 5:00 to the SB...

...you gotta be the biggest moron, or Tim McKyer, to let that happen. Like ramblingjim, my TV was lucky to escape that day intact.

NJ-STEELER
07-22-2010, 06:04 PM
there's no way mckyer could stay with tony martin.

thats why i think there should have been help deep.
or the D thought they could get to humpries in time.

credit to humpries on that play. he stood in when he knew he was going to get drilled. and brown nailed him right in the chops

I've stated in the past that if humprioes is playing for us in SB XXX with that metality....we win the game

o'doneel bailing out as soon as he sees a free man coming at him... fukin coward