Best modern era Steeler backs.
Who do you think were the best Steeler backs of all time? And by this, I mean, who was the most talented at their zenith, as opposed to considering longevity as much. In other words, if we could choose the best backs to have, in their prime, how would you rank them? Using this model, total yards gained as a Steeler would not be the only factor.
Here is how I see it. (Oh, by the way, I never include players that played before the 1970s. It's just not apples to oranges if you go back any further than that, so Dick Hoak won't make my list.)
10. Bam "bong" Morris - Yea, he was an idiot and his partying cost him his NFL career. But, when he did play, he was a handful. He had a great combination of speed, size and power. But, alas, just too much of a knuckle head and couldn't help buying car trunks full of weed.
9. Walter Abercrombie. He was supposed to be the next great Steeler back. He never really lived up to that but he was the starting back for a handful of season. He had good speed.
8. Earnest Jackson - His coach at the time for the Eagles, Buddy Ryan said he would trade Jackson for a warm six pack. But, it turns out, Jackson was the best back we had to two seasons. And he was on really bad Steeler teams, some of the worst in the modern era (80s). But Jackson could play. He was no super star by any means but he was a pretty solid back.
7. Frankie Pollard - Frankie was also on really bad Steeler teams in the 80s but he could play. He was short but big (220) and could have been a top 10 back at the time if he was on a decent team.
6. Merrill Hoge - Merrill could play. He was one of those fairly rare players who was happy to block but could make catches out of the backfield and was a decent runner as well. He was intrical in the late 80s run that many said was one of Noll's best years as coach. They started the season getting throttled but ended up making the play offs, winning a game, and nearly upsetting the Broncos. Hoge was a major part of that run. He ended up going to Chicago after that, and did virtually nothing having suffered concussion problems, which was way before concussions were focused on so much like today.
5. Rocky Bleier - Everyone knows the Rocky story, where he was drafted twice - once by the Steelers and once by the US govt. for Vietnam war. He blew off some of his foot while there, and they said he would never play again - maybe not even walk. But Rocky was so determined to make it back. In a total class move, Art Rooney sent Rock a note while in the hospital recovering from his wounds that said, "Make it back soon, we need your help." But make no mistake, Rocky was more than a good story, he could run the ball, catch the ball and block. He was pretty darn little to play FB but he really did contribute to those great 70s teams.
4. Willie Parker - Willie was not a complete back and didn't have a real long career but in his day, he was a blazer, who still owns the longest TD in Super Bowl history. I remember in his major debut, where he ran all over the Titans in week one when Bettis was hurt. I recall Jeff Fisher, saying to Cowher after the game, "That is a good running back you got there."
3. Barry Foster - I think he is the most underrated of all of them. I remember when he just destroyed the Browns in the play offs. We beat them twice in the season and everyone was saying how hard it is to beat a team 3 times in one season. That claim turned out to be a joke, as Barry "Bananas" Foster ran all over the Browns that day. He was really good at making sharp cuts, had powerful legs and a low center of gravity. After he got his first big pay check, he just couldn't handle the stress and strains of playing anymore. He quit on Pgh, then quit on the Bengals and then, I believe, quit on SF. But in his day, he was a very good back.
2. Franco Harris - Most would put him at #1 and he could deserve it. Franco was a big back, so big that he could play today if he were in his prime. He had a nice high gear for being that big of a back. There are endless highlights of this guy on the greatest team ever. I don't care that he stepped out of bounds to save his body. If you see him today, he almost looks like he could still play. Franco is one of the biggest legends of all time in Pgh sports. No doubt.
1. Jerome Bettis - I have the Bus at #1 because I think he was the best back in Steeler history, period. Almost no back in the history of the NFL had that much size with that nimble of feet. And, he is the only big, big back that lasted so many seasons. Every 250+ lb back had only one 1,000 yard season, except for Natrone Means, he had a total of 2. Bettis had 7 if I recall. Bettis was a legend and was the best trade in the history of the franchise. How many iconic games did this guy have? My favorite is his last hurrah when we were playing Chicago and needed the win to make the play offs. The Bears were favored in that game, the snow started to fall, and there is that play where Urlacher, the best middle LB at the time, taking JB head on at the goal line, and JB just runs over him, and the Steelers ended up securing their first SB since the 1970s. I will never forget that season or game.