ESPN.com launched a poll of NFL Hall of Fame players’ votes on which 20 players currently in the game could play in any era.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise the Steelers have four players among the top 20, the most of any team.
OLB James Harrison is No. 10, WR Hines Ward is No. 8, QB Ben Roethlisberger is 3 and SS Troy Polamalu is No. 2, before Ravens LB Ray Lewis, who was voted No. 1.
The fact Roethlisberger beat out every other quarterback (Peyton Manning, 20, Tim Tebow, 19 and Tom Brady, 11) and every other offensive player shows the level of support the gritty and fearless Roethlisberger gets from Hall of Fame members, such as Dolphins C Dwight Stephenson, who had this to say:
Love him or hate him, Big Ben is one of the toughest, gutsiest players in all of the NFL. Last year he breaks his nose and it is sitting under his left eye socket. The trainer bends it back straight, throws some tape on it, he plays a couple of plays with a mask on, doesn’t like the mask, rips it off and goes back in and plays.
Polamalu, the highest rated defensive back on the list, drew praise from RB Marcus Allen:
Troy Polamalu has a unique tenacity that is timeless, that crosses football generations. He could play in a leather helmet.
Ward, the highest-rated receiver on the list, is described beautifully by former Vikings DT John Randle:
The thing about Hines is he would crack you in a second. You had to have your head on a swivel. You’d watch a game just to see who Hines would crack on. He’d try to line up at tight end, and you knew if there was going to be a crack, it was Hines crackin’ somebody. And then afterward, he’d have that grin on his face. Because it was on you; he’d say, “Hey, stop me.” That was his reputation for me. As a football player, I look at it like the Western days, being an outlaw and you’d go from town to town to defend your reputation. And they knew you were coming. For Hines, there was that smile on his face, and you’d see it on tape, “Hey, I got ya.”
Harrison, strangely, checks in at No. 10, despite clearly being the defender who plays with the intensity and sheer brutality that is captured in all vintage NFL footage. It’s not a question of ability, but rather, who personifies the players of the previous generations. With all due respect to Ray Lewis, there’s no way he’s more of a throwback player than Harrison. Better, yes, more of a 1960s “quarterbacks-aren’t-protected” pass-rushing monster? No.
Jerry Rice agrees with me:
I picked James Harrison not because of all the fines, but because the guy is a bruiser on that defensive line and in that secondary. He’s going to hit you no matter what the consequences are. He plays the game the way it should be played, and that’s physically.
Lists like this aren’t put together to hold any special meaning, and in many ways, No. 20 is right up there with No. 1 (except Manning, there’s no way he’s more old-school than Tebow. He was running the freakin option this year. You didn’t see Len Dawson throwing high-to-low progressions with five receivers and an empty backfield, did you?).
It’s good to see the legacy of the Steelers’ Steel Curtain days being upheld, regardless of where they placed on the list.
Source: Behind the Steel Curtain
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