Monday, February 28, 2022

The Franchise 9: Green Bay Packers

Well, here we are on the 32nd NFL team's Franchise 9 page. I started this series over five years ago, went a long time between posts, kicked out a few when I had time for the research and writing, and now it comes to an end. If you missed your favorite team's post, here is the link to all of the posts. I didn't intend to save my team for last, but when I randomized the list of teams for the order, the Packers were 31st and the Saints 32nd. When Drew Brees announced his retirement, I thought it was a good time to write up the Saints and I was totally okay with saving the best for last.

The Packers were one of the most difficult teams for this list. Yes, it was partly because that I have a great affinity for so many of the players and didn't want to leave them off. But the greatest difficulty I had was following my own rules. For every other team, I included only the players who played in the Super Bowl Era. For players who played before, I cut off their stats from before the Super Bowl was instituted during the 1966 season. This was a problem for the Packers, who won the first two Super Bowls with a core of players who had been around for much of the prior decade. If I eliminated those years from consideration, then the majority of players from the early Super Bowl championship teams failed to make the cut. The list would look really strange to include "Super Bowl Era players" and yet exclude Bart Starr, who was enough of a Super Bowl Era player to win the first couple of Super Bowl MVP awards. So I made a special rule for the Packers--anybody who played until at least 1970 would receive full career consideration. There were plenty of legends to choose from.

1. Brett Favre, QB (1993 SP)

Brett Favre is the franchise's career leader in games, passing yards, and approximate value. When he left Green Bay he was not the team record holder, but also the league record leader in career passing yards and touchdowns. The league MVP award he shared with Barry Sanders in 1997 was monumental because he became the first player to win NFL MVP three times--and he did it in consecutive seasons. He's still the only player to have done that. He led the team to two Super Bowls and won one. The only knock on the Gunslinger is the interception total, which is still the highest in NFL history.

2. Aaron Rodgers, QB (2015 Prestige Extra Points Green)

Since taking over for Favre, Aaron Rodgers has captured the team's TD pass title. He still trails Favre in yards, but for a great contrast in their style of play, compare Favre's 286 interceptions to Rodgers's 93. The 2021 NFL MVP also gives Rodgers one more MVP than Favre. Rodgers has also delivered one Super Bowl title to Green Bay. Favre is in the Hall of Fame and Rodgers without a doubt will be the moment he is eligible. This is not to debate and compare, but to show how spoiled we Packers fans have been to have an all-time great under center for the last 25 years. The franchise is not what it is if not for these first two QBs.

3. Bart Starr, QB (2013 Topps Archives)

There is one Packers QB who has more championships than Favre or Rodgers: Bart Starr. Starr won the first two Super Bowls, but he also won five championships before that. Rodgers and Favre are 1-2 in some combination in every passing category in Packers history, but Starr is right behind them, sitting third in all of them. He led the league in passer rating four times and took home an MVP of his own in 1966.

4. James Lofton, WR (2014 Prizm)

Currently, James Lofton ranks second in franchise history in receiving yards. The only person higher than him is Donald Driver. The difference between those two is that Lofton needed about 70 fewer games than Driver to reach his mark. Also, Driver had Favre and Rodgers throwing to him. Lofton made the plays he did with Lynn Dickey and David Whitehurst. His career yards per catch is a jaw-dropping 18.2. While with the Pack, Lofton earned a 1st-Team All-Pro nod, three 2nd-Team All-Pros, and seven Pro Bowl nominations. He was named to the 1980 NFL All-Decade Team and the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

5. Forrest Gregg, T (1996 Collector's Choice ShopKo Green Bay Packers)

Among Packer offensive linemen, Forrest Gregg ranks 1st in career AV (though active left tackle David Bakhtiari is gaining ground). Gregg anchored a strong offensive line through seven NFL Championships, including two Super Bowls. He was seven-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowler, cementing his place in Canton.

6. Reggie White, DE (1995 Action Packed Rookies & Stars)

When Reggie White became a Packer, it changed NFL history. He was the first superstar to change teams through unrestricted free agency. His choosing Green Bay gave the Packers the defensive cornerstone the team needed to fit with young, rising star Brett Favre's offensive piece. The result was the team bringing the Lombardi trophy home a few years later. Though White spent more time with the Eagles than the Packers, once he arrived in Green Bay, he kept his streak of Pro Bowl berths going. In six seasons with the Pack, White made six Pro Bowls and two 1st-Team All-Pro lists. His 68.5 sacks with the team ranked third when he left, and his 14 forced fumbles were tops at the time. Other Packers sack-masters have put up more numbers than he did, but nobody had the same overall team impact as Reggie White.

7. Ray Nitschke, LB (1990 Pro Set Super Bowl)

Statistically, it's hard to quantify what Ray Nitschke did for the Packers. Things like tackles and sacks weren't recorded back then. But Pro Football Reference has Nitschke's career AV at 120, which is good for fifth on the team all-time, ahead of even Forrest Gregg and Bart Starr. Nitschke was a dominant linebacker in his day, making two All-Pro 1st teams and three 2nd teams. He was selected alongside Dick Butkus as the middle linebackers of the 1960s All-Decade Team and a shoo-in for the Hall of Fame.

8. Herb Adderley, CB (1988 Swell Football Greats)

Herb Adderley picked off 38 passes for the Packers, returning seven of them for touchdowns. Currently, that sits him at number three and number two all-time for the team, respectively, in those categories. Like Starr, Gregg, and Nitschke that we have already discussed, Addereley helped the team to five championships and then the first two Super Bowls, and was a part of the All-1960s Team. In his nine years in Green Bay, Adderely was a seven-time All-Pro (5 1st-Team, 2 2nd-Team). He was a premier shutdown corner in his day.

9. Willie Wood, S (1971 Topps)

Joining Adderley in the secondary, on the championship teams, and on the All-1960s Team was Willie Wood. Wood ranks second in team annals in interceptions, (48) trailing only old-timer Bobby Dillon. Like so many of his teammates, Wood was an All-Pro multiple times (4 1st-Team, 2 2nd-Team) and was inducted into the Hall of Fame. Of all the players who qualified as "Super Bowl Era" players for this exercise, Wood is 3rd on the Packers' career AV list, behind Favre and Rodgers.

There are some players who were hard to leave off this list. I'm sure somebody expected maybe Charles Woodson or Clay Matthews to appear here. They certainly were in the running. Donald Driver spent many years with the team, but maybe wasn't quite the impact player as these players were. Of current Packers, David Bakhtiari and Davante Adams are moving up the list quickly, but still not quite there. And then we had players like Henry Jordan, Jim Taylor, or Willie Davis who won Super Bowls with the team, but didn't make my admittedly arbitrary 1970 cutoff date, and so were not considered. Just because of the timing of the franchise's dominance clashing with my own ground rules for this series, some legends were left off. But who would they have bumped, anyway? There was just too much meat for this list to be easily finished.

And that will do it for the Franchise 9 series. I'm happy to have it done, but it has been a fun one to share with you. Once again, I'll ask for your opinions in the comments. How would your list compare to mine?

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Thursday, February 17, 2022

The Franchise 9: New Orleans Saints

It took a long time for the Saints to find their footing in the NFL. For the first decades of their existence, they struggled to field competitive teams. In fact, it wasn't until 1987--their 21st year of play--that they posted their first winning record and made the playoffs for the first time. Even now, since their Super Bowl win in 2009, they have won 6 of the past 13 NFC South titles--yet they still have an overall sub .500 all-time record. But their recent history has been on a better trajectory. This is due in great part to the contributions of a certain quarterback whom I loved in college, started his pro career in a different city, then signed with the Saints after that team let him walk, and took his career to a different level. You know who I mean.
2020 Panini Prizm #245 Taysom Hill Front
Taysom Hill, of course!
I kid, I kid. Everything I said was true about Taysom, but also about Drew Brees. I've loved watching him play since his days at Purdue. The Franchise 9 for the Saints reflects the periods of most team success. There is only one player from the early days, a few from the first few divisional title contender teams, and the most-represented era is the Sean Payton, perennial Super Bowl contender Saints.

1. Drew Brees, QB (2013 Topps Archives)

This is just a no-brainer. There is no better or more important player to ever wear a Saints uniform. Though he started as a Charger, he spent the final 15 years of his superlative career in New Orleans. How important was he to the team? Well, Pro Football Reference has his Approximate Value at almost double the next guy on the team's list. His career weighted AV ranks third in the NFL (behind Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, just ahead of Jerry Rice). As a Saint, he led the league in passing yardage seven times, completion percentage six times, passing touchdowns four times, and passer rating twice. It's a shame that he didn't get as much recognition as contemporaries Brady, Manning, and Aaron Rodgers. For a career that placed him in the top two in many passing categories, Brees never won MVP, wasn't named to an All-Decade Team, and was only an All-Pro once. Nevertheless, he is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever to play. He'll be enshrined in Canton as soon as he is eligible.

2. Archie Manning, QB (1982 Topps)

Archie Manning held most of the team passing records that Drew Brees broke. Taken with the second overall pick in the 1971 draft, he was the first real star for the franchise. He played well enough to earn a pair of Pro Bowl berths in his career, but he didn't have much talent surrounding him. To wit, the team was so bad that his winning percentage as a starter was a paltry .271. But he does get credit for being The Man in New Orleans for 11 years. 

3. Marques Colston, WR (2007 Donruss Classics)

Marques Colston holds all the Saints' receiving records by a large margin. His total of 9,759 receiving yards is better than the next person by almost 2,000 yards; 711 catches by almost 200; and his 71 touchdowns by about 20. Being Drew Brees's favorite target for ten years will help your climb in the record books.

4. Jahri Evans, G (2010 Topps Gold)

Of all of Brees's bodyguards, Evans was the most solid. He ranks 3rd on the team's all-time AV list. A four-time first-team All-Pro, Evans was the gold standard interior lineman from 2009-2014. He won't be eligible for the Hall of Fame until next year, but I would expect him to make it in someday.

5. William Roaf, T (1993 Upper Deck)

Willie Roaf was a top-10 draft pick in 1993 and made an immediate impact with the Saints. In 1994, he was named 1st-team All-Pro, then again in 1995. From 1994 to 2000, he made seven consecutive Pro Bowls and added three 2nd-team All-Pros to his resume. He was selected to two All-Decade teams, though the 2000s team was because of his work with the Chiefs. He finished his career in Kansas City, but he entered the Hall of Fame as a Saint in 2012.

6. Cameron Jordan, DE (2016 Score)

Cameron Jordan is a player who I feel has flown a little bit under the radar throughout his career. He did receive honors as a member of the 2010s All-Decade Team and he is second on the Saints' career sack list, but he has only been named to one All-Pro team. Jordan has been a consistent Pro Bowler, however, receiving seven nominations in his career, including in each of the past five seasons. He's still on the roster and almost certain to keep making big contributions for the franchise.

7. Pat Swilling, LB (1992 Fleer)

The last three selections for this team are all linebackers for the famed Saints' Dome Patrol of the late 80s and early 90s. Combining with Vaughan Johnson, these guys made up one of the greatest linebacking corps in NFL history. Pat Swilling was an edge-rushing outside linebacker who picked up 76.5 sacks (3rd on team) and forced 24 fumbles (2nd on team) in his career. He made five Pro Bowls, two 1st-team All-Pros, and two 2nd-Teams. In 1991, he took home NFL Defensive Player of the Year honors after leading the league with 17 sacks.

8. Rickey Jackson, LB (1991 Fleer)

Rickey Jackson was the edge-rusher opposite Swilling. Put simply, Jackson was a disruptive force for the Saints. His 123 sacks, 1,104 tackles, and 38 forced fumbles lead all Saints defenders. In fact, he led the league in forced fumbles four times. It's not often that a player finds himself atop both the sacks and tackles categories. He was never named to the All-Pro 1st-team, but he took a spot on the 2nd-team five times. In 2010, he became the first player to enter the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a New Orleans Saint.

9. Sam Mills, LB (1991 Upper Deck)

Sam Mills was the soul of the Dome Patrol crew. Anchoring the middle, the diminutive Mills finished his Saints career second on the team with 894 tackles. While with the Saints, Mills made four Pro Bowls and two 2nd-team All-Pro teams. Just last week, he was part of the most recent Hall of Fame class. Interestingly, the Dome Patrol seemed to break up all at once. Swilling left in 1993, followed by Jackson and Johnson in 1994, and Mills joined the expansion Panthers in 1995.

I have to admit: this was a difficult team for me. There were few slam-dunk picks here and a bevy of above-average players who were right on the bubble. Players like Deuce McAllister, Mark Ingram, and Danny Abramowicz received consideration. Wayne Martin, who played defensive end in front of the Dome Patrol linebackers, was on the shortlist. The toughest exclusion was kicker Morten Andersen, however. I still am feeling a strong urge to replace Manning with Morten, but it's hard to leave the first face of the franchise off the list. As I write this, however, I'm strongly considering changing the cards out on the page. What do you all think?
Also, we are down to just one more franchise in this series!
Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Friday, February 11, 2022

Blog-Influenced Trades

The award for most brain-breaking confusing set in 2021 has to go to Wild Card's NFL draft set. There is a hobby set--which may or may not be all serial-numbered and has either 20 or 70 cards in the checklist. Then there are not one, but two different retail products--one white and one black. No, they are not parallels inserted in the same boxes. You can buy packs and boxes of black or white. There are a few insert sets, but they come in few different colors. The problem is that Wild Card has yet to release a checklist for these sets. Not only that, they haven't even clarified what the different color variations are. I wrote about my experience with this set back in November. It's still a mess, without even enough information out there to put everything from the release on TCDB yet.

Yet there is a certain BYU phenom quarterback in the set who demands my attention. So a few months ago, when Matt at Cards Over Coffee showed his blaster break of Wild Card White, I recognized that the Zach Wilson he pulled was different from mine because I had purchased Black. The reverse was true for his Giant rookie Kadarius Toney and mine. We worked out a trade. I may be slow in posting this, but here is what I received from Matt.

In typical blogger trading fashion, Matt threw in a few unexpected cards, too. There were two more ZWs, a KB, a Babe, and Yogi. 

That's not the only trade I've made that has been influenced by this blog recently, though. A couple of weeks ago, I received a trade proposal on TCDB from a user called "abide." The proposal included a note that said he had read my blog for the first time that day and wanted to trade.

He asked for a Jo Adell Black Gold insert from this year's Update. He offered these cards in return, but said that the Adell was a valuable card and I could adjust the trade if I wanted. It's funny how relative value can be in cards, because these three are worth far more to me than that Adell. In particular, I was eager to add the Derek Jeter coin, which leaves just one more to polish off the complete set.

Our trade extended beyond those four cards, though. On my end, I also received these from blog reader/TCDBer abide. The Chipper Mint and Cal and Desmond Topps 206 are set needs, and the Cooperstown Village card knocks off the set for me.

Those weren't the only trades returns to come my way this month, though. I've completed a handful of other TCDB trades, too. These scans come from user clay. He helped me add some former Cougars, some All-Decade performers, and four more toward my 2013 Opening Day build.

These came from a trade with FinalStopShop. My favorite card of this bunch (and there are some great ones) is the Topps Total Saints card, which is my first featuring former BYU linebacker Colby Bockwoldt. I learned something I hadn't known before from this card: Bockwoldt went from 7th round pick in 2004 to leading the Saints in tackles in 2005. I didn't know he had ever led the team.

A lot of really cool cards came from nkandy11. Richard Seymour and Steve Young are serial-numbered. I'm loving the Press Pass Steve Hutchinson, primarily because I don't have many cards of Hutchinson alone. Most are Topps Total with other linemen. The two Tom Pacioreks are for my All-Star collection and the accompanying All-Star Frankenset. But the star of the show is obviously the Big Z auto, my first of his.

Steelers fan Wudu44 sent me some great Heisman winners in college. The quartet of BYU players in the NFL is so great, I don't know which is my favorite. The sleek Sterling Van Noy rookie or his celebration with the ball? I can't overlook J-Swag Daddy with the Packers, either. The bottom scan is just extras that he sent along.

OfficerZero sent some cards commemorating Heisman awards and some cool mid-90s cards.

I had a small trade with NetScans that netted me some needs from my most recent set build, 1994 Finest, and the penultimate Wal-Mart Marketside for my set. Also in this scan is Dane Iorg, who not only attended BYU, but his brother, Garth, and two of his sons have all played ball for the Cougs.

The last two were small trades with jamestagli and kcjays. The two BYU legends from jamestagli are my favorites. For anybody who hasn't heard, Shawn Bradley had a bicycle-automobile accident last February and was paralyzed as a result. This was just three or four months before former Jazz center Mark Eaton was killed after being hit by a car on his bike. Both accidents occurred in Utah, marking a tragic, oddly coincidental stretch of time for retired, big post players in the Utah basketball scene.

That was a lot of small trades to show. There was a lot of variety coming in, but I am most pleased to see there was a healthy smattering of set needs added. I'm also happy that there were both blogger trades and trades with blog readers. I have few more trades in the works right now, too. There will be more to show soon.

Wednesday, February 9, 2022

The Franchise 9: Cincinnati Bengals


Poor Bengals. This is a team that played in two Super Bowls, but had to face Joe Montana both times. I just recently watched a fun series on examining what if certain moments had gone differently in NFL history. The analysts concluded that if Dwight Clark had not come down with "The Catch" in the 1981 NFC title game, the Bengals could have beaten the Cowboys in their first Super Bowl. The second time, Super Bowl XXIII, the Bengals were led by league MVP Boomer Esiason and almost came away victorious. They were on the wrong end of one of Montana's finest performances, an 11-play, 92-yard drive capped by a touchdown pass to John Taylor with 39 seconds left. Then the Bengals entered one of the worst decades for a team in NFL history. They held the top pick in the draft 3 times from 1992 to 2003. They earned a top-10 pick in all but two of those 12 drafts, and had 7 top-5 picks in that span. They used them on such superstars as David Klingler, Ki-Jana Carter, Akili Smith, and Peter Warrick. The team finally started to turn around in 2003, with the help of #1 overall draft pick Carson Palmer and new coach Marvin Lewis. Since that time, they have made the playoffs seven times, winning the division four of those times, but never made it back to another Super Bowl. 

Until now. In just a few days, they will face off against the Rams for all the marbles. Bengals fans hope Joe Burrow can take them to their first championship. In the meantime, we'll look back at the top nine players from the Bengals. Not surprisingly, every player here either played for the Super Bowl teams or under Marvin Lewis. When the Bengals have been bad, they've been really, really bad.

1. Ken Anderson, QB (1984 Topps)

Anderson spent 16 years with the Bengals. In that time he became the franchise's all-time leader in every passing category. His 32,838 passing yards still have not been surpassed. He was a four-time Pro Bowler and one-time All-Pro and took home the NFL MVP in 1981. The "What If" segment of "The Catch" on speculated that a Super Bowl victory in Super Bowl XVI would have solidified his candidacy for the Hall of Fame.

2. Andy Dalton, QB (2016 Score Signal Callers Gold)

Dalton joined the Bengals as a 2nd-round pick in 2011 and proceeded to become the Bengals' signal-caller for the rest of the 2010 decade. In nine years for the Bengals, the Red Rifle became the franchise leader in touchdown passes (204),  passer rating (87.5), and moved into second place behind Anderson in passing yardage (31,594). He was selected to three Pro Bowls.

3. Boomer Esiason, QB (1990 Score)

Boomer came thisclose to leading the Bengals to a Super Bowl victory. This was following his MVP-winning regular season, one of his four Pro Bowl seasons. Esiason is third place on the franchise list in yardage, touchdowns, and passer rating. His 106 AV is fifth all-time for the Bengals.

4. A.J. Green, WR (2011 Score)

Dalton was the team's 2nd-rounder in 2011. A.J. Green was their 1st-rounder that same year. That's not a bad 1-2 punch to land in a draft. Green ranks second in franchise annals in receptions, yards, and receiving touchdowns. He is first in those categories per game. Though he sat out all of 2019 with an injury, if he can keep his current pace for another couple of seasons, he would become the franchise leader in all of those categories. He has made the Pro Bowl in seven of his nine seasons.

5. Chad Johnson, WR (2009 Score) 

Chad "Ochocinco" Johnson is the one guy in front of Green in all of those categories. With the Bengals, Ochocinco caught 751 passes for 10,783 yards and 66 touchdowns. He was a six-time Pro Bowler and two-time All-Pro and could find himself in Canton in the next few years.

6. Anthony Munoz, T (1991 Pro Set)

For my money, Anthony Munoz is the greatest Bengal ever. He is the only Bengal enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He played 13 seasons in the NFL, all in Cincinnati. His 174 AV is tops in Bengal history and his 133 weighted AV is 21st among all players in NFL history. He made the Pro Bowl in 11 of those 13 years and was named an All-Pro an astounding nine times. He's a member of the 1980s All-Decade Team, the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and was the only unanimously selected tackle of the NFL's All-Time Team earlier this year. No one has ever done it better than Munoz.

7. Andrew Whitworth, T (2017 Panini Phoenix Streaking Success)

Andrew Whitworth played 11 seasons in Cincinnati. During that time, he made the Pro Bowl four times and was an All-Pro twice. In all honesty, this was a tough decision because fellow tackle Willie Anderson had a nearly identical resume. Anderson actually played one more season and had a higher AV than Whitworth, but Whitworth's higher AV per game indicates he (maybe) was a bigger factor in the Bengals' wins. Really it was just splitting hairs, as both players would be deserving.

8. Geno Atkins, DT (2015 Donruss)

Geno Atkins became the first Bengal since Anthony Munoz to be named to an All-Decade Team when the Pro Football Hall of Fame announced its official 2010s All-Decade Team in April. Atkins has spent his entire ten-year career with the Bengals, making the Pro Bowl in all but two of those years. He is second on the team in career sacks with 75.5, fifth in forced fumbles with eight. Not bad for a defensive tackle whose primary job description is to stop the run. Mix in a pair of All-Pro selections, and the Bengals fared pretty well with their 2010 fourth-round pick.

9. Ken Riley, CB (1979 Topps)

Ken Riley has almost double the interceptions of the next guy on the Bengals' list (Riley's 65 to Louis Breeden's 33). He played his entire career, from 1969 to 1983, in tiger stripes. Oddly enough, despite the great player that he was, he mostly worked in anonymity; he never made the Pro Bowl and his lone All-Pro selection came in the last year of his career.  He still ranks fifth in NFL history for picks. The only players ahead of him are Paul Krause, Emlen Tunnell, Rod Woodson, and Night Train Lane, with Charles Woodson tied. Can somebody explain how he put together that career without a single Pro Bowl berth? How about some Hall of Fame consideration for this guy?

As with every team, there were some difficult decisions to make here. Like many other teams, the players tend to be grouped by eras, showing the ebb and flow of the team's success. In Cincinnati's case, the success is modest. The Bengals have never been a dominant team, even during their best years. But it appears a new chapter is starting. How long before Joe Burrow, Jamarr Chase, and Trey Hendrickson make a case for their consideration among Cincinnati's all-time best? They're off to a good start so far.

Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!

Monday, February 7, 2022

The Franchise 9: Pittsburgh Steelers

Note: I'm a hack! I started writing this post on Thursday. On Saturday, ran a piece on the Top 15 Steelers to mark Ben Roethlisberger's retirement. Our lists are different, so it was an interesting read. But the timing of this post with that article was entirely coincidental.
Outside of the New England Tom Bradys, the Pittsburgh Steelers are the most successful franchise in the Super Bowl Era. They have made eight trips to the big game, under three head coaches with three different quarterbacks, behind only New England's 11. Their six wins are tied with the Patriots for most Super Bowl wins by a franchise. What separates the Steelers from the Patriots in this regard is the fact that Pittsburgh is the only team to play in the Super Bowl at least in every decade from the 1970s to the 2010s. They missed out on the first three Super Bowls (the 60s) and have yet to make it in the first three games this decade. Other than that, they have represented the AFC in every decade. As a result, the Hall of Fame is loaded with Steelers. There were some great players left off of this list, but even with all the talent cast aside, this team would be one of the best Franchise 9 teams you could find.

1. Terry Bradshaw, QB (2014 Topps Valor)

At first glance, Terry Bradshaw's stats don't jump off the page. He's second on the Steelers' all-time passing list, but his yardage total has been more than doubled by the next guy on this list. His career 70.9 passer rating would get him fired in today's game. But his record as the team's QB was 107-51, good for a gaudy .677 percentage and an average of 11 wins per season. And let's not forget the 4-0 Super Bowl record. No, by today's standards, his numbers look pedestrian, but in his time he was a three-time Pro Bowl, MVP-winning, All-Pro superstar.

2. Ben Roethlisberger, QB (2013 Topps Strata)

Big Ben just announced his retirement a week ago. We've seen the last of the Steelers' all-time leading passer. He spent the entirety of his career in Black and Gold, winning two Super Bowls while passing for 64,088 yards and 418 TDs. He was voted to six Pro Bowls and took home the Rookie of the Year award.

3. Franco Harris, RB (1983 Topps)

With 11,950 yards, Franco Harris has rushed for more yards than any other Steeler ever. With 100 touchdowns (91 rushing, 9 receiving), he has spent more time in the end zone than any other Steeler. In his career, Harris was selected to six Pro Bowls, one All-Pro team, a Rookie of the Year award, one Super Bowl MVP, the 1970s- All-Decade Team, and the Hall of Fame. He is the most prolific running back in Pittsburgh history.

4. Mike Webster, C (1984 Topps)

Mike Webster is arguably the gold standard for centers in the NFL. He spent the first 15 seasons of his career in Pittsburgh, garnering five 1st-Team All-Pro nods and nine Pro Bowls. He played his way onto not one, but two different All-Decade Teams. And, of course, he has a bust in Canton now. Last year, when the NFL announced its 100th Anniversary Team, Webster was one of the centers.

5. Joe Greene, DT (1980 Topps)

"Mean" Joe Greene is one of only two Steelers to ever have his number retired. (The other is old-timer Ernie Stautner, #70.) Arguably the heart and soul of the Steelers' Steel Curtain defense, and even the entire four-time Super Bowl champion team of the 70s, Greene was an absolutely dominant force on the defensive line. He was either a Pro Bowler or an All-Pro in each of the first 10 seasons of his career. From the very beginning, he was bringing home awards, winning Defensive Rookie of the Year in 1969. He won Defensive Player of the Year in 1972 and 1974. He was a shoo-in to the Hall of Fame and the NFL All-Time Team. And he spent his entire career with the Steelers.


6. Jack Ham, LB (2013 Panini Prizm Decade Dominance)

The only Pittsburgh defender with more approximate value than Joe Greene is Jack Ham, according to Pro Football Reference. From 1974-1979, Ham reeled off six straight All-Pro seasons, book-ended by a pair of Pro Bowl berths. Like teammates Bradshaw, Harris, Webster, and Greene, Ham played his way onto the All-Decade Team of the 1970s--and into Canton. Oh, and last year he was named to the NFL's All-Time Team.


7. Jack Lambert, LB (1982 Topps)

Another Steeler, another spot on the 1970s All-Decade Team. That's six on this list. And to think I left some off... But anyway, let's talk about Jack Lambert. Lambert managed not only to play his way onto the All-70s team, but the All-Decade 1980s team, too. Like Greene, Lambert started his career with a Defensive Rookie of the Year award in 1974. Two seasons later, he graduated to Defensive Player of the Year, also earning the first of his six All-Pro nominations that year. Since his career ended, he has been honored with an induction to the Hall of Fame and a spot on the NFL's All-Time Team. That makes two linebackers from the same corps, on the field together, both considered among the top 12 to ever play. That makes three from the Steel Curtain of the 70s defense all on that team. (And I left one off this list!)


8. Troy Polamalu, S (2015 Topps Chrome)

Looking at the statistics, Troy Polamalu falls below a few defensive backs in Steeler history. When the relative shortness of his career is considered, however, Polamalu stands out as having the third-best AV/Game among Pittsburgh DBs. I take that stat as a measure of a player's explosiveness and a way to separate higher-impact players with shorter careers from accumulators who played forever. Polamalu was an explosive, high-impact player. For example, he had 39 takeaways (interceptions and fumble recoveries) in his career and he returned 7 of them for touchdowns. In 12 seasons, he was named eight Pro Bowls and four AP All-Pro First Teams (and two 2nd-Team All-Pro), with a Defensive Player of the Year award in 2010. He was an All-Decade performer and a first-ballot Hall of Famer. But what really sets Polamalu apart is his star power. I've never seen a safety more well-known and recognizable than he has been.

9. Rod Woodson, CB (1991 Upper Deck)

Ho-hum, just another Steeler who found a place on the NFL's 100th Anniversary All-Time Team. Rod Woodson developed a reputation as a playmaker in his 17-year NFL career. The first 10 of those years, Woodson was making plays for the Black and Gold. Woodson's an interesting study here because his first All-Pro nod came when he led the NFL in kick return average and touchdowns in 1989. He may have made his first splash as a returner, but in four of the next five seasons, Woodson made the same team as a cornerback. In 1993, his eight picks and a touchdown led him to the Defensive Player of the Year award. Woodson was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2009.

I feel this team has all the star power it needs, but the opinions will probably vary on it. That's just what will happen when a number of Hall of Famers are left off of a franchise's all-time greats list. For the record, these are the Hall of Fame players who did not make the cut here: Mel Blount, Donnie Shell, John Stallworth, Lynn Swann, Dermontti Dawson, Alan Faneca, and Jerome Bettis. Add to that list All-Decade performers such as L.C. Greenwood, Carnell Lake, Levon Kirkland, Antonio Brown, and Joey Porter. Most teams would have solid performers like Greg Lloyd (arguably should have been an All-1990s guy), Hines Ward (has a solid case as a better receiver than the two Hall of Famers in franchise history), James Harrison, or Cameron Heyward easily on this list. But not Pittsburgh. This is the most storied, consistent franchise in the Super Bowl Era and there are only nine slots. I'm dying to hear your own list. Make yourself heard in the comments!



Some notes on this series:

  1. This includes Super Bowl Era players only.
  2. The "nine" in Franchise 9 is to fill a page in a binder. There is no intent to fill a roster or even a starting lineup.
  3. A player can represent multiple teams.
  4. I tried to find a balance between steady producers with longevity and explosive players with shorter careers. Time with the team does count for something, as does impact with the team.
  5. For a link to Franchise 9 lists that I have already posted, click here.
  6. This is all subjective, so I'd love to hear whom you would choose!