Twenty-six players got named to the NFL’s official all-time Super Bowl team. Seven played for the Steelers in the 1970s. That team’s coach, Chuck Noll, also got the nod.
The honor wasn’t diluted: 11 players on offense, 12 on defense, three specialists and one coach. The team was picked by Pro Football Hall of Fame voters.
One team composes 31 percent of the roster. None but the great, and the Steelers of the 1970s still dominated.
Some things about the all-time Super Bowl team seem odd. The New England Patriots have won four Super Bowls since 2000, but were represented only by kicker Adam Vinatieri. Vinatieri and ex-Baltimore linebacker Ray Lewis are the only picks that won a Super Bowl since the turn of the millennium. The team skews ancient.
Some of the response locally was odd. The minute the team was announced, Twitter reacted: “Criminal to leave off (John) Stallworth and (Terry) Bradshaw.” Right, because who did Joe Montana and Jerry Rice ever beat?
Stallworth and Bradshaw were great players who had great Super Bowls. Bradshaw was a two-time Super Bowl MVP. But Montana took that award thrice. Those Steelers may be the best team of all-time, but they’re not the only great team ever.
But that’s typical of Yinzer Nation: The Steelers of the 1970s have nine players in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but fans clamor for L.C. Greenwood and Andy Russell.
Greenwood and Russell were great. But that team has been immortalized enough.
The all-time Super Bowl team produced two particularly gratifying choices:
Noll is the coach. I grew up believing Noll was the greatest coach ever, and nothing that’s happened since has deterred me from that notion. Bill Belichick is the current-day version, but he’s a cheat. Noll won, and won with dignity. That concept is foreign to Belichick, and to most of today’s NFL. Noll never embarrassed himself.
Jack Ham got picked. Ham is also on the NFL’s 75th anniversary all-time team. But Ham occasionally gets short shrift, like when he was left off the NFL Network’s “Top 10 Steelers” program in favor of, among others, Hines Ward. Huh?
Ham and Lawrence Taylor are the NFL’s best outside linebackers ever. They were extremely different in style, obviously.
Only a handful of Steelers compete with Ham when you’re talking significance to the franchise. Joe Greene changed the Steelers. Mel Blount changed football. Terry Bradshaw played the money position, as does Ben Roethlisberger. Then there’s Ham.
Every Steeler selected to the all-time Super Bowl team was a relatively obvious selection: Franco Harris, Lynn Swann and Mike Webster on offense. Blount, Greene, Ham and Jack Lambert on defense.
Pittsburgh football fans live in the past far too much, especially given the Steelers’ more recent successes.
But the Steelers of the 1970s were a true juggernaut, and it’s nice to get an occasional reminder that isn’t locally manufactured.
How will players from the Steelers teams that won the 2005 and 2008 championships be remembered? Not like the team from the 1970s. Had they won the 2010 title, it closes the gap. But, with the Steelers, a mere runner-up finish doesn’t enhance.
Roethlisberger should be right up there. Troy Polamalu, too. Fan favorites like Ward, Jerome Bettis and James Harrison will be romanticized past even their very legitimate value.
But no latter-day Steelers are on the all-time Super Bowl team. Seven Steelers from the 1970s are. It’s as impressive as nostalgia gets.
Mark Madden hosts a radio show 3-6 p.m. weekdays on WXDX-FM (105.9).
Joe Montana, QB; Jay Novacek, TE; Emmitt Smith, Franco Harris, RB; Lynn Swann, Jerry Rice, WR; Mike Webster, C; Art Shell, Forrest Gregg, T; Gene Upshaw, Larry Allen, G.
Reggie White. Charles Haley, DE; Joe Greene, Randy White, DT; Lawrence Taylor, Jack Ham, OLB; Ray Lewis, Jack Lambert, ILB; Mel Blount, Deion Sanders, CB; Ronnie Lott, Jake Scott, S.
Adam Vinatieri, PK; Ray Guy, P; Desmond Howard, KR.