In a franchise that has six Super Bowl titles to its name, as well as years and years of being one of the most successful franchises in the NFL, fans are drawn to names as well as players for that team.
So it comes to no surprise that when it comes to trying to figure out 25 players who are the most popular in the history of the team, it’s not an easy process.
There’s been plenty of great players but maybe some that are not as popular as others, but we’ve done our best to look in the past as well as the present to figure out what players deserve as spot on our top 25.
Feel free to leave a comment if you think we missed a player, or if there is a player you think isn’t popular enough to have deserved a spot on the list.
Here we go with the “25 Most Popular Pittsburgh Steelers Players of All-Time.”
25. Antonio Brown
We start the list with a firecracker, a player who some feel should’t ever be mentioned with the words “popular” and “Steeler” in the same sentence. Brown left the team after not being able to get along and play well with others, and has bounced around and now resides with Tom Brady and Tampa.
No one can deny his success in Pittsburgh, as in his time with the franchise he caught 841 passes in 131 games with 75 touchdowns. It’s just a shame that he and the team couldn’t see eye to eye to keep the relationship going.
24. Cam Heyward
The current captain of the Steelers defense, the former first-round pick has been the leader of the D for the last few seasons as he’s matured into a star player.
Already in his 10th season, Heyward inked a long-term deal this past offseason and will be in a Steelers uniform for a long time to come, and it is hard to think of this popular defensive linemen not finishing his career as a Steeler.
23. James Farrior
Farrior didn’t start his career as a Steeler, but played his last 10 seasons in black and gold, and the Steleers got the best of his career as he was a force at the left inside linebacker spot.
Always willing to waive a Terrible Towel during intros, Farrior was a big hit on the field and with the fans, making plays and during the team’s historic 2008 Super Bowl run he put up 133 tackles with 3.5 sacks.
He retired wearing black and gold, which even more endured him to Steeler Nation.
22. Ryan Shazier
A player’s career which was cut way too short, Ryan Shazier will always be remembered for what he did on the field, and supporting Steeler Nation off of it.
He only was able to play four seasons after being a first-round pick back in 2014, but was on the verge of being the next great Steelers inside linebacker who flew around and made plays making big hits and chasing down ball carriers.
Shazier can at times still be seen at Steeler games, and his story is such that people still hold him as one of the most popular Steelers in history.
21. Louis Lipps
In 8 seasons from 1984 to 1991, Steeler fans loved the chant of “LOOOUUUU” on Sunday afternoons when Lipps made big catches and at times even bigger punt returns.
Lipps was a rookie of the year in 84, a rookie season that saw him make 45 catches with nine touchdowns. He was beloved by fans, and his breakout season in 84 was followed by an even bigger 1985 when he had 12 scores and 1134 yards.
Many today don’t think of Lipps as one of the best all-time Steeler receivers, but he should get more credit for his very good career.
20. Jack Ham
Put into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, many feel that Ham may be the most underrated Steelers linebacker in team history.
He played in 162 games during his Steeler career, starting 160, and in that time put up 32 interceptions and 21 fumbles recovered. It’s not uncommon to see a Ham #59 jersey pop up at a Steelers game today as fans still appreciate what he brought to the team during its run in the 1970’s.
19. John Stallworth
Stallworth makes the list as fans loved his no-nonsense, quiet style of play where he simply went out and made plays, never one to make headlines with his mouth.
He’ll always be remembered for his two massive catches during the last Steelers Super Bowl of the 1970’s in a win over the Rams, one going for a touchdown and another setting up a score that put the game away.
He also made a ton of other catches, 537 to be exact with 63 scores, and his life after football has seen him be successful as well as a businessman in the Pittsburgh area.
18. Heath Miller
It was not uncommon to hear a loud yelp of “HHEEAATTHHH” at Heinz Field or whatever stadium the Steelers were playing in on any given Sunday when one of Big Ben’s favorite targets, tight end Heath Miller, made a catch.
A first-round pick in 2005, Miller played all 11 seasons with the black and gold, and in his best career in 2012 caught 71 passes with eight scores. Even today when a tight end catches a pass, at times you can hear fans STILL yell Miller’s first name.
17. Kevin Greene
Greene was only with the Steelers from 1993 through 1995, and the final game of his Steeler career was a loss in Super Bowl XXX, but he still to this day ranks as one of the very favorite players of many Steeler fans worldwide.
His energy and charisma he brought to the defense took it to another level upon his arrival in free agency, and combined with fellow outside linebacker Greg Lloyd made the Steelers linebackers the most feared in the NFL.
Greene earned his place in the Hall of Fame a few years back, and came back to Heinz Field on a rainy Sunday night to get honored by Steeler Nation – and to hear the fans cheers one more time.
16. Franco Harris
More than one Steeler of the 70’s has said that the team would never have won four Super Bowls if not for the drafting of Franco Harris.
He rushed for over 12,000 yards and 91 scores in his 12 seasons with the Steelers, and created an army – “Franco’s Italian Army.”
Harris also will forever be remembered for making the most memorable play in Steeler and NFL history, catching the “Immaculate Reception” and racing for a score in a playoff win over the rival Raiders.
15. Mike Webster
The rock of the Steelers offensive line at the center spot from 1974 to 1988, Webster was one of the draft choices in the historic 1974 draft that saw the Steelers draft four future Hall of Famers.
Webster never missed a game, and was known for coming out in sub-zero temps wearing short sleeved shirts and never showing any weakness.
The end of Webster’s life might have been filled with sadness, but while one of the true warriors of the game, Steeler fans worldwide simply loved what “Iron Mike” bought to the team each week.
14. Kordell Stewart
Stewart, known as “Slash,” had a rather up and down career with the Steelers, but when he was at his best in 1995, 96, 97 and 2001, he was a player who fans loved and took the NFL by storm.
Nicknamed “Slash” by coach Bill Cowher for his willingness to play more than one position, Stewart was drafted as a QB but the team already had someone for that spot in Neil O’Donnell.
He instead started to play wide receiver, and in the Super Bowl year of 1995 he played at QB, WR, running back, and even punted in a playoff game against the Bills.
His best year was 1997 when he put up 32 total touchdowns (21 passing, 11 rushing). He bounced back in 2001 to lead the team to the AFC Title game after going 13-3 in the regular season.
13. Greg Lloyd
When on the field, Greg Lloyd might have had the meanest stare in the NFL. Never one to mince words or shy away from a fight, his no-nonsense attitude is what made him one of the most popular Steelers during his tenure in black and gold.
He played with the Steelers from 1988 to 1997, and along with Kevin Greene was the best 1-2 linebacker punch in the NFL from 1993 to 1995.
Lloyd still is a player who gets mentioned as one of the more popular in team history, as Steeler Nation always loves their defense – and more so their linebackers.
12. Rocky Bleier
One of the great stories in NFL history, Rocky Bleier is so popular for what he did on and off the field serving the country in Vietnam.
The team, specifically owner Art Rooney, asked Bleier to return to the team despite being wounded in the war, and after months of rehab on his leg he finally was able to get back on the field, overcoming the odds and enduring himself to Steeler fans everywhere.
It paid off, as he won titles with the Steelers, and he rushed for 3865 yards and 23 touchdowns in 11 total seasons in Pittsburgh.
11. Ben Roethlisberger
The QB who was almost run out of town back in 2010 after there were allegations against him by a pair of women, now “Big Ben” is one of the most beloved Steelers in the history of the franchise.
That’s what winning and setting plenty of team records will do, and while there’s plenty of work to be done, he’s on pace in 2020 to lead the team to another Super Bowl.
Roethlisberger has changed and matured over the years, and now in his 16th season he’s 151-71-1 as quarterback of the franchise.
He’s a future Hall of Fame QB, and while the jury is out if he will bring the franchise another title, he’s worked his way back into the hearts of fans.
10. Mel Blount
You know you’ve made an impact on the game when they make a rule change in your name. That’s exactly the case with Mel Blount and the “Mel Blount rule” that no longer allows corners to hit receivers past five yards without drawing a penalty.
Blount was a true hard hitter who Steeler fans adored, and he to this day is held as one of the great defensive backs in NFL history.
A true black and gold legend and one that Steeler fans still love to this day.
9. James Harrison
Like Greg Lloyd, Jack Ham and others, James Harrison is one of those players when he’s not on your team, you hate him.
When he was in black and gold – he was loved.
Harrison was an enemy of Roger Goodell and the front offices of the NFL, making hits nearly weekly that drew fines, but being that “underdog” is what drew him to Steeler fans even more.
He will also be remembered for one of, if not the greatest play, in Super Bowl history, when he took a pass from HOF QB Kurt Warner back 100 yards for a score on the final play of the first half of Super Bowl XLIII.
Harrison left the Steelers for the Patriots in a somewhat messy divorce in 2017, but don’t let that fool you, he’ll go down as a card carrying member of Steeler Nation.
8. Lynn Swann
One of the most athletic wide outs in the history of the franchise, Swann was the first player drafted by the Steelers in that history making 1974 draft.
Swann was known for big plays in big moments, including the Super Bowl when he made a couple highlight reel plays against the Cowboys in two wins against them.
He caught 51 touchdowns in eight seasons, and after just 11 catches in his rookie year, he and Terry Bradshaw finally got on the same page, and stayed on it till Swann made it to the Hall of Fame, much to the happiness of Steeler Nation.
7. Hines Ward
Passion is a word that is easy to use when describing future Hall of Fame wide out Hines Ward, mostly due to the fact he played with it on each and every play.
Ward was the team’s best wide out for a number of years, and led the team to a win in Super Bowl XL, taking home the MVP for his memorable touchdown catch that clinched the win.
He pulled in over 1000 catches in his stellar career, and when given the option to go play elsewhere, he instead decided to retire.
Ward’s #86 can be seen at Heinz Field on a regular basis, and many think that he under appreciated during his tenure with the Steelers coming out of Georgia.
6. Terry Bradshaw
Bradshaw and the city of Pittsburgh had a falling out after he left the game in 1983 with a bad elbow, but finally the quarterback, who was beloved like not many in the city, made his return during a 2002 Monday night game.
Fans, despite not seeing their hometown QB in years, gave him a standing ovation, and the quarterback simply let them cheer.
Bradshaw had a rocky start to his Steeler career, and the fans let him know it. But as he matured and became one of the best in history, fans came around, and many to this day sport a #12 jersey when they watch Steeler games on Sunday.
His popularity cannot be denied.
5. Joe Greene
Maybe the greatest Steelers player of all-time (that’s another discussion), Greene is held in the highest regard despite a nickname you would think would keep him off this list – “Mean.”
He’s now a family man, but if you watch the highlights below you can see just how dangerous and disruptive that Greene was during his Steelers career that saw him and the team win four Super Bowls.
Greene got into the backfield numerous times, made quarterbacks quake in their sneakers, and opposing teams come up with game plans against them.
Fans loved him, he was the original 1970’s Hall of Famer, and fans still adore “Mean” Joe, no matter where he’s at in his life now.
4. Rod Woodson
There was nothing like seeing the “Rod is God” sign displayed in Three Rivers Stadium for maybe the best cover corner in the history of the franchise (Mel Blount would have something to say about that), Rod Woodson was simply amazing.
He took over games, and when he picked off a pass or got a chance at a punt return, it was not uncommon for him to make magic.
Fans respected him for his game, his toughness, and how about 1995 when he tore his ACL in the first week trying to tackle Barry Sanders on the turf at Three Rivers Stadium, and then made a return to play in Super Bowl XXX?
Then there was the 1993 Woodson, who was the NFL Defensive player of the year, putting on a show each week.
Fans loved their defense, and Woodson has to be right at the top of that list.
3. Jack Lambert
From the vampire like teeth, to the menacing way he would take down the opposition, Jack Lambert played every down of his NFL career like it was his last.
Never once to mince words, Lambert let his play on the field do the talking quite often, but he also was not afraid to let an opponent know that he was going to make it a long day for them.
With his own fan club known as “Lambert’s Lunatics,” the linebacker from Kent State who was deemed too small and not physical enough to make it in the NFL proved everyone wrong.
It’s hard to argue with just how popular Lambert was during his playing days, but in the end he is the king among the all-time great Steelers linebackers.
2. Troy Polamalu
When the Steelers entered the 2003 NFL Draft, not many knew what to expect from the black and gold coming off a season in which they had made the playoffs, but were knocked out in the second round by the Tennessee Titans in Nashville.
The club knew they needed defensive backfield help, and also knew the player they wanted was not going to be there late enough in the first round unless they moved up – something they had NEVER done in the history of the franchise.
The defensive backfield of the Steelers boasted Lee Flowers and Brent Alexander, two marginal players who were not going to strike fear into opponents.
Pittsburgh made a call to the Kansas City Chiefs, and pulled the trigger on a deal that moved them to the 16th overall pick, sending the Chiefs their 27th pick (they took RB Larry Johnson), along with the 92nd pick (corner Julian Battle) and 200th pick (quarterback Brooks Bollinger).
The Steelers went ahead and took the player they felt could be an impact player at the safety spot, a kid from USC named Troy Polamalu.
Polamalu’s impact was not immediate, as the team struggled in 2003, but by 2004 with the team going 15-1, Polamalu was already getting a rep as one of the great safeties in the game.
Fans could sense they had a player who was special, and not only did number #43 jerseys become hard to find, but curly black wigs did as well, as fans would show up to Steeler games taking the chance to look like Troy to another level.
Polamalu played 12 years in the league, and played them hard. He had his share of injuries, but also helped the Steelers make it to the playoffs in eight of the 12 seasons he was on the roster.
He was the 2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year as he was one of the driving forces on defense that helped the Steelers get to Super Bowl XLV before losing to the Packers.
Fans wept the day he announced his retirement, knowing that the team was not just losing a great player, but a great person.
Hard to imagine anyone being anymore engaged with the fans than Polamalu, but there is one.
1. Jerome Bettis
When you think about it – this is a no-brainer.
No one in the history of the Steelers franchise has had a more tighter relationship with the fan base than running back Jerome Bettis, who oddly enough wasn’t even drafted by the Steelers when he came out of Notre Dame in 1993.
Steelers fans learned about Bettis in just his second game of his pro career playing for the Los Angeles Rams, as that day in a Rams 27-0 win in Los Angeles he rushed for 76 yards on 16 carries, including his first NFL score, a 29-yard run.
(To see that touchdown go to the 1:21:30 mark as Bettis rumbles in to make it 27-0 Rams).
Two years after being drafted by the Rams, he was on the trade block, as Rams coach Rich Brooks wanted to go away from the power running game that was installed by former Rams coach Chuck Knox.
Opportunity came knocking for the Steelers, who on draft day 1996 made a call to the Rams, and it didn’t take long for a deal to be made, sending Bettis to Pittsburgh along with a third-round pick, for the Steelers second-round pick in 1996 and fourth-round selection in 1997.
The Rams had drafted running back Lawrence Phillips, a troubled running back who lasted two years in Los Angeles, and felt they no longer needed Bettis’ services.
So on to Pittsburgh came Bettis, and it didn’t take long for fans to jump on (as late radio color man Myron Cope put it) “The Bus.”
That first season in Pittsburgh Bettis raced for 1431 yards and 11 scores as the team made the postseason only to fall in the divisional round to the Patriots.
1997 was another banner year for “The Bus,” as he led the NFL with 375 carries for 1665 yards and seven scores.
As Bettis’ career continued and the Steelers success continued as well, the team seemed at times to want to move away from their feature back, giving chances to the likes of Amos Zereoue, Duce Staley, Willie Parker and others.
No matter, Bettis kept running, and coming back to the Steel City for chances to get that one prize that alluded him his whole NFL career – a Super Bowl title.
In 2004 it looked like it would happen, the team was having a season that no one saw coming, going 15-1, and after a divisional round win over the Jets at home in overtime they hosted Tom Brady and the Patriots for a second time that season.
Bettis ran for 64 yards and a score, but the Patriots got their revenge, beating the Steelers 41-27 to move on to play the Eagles in Super Bowl XXIX.
The running back gave an emotional good-bye the next day to his teammates, but it wasn’t 100 percent certain he would be retiring.
With the Super Bowl the following season in Detroit, Bettis’ hometown, the running back said he wouldn’t be able to handle himself if the Steelers made it.
As everyone knows, the club went on a magical run going from 7-5 to 11-5, and then winning three road playoff games to send Bettis “home” to play Seattle in Super Bowl XL.
Bettis ran for 43 yards in the 21-10 win, but what was more important was getting the victory and hoisting the Lombardi trophy as he announced his retirement.
To this day Bettis, now a Hall of Famer, is still super popular among Steeler fans worldwide, more popular than any player in the history of the franchise.
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