Greatest Player: Joe Greene
Charles Edward Greene, better known as “Mean” Joe Greene, is widely considered one of the greatest defensive linemen in NFL history. Greene was the centerpiece of the “Steel Curtain” defense that led Pittsburgh to four Super Bowl championships in a six-year span.
He was known for his leadership, fierce competitiveness, and intimidating style of play for which he earned his nickname. Standing 6-foot-4 and weighing 280 pounds, Greene was able to overpower opposing linemen with ease and completely disrupt the offense’s game plan. Besides his team success, Greene has an impressive list of individual awards: 2x Defensive Player of the Year, 6x All-Pro, 10x Pro Bowl selection. The case for Greene earning a spot on this list was pretty strong — he was the best player on one of the best defenses in NFL history.
Runner Up: Jack Lambert
Lining up amidst one of the most talented and fearsome collections of defensive football players in NFL history, perhaps no player meant more to his team’s culture and reputation than Jack Lambert. The starting middle linebacker for all four of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Super Bowl wins in the 1970’s, Lambert is considered by many to be the toughest football player of all time.
The 1,479 career tackles and 28 career interceptions simply don’t do justice to Lambert’s impact on the field. The Steelers might’ve had the “Steel Curtain” defensive line, but Lambert was the player who set the tone of the team’s defense as a whole. The 8-time All-Pro and 1976 NFL Defensive Player of the Year was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1990.
Challenger: Ben Roethlisberger
Ben Roethlisberger would probably be regarded as one of the all-time greats simply for his toughness and the difficulty defenders have in bringing down the massive man known aptly as “Big Ben.” But combine that with 3 AFC Championships, two titles, and there’s no doubt of Roethlisberger’s legacy. Hard to believe now he was was drafted tenth overall by the Steelers in 2004, with both Eli Manning and Philip Rivers being chosen before him.
But Ben has since surpassed both those players in terms of both stats and Super Bowl starts. And while Eli is clearly declining, Ben is getting better with age; in 2018 he threw for over 5,000 yards for the first time in his career along with tossing a Steelers-franchise record 34 touchdown passes.