It is no secret that the Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the most heralded and highly-regarded organizations in NFL history, which can be said about the AFC North franchise both many years ago and at the present moment. Currently tied with the New England Patriots for the most Super Bowl titles of all time, the six-time Super Bowl Champion Steelers have reached a total of eight NFL title games in all since the 1970 merger.
Even while finding the majority of the team’s success in terms of Super Bowl titles throughout the 1970s and a bit more recently, the Steelers managed to remain relevant over the course of both the 1980s and 1990s as well.
While employing superstar-caliber players during this time has certainly helped, it is impossible to achieve the amount of success that the Steelers have without assembling well-rounded and uber talented rosters from top to bottom. With that no doubt being the case in Pittsburgh, the Steelers have had more than a few notable role players call the “Steel City” home, even if some of these players are often forgotten during conversations about the famed black and yellow. Whether it was because of more famous players around them during their time with the franchise or immense success at the professional level outside of Pittsburgh, there is quite the laundry list of forgotten Steelers that would make just about any NFL fan’s head turn when mentioned in the year 2020.
Rashard Mendenhall, RB (2008 – 2012)
Even though NFL running backs often serve as one of the focal points on offense, the same position if often forgotten about when it comes to receiving a massive pay day. However, in the case of former Pittsburgh Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall, a brief — yet successful — NFL career is what usually leads fans to forget about his impact atop the highest level. A first round NFL Draft pick out of Illinois back in 2008, Mendenhall spent the first five seasons of his NFL career as a member of the Steelers before playing one season for the Arizona Cardinals. Fulfilling the requirements of his rookie contract before eventually moving on to Arizona, Mendenhall was on the Steelers team when Pittsburgh won a Super Bowl title in 2008-09. Mendenhall was also a part of the team’s AFC Championship squad that came up just short in 2010-11. It is also worth noting that Mendenhall rushed for at least 1,000 yards twice as a member of the Steelers while even scoring an impressive 13 rushing touchdowns in 2010-11.
Michael Vick, QB (2015)
Of course, longtime NFL quarterback Michael Vick did not have his best years in black and yellow as he is one of the more memorable players in Atlanta Falcons history, not many people tend to remember that the former superstar was a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers in 2015-16. Ending his NFL playing career with the Steelers after a lengthy stint with the aforementioned Falcons and more abbreviated stints with the Philadelphia Eagles and New York Jets, Vick went on to appear in five games for Pittsburgh en route to making three starts. During that time, which came as a result of an injury to starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, Vick threw for 371 yards, two touchdowns and one interception to coincide with 99 yards rushing on 20 attempts. Although his impact in Pittsburgh wasn’t tremendous, the Steelers are typically the one team that fans forget Vick played for during his illustrious — and troubled — NFL playing career.
Antwaan Randle El, WR (2002 – 2005, 2010)
Because of the amount of quality pass catchers that the Pittsburgh Steelers have housed over the course of the last 20 years, wide receiver Antwaan Randle El is often left out of the conversation, one that typically involves the likes of Hines Ward, Antonio Brown, Mike Wallace, Santonio Holmes, Plaxico Burress and several others. Nonetheless, Randle El, who infamously had the ability to play quarterback as well, served as a reliable target during his time in the “Steel City.” Also serving as a talented special teamer and return specialist, Randle El most notably helped lead the Steelers to a Super Bowl title in 2005-06 while going on to reach another Super Bowl with the AFC North franchise upon returning to the fold in 2010-11. On an individual level, his best single-season effort for the Steelers came during that 2005-06 regular season as Randle El tallied 16 appearances, 15 starts, 35 receptions, 69 targets, 558 receiving yards and one touchdown. Even with bigger names surrounding him, Randle El’s durability and ability to step up when needed made him somewhat of a household name for a few years.
Dwayne Woodruff, DB (1979 – 1990)
Longtime Pittsburgh Steelers defensive back Dwayne Woodruff went on to spend his entire NFL playing career as a member of the heralded franchise. A Super Bowl Champion that never really received too much praise on an inidivual level, Woodruff still managed to stand out as a ball hawk and turnover-creating machine en route to producing 37 career interceptions and four fumble recoveries. Spending more than a decade in Pittsburgh, it is not often that Woodruff receives that praise that he deserves as former Steelers players at more publicized positions regularly stole more than their fair share of the spotlight. Even so, Woodruff still managed to stand out enough to become the Steelers’ 1982-93 team MVP and a Super Bowl XIV Champion when all was said and done.
Mike Vrabel, LB (1997 – 2000)
Known for his time helping build a dynasty with the New England Patriots before eventually becoming the ever-popular head coach of the Tennessee Titans, longtime NFL linebacker Mike Vrabel notably began his professional playing career with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Before going on to suit up for both the Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, Vrabel landed in Pittsburgh as a third round NFL Draft pick out of the famed Ohio State. Spending a total of three seasons in Pittsburgh, Vrabel didn’t do all that much for the Steelers, though he was part of a team that nearly reached the Super Bowl as a rookie. Of course, Vrabel went on to do great things outside of Pittsburgh, a team that typically knows how to develop top-notch defensive players.