The Pittsburgh Steelers are one of the benchmark teams in the NFL when it comes to success and continuity. The Rooney family’s franchise not only has the track record and reputation of a well-run organization, they have the rings to back it up.
Even if the past decade was nowhere close to their best, the Steelers are still only one of two teams tied for the most Super Bowl wins (six) in NFL history, the other team being the New England Patriots. And if it weren’t for a certain Tom, now in Tampa Bay, they’d be the lone king on the mountain top.
The Pennsylvania-based team did not achieve their success due to luck or the stars aligning. Although the Steelers have earned their titles through team play and great management, the franchise was indeed blessed with a few stars, especially at the quarterback position to help them achieve their success. Here are the five best quarterbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers history.
5. Bobby Layne (1958-1962, Record: 27-19-2)
The No. 3 pick in the 1948 NFL Draft, Bobby Layne spent his best years with the Detroit Lions, who he led to three NFL titles. He’d then go on to spend five years in Pittsburgh, where he played well enough to be make it to Pro Bowl two more times. And although he never made it back to the playoffs, he still had decent record as a starter. The most notable Layne anecdote is related to how he actually became a Steeler in the first place.
After winning his third championship, Layne was traded to Pittsburgh and the legend of the “Curse of Bobby Layne” was born. Rumor has it that Layne allegedly put a curse on the Lions, saying they wouldn’t win another championship for 50 years.
It’s been over 60 years and Detroit hasn’t won a title or Super Bowl since.
4. Kordell Stewart (1995-2002, Record: 46-29)
Kordell Stewart, a/k/a “Slash,” earned his moniker because when he lined up on offense, defenses didn’t know what he would do. A capable passer, running back and receiver, Stewart was a triple-threat option at quarterback who gave Pittsburgh a legitimate shot at winning.
In his best year running the show for the Steelers, Stewart led his team to the AFC Championship game, where they’d bow out to John Elway’s Denver Broncos.
Stewart would record 13,328 passing yards, throwing 70 touchdowns, and would run for 2,561 yards, adding another 35 scores for the Steelers.
3. Neil O’Donnell (1991-1995, Record: 39-22)
Not the most talented and definitely not the flashiest, Neil O’Donnell did bring one thing to the Pittsburgh Steelers: Consistency.
As their starter, O’Donnell had a quarterback rating 81.9 and only threw 39 interceptions in 66 total games. The Steelers also won 10 or more games in his years as the man under center and made the playoffs each of those four years. They made it all the way to the Super Bowl in 1995 but O’Donnell would have a night to forget, to put it lightly.
2. Terry Bradshaw (1970-1983, Record: 107-51)
Drafted No. 1 overall in 1970, Louisiana Tech alum and football deity Terry Bradshaw had the roughest start to his Pittsburgh career among everyone in the top five. The Steelers were 11-17 in his first two seasons at quarterback and he threw a mind-blowing 46 interceptions in just his first 17 games as a pro. After almost getting booed out of the league, Bradshaw had a point to prove and it was lights out from there on for the Blonde Bomber.
Bradshaw would lead the Steelers to four of their six Super Bowl wins, earning Super Bowl MVP honors twice. He was named NFL MVP in 1978 and also led the league in passing touchdowns twice, in 1978 and 1982.
Spending his entire career with the team that took him in the draft, he retired with totals of 27,989 passing yards, 212 touchdowns thrown, 2,257 rushing yards and 32 rushing touchdowns.
1. Ben Roethlisberger (2004-Present, Current record: 144-71-1)
Stats, tenure and rings. Ben Roethlisberger was firing on all-cylinders from the very first snap, going an unprecedented 13-0 his rookie year, and he’s never looked back.
Statistically, no one, not even Bradshaw, comes close. Roethlisberger has doubled Bradshaw’s passing yards and has 150 more touchdown passes. Some may say it’s the nature of the modern game, but the most telling stat is quarterback rating. Bradshaw had around a 70 rating while Roethlisberger dwarfs his with an average rating of 94 over his career.
Ben has played more seasons than his predecessor and he’s still not done. And although Bradshaw has two more titles, with his comeback in full swing, Roethlisberger still has time to catch up.