The Pittsburgh Steelers All ‘Bust’ Team: Defense
If you missed Part One, let me review some of the ground rules.
‘Bust’ vs. Bust. This is an exercise in irony. So if you are expecting to see the Limas Sweed Story in this piece you will be deeply disappointed. To qualify for this team you have to be a success who is declared a failure before or during the time you are succeeding.
We in Steelers Nation are masters of this sort of thing. There are a number of ways this gets done. The criteria which will receive the greatest focus here will be:
- declared a failure before putting on a uniform or playing a game,
- not developing in a timely enough fashion,
- being fragile, injured too often, having personal conduct issues that supposedly disqualifies a player from receiving our support, or
- being declared washed up (old or otherwise done).
There will be something of a bias in favor of the Super Bowl era (some would say that everything Steelers prior to then is by definition a bust), and skewed even further toward the latter years of this period.
Part One detailed the offense and included two players and one coach who would end up in the HOF—Terry Bradshaw, Mike Webster and Chuck Noll. It also included a few others who have a pretty good shot of ending up there as well. Here we will take a look at the defense, which includes at least one HOF player among their ranks.
Again, a nod to Roxanna Firehall, whose All Good Guys series provided a bit of the inspiration for this effort. And speaking of irony, there is a healthy amount of overlap with many of those listed here.
4. Chris Hoke. Remembered by most as upbeat free agent reserve who entertained his teammates with his Hokey Pokey dance, many forget that he started 10 games at the nose in place of the injured Casey Hampton during arguably the most successful regular season (2004) in team history.
3. Ernie Holmes. Offended by the abuse of women and dogs? How about shooting a state trooper? Didn’t do much jail time either. Outraged? Well good luck with that. When liquored up this 8th round draft choice and 7 year veteran was feared by his own teammates, and I mean Greene, Lambert, those guys.
A mutual friend of Homer’s and mine related a rather horrifying story. He was working at an all-night hot dog joint and an inebriated Holmes came in for a snack.
Present day fans feel comfortable throwing around invectives such as ‘thug’ or ‘punk’ with the belief there won’t be consequences. Let me put it to you this way—talk all the smack you want about Ernie, but we don’t know you.
2. Brett Keisel. It took Da Beard, a 7th round pick and a 12 year vet, a full four years to crack the starting lineup, and we all know that is unacceptable. He should have been let go after two.
1. Cam Heyward. As recently as the 2013 preseason Heyward was dismissed as a bust and a total waste of a 1st round draft pick.
Honorable mentions. The numbers in this category can be daunting, so here is a list of some honorable mentions and a few where you can contend the jury is still out, so to speak—James Farrior, Vince Williams, Larry Foote, Jarvis Jones, Ryan Shazier.
5. Jason Worilds. This 2nd round pick was considered worthless by many until he wasn’t. Delighted that he left the game on his own terms.
4. Sean Spence. This generation’s Rocky Bleier if you will. Why did the Steelers continue to carry a player who was clearly done? What’s wrong with this team?
3. Lawrence Timmons. Never mind that season after season he was asked to play out of position to plug one deficiency or another. Many believed up until he was named to his first Pro Bowl last season that the first draft choice of the Mike Tomlin era was a failure.
2. James Harrison. He didn’t earn a permanent roster spot right away, and even after that it took this free agent from Kent State another five seasons to crack the starting lineup. So, did we learn our lesson? The sentiment wasn’t exactly universal concerning Deebo’s return last season. Washed up right?
1. Jack Lambert. Like Harrison, another linebacker from the same nothing school and the wrong size for the position. He’ll never make it.
7. Will Allen. Open questions as to why he was brought back last year and extended this season. Couldn’t people see that he was through?
6. Mike Mitchell. A wasted free agent pick up last season, right?
5. Deshea Townsend. It seemed like every one of his twelve years with the Steelers someone was trying to push him out the door.
4. Keenan Lewis. Steelers fans can be slick when we want to be. We were just soooo upset when we let Lewis go, conveniently forgetting that for much of time he was here we were screaming to get rid of this jerk. It was felt he didn’t have the talent, and he was a hothead (ala Mike Mitchell) who didn’t fit into the family friendly tradition that we have here with players like Holmes and Joe Greene who spit in player’s faces and kicked them in the groin.
3. Ike Taylor. Declared a bust on arrival by a local media personality and further handicapped by being born without hands, Taylor, nonetheless, eked out a twelve year career and has been recognized as one of the top players of the last generation for the franchise.
2. Troy Polamalu. The team trades up to get a player that doesn’t crack the starting lineup his first season. What a jagoff! Around 2011 some declared Troy a china doll who was both fragile and washed up. Trade him, cut him, let’s move on. Jeez.
1. William Gay. Team MVP right? I once compared Gay to the dog that’s never allowed in the house, and when you see him the first impulse is to roll up a newspaper and beat the crap out of him. Given where he is today as a player and a man can there be more damning proof that some of us in Steelers Nation are a bunch of sick puppies ourselves. If there were any cosmic justice, Big Play would make it to one more Super Bowl and get MVP.
2010. Franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is issued a six game suspension for, essentially being boorish, by King Solomon, uhh, Roger Goodell. In other news, the off field troubles of number one receiver Santonio Holmes continue. The team trades him to the New York Jets for a ham sandwich which I understand was quite tasty.* And just to top things off, Ben’s replacements, Byron Leftwich and Dennis Dixon are both injured, leaving the fate of team in the hands of that no account Charlie Batch. Stick a fork in them, they’re done. Oops. They went to the Super Bowl.
1974. The Steelers have so much faith in their franchise quarterback Terry Bradshaw that they start some black guy over him to begin the season. In those days such a thing was so unprecedented and abnormal that it became a top national news (not sports news) story. Three different quarterbacks would start for the team that season as the team’s offense struggled. Joe Greene became so disgusted and discouraged that he packed his car and had to be talked out of quitting in mid-season. The consensus was that the divisional playoff game between the world champion Miami Dolphins and the Oakland Raiders was the real Super Bowl. Oops. They win the first of six Lombardis.
2008. They were saddled with the most unfavorable schedule since the Polish Army had to fight Hitler and Stalin simultaneously on two fronts in 1939. Steelers Nation wrote the season off in June. Then they lost two of their best offensive linemen to injury (hmm, sounds familiar), were forced to resort to their 3rd running back also due to injury, did not have the services of their number one receiver in a game against the defending world champions due to off the field issues, and were without two of their three starting linemen for a significant portion of the season as well. Stick a fork..oops. World Champs.
2005. Jerome Bettis was persuaded to come back for a swan song and an attempt at a storybook ending to his career by attempting to make it to the Super Bowl in his hometown of Detroit. What a joke that turned out to be. Bettis was injured much of the season. So was Ben. In the beginning of December the team would be forced to run the table in order to make it in as a sixth seed. And then, who cares, six seeds have never won anything. And then, at the conclusion of an inspired performance against the best team in the league, Bettis fumbles at the goal line, is recovered by the Colts and..Oops. Hollywood ending and World Championship.
*Lest we forget, the Steelers traded that pick to Arizona for Bryant McFadden and a sixth-round pick. With it they took Antonio Brown. The Cardinals took John Skelton. I think the Steelers perhaps won that series of transactions…