Who’s the Greatest Steelers Ever: Cornerback
It gives me great pleasure to welcome our faithful Steelers community to the Steel Curtain Network hereat FFSN. This is my initial article here at our new humble abode. Hopefully the first of many, and the continuation of our intriguing discussions and informative debates.
We are currently in the mist of the dog days of the NFL offseason. The weather is hot, and the newswire is mostly silent. Content creators have one job to do during this dead period between mini-camp and training camp; get creative. My podcast partner Daniel J and I have done our best to do just that on the Steelers Hangover podcast every Monday afternoon at 5 EST.
A few weeks ago we started a series of podcasts where we try to settle the debates about who is the greatest Steeler ever at particular positions. The first week was the running back position, then we covered the outside linebacker position the next. We discussed the center position on the last Steelers Hangover, a position that the franchise is renowned for.
Some positions the answer is obvious and not up for debate. Take the defensive line for example. The one and only right answer is Mean Joe Greene, the foundation for the franchise, on whom the dynasty was built. So we decided to focus on the positions sure to generate the most interesting and passionate discussions.
I believe this week’s topic of discussion will definitely do just that. The cornerbacks.
To be total honest, there are only two individuals worthy of consideration, but boy, are they worthy.
Mel Blount and Rod Woodson.
In my not so humble opinion, not only the 2 greatest corners in Steelers history, but arguably the greatest cornerbacks in NFL history. Put it this way, an argument can be made, even without my black and gold glasses.
So who’s the greatest? This is a question that probably doesn’t have a right answer, but we are going to try to accurately and adequately come to a conclusion at the best of our ability, both in this article and during the podcast.
Mel Blount is the Adonis of the cornerback position. If you wanted to create the perfect AI design for the position, Blount would be your muse. He was built like an edge rusher, and he played with a similar physicality, but he ran like a deer. Blount was easily one of the most athletically gifted individuals in NFL history. Blount faithfully visits the Steel City multiple times each season, always with his trusty cowboy hat and boots in tow. He may be a gray beard, but he looks like he could still play a down or two. Talk about good genetics and clean living.
Blount absolutely manhandled most wide receivers unlucky enough to line up across from him each week. He was truly the most dominant corner the league had ever seen. How dominant you ask? The NFL changed the rules of pass coverage to neutralize his athletic and physical advantages. So what did Blount do? Nothing but lead the league in interceptions the year immediately following the rule changes made in his honor. What better way to thumb your nose at the powers that be.
Although it’s hard to believe, Woodson was just as dominant under the very rules created in Blount’s honor. Woodson was a collegiate All American in track and field at Purdue, and he utilized his elite level speed and athleticism to it’s fullest on the football field. Like Blount, Woodson was strong, fast, and physical. He patrolled the secondary like a foreboding enforcer, which he took to a whole nother level when he switched to safety during the second half of his HOF career.
Simply put, Woodson was a HOF corner and safety. Woodson also used his superior speed and athleticism to be the best kick returner in franchise history. Woodson actually holds the distinction of making the Pro Bowl as a corner, safety, and kick returner. For what it’s worth, Blount was an excellent kick returner during the early portion of his NFL career.
Both men are easily Top 5 at their position, making it extremely difficult to pick a clear cut winner for Steelers Greatest ever. But let’s take a closer look.
This category is basically a wash. Blount was a little longer, but Woodson was slightly faster. We are talking about two of the most athletically gifted individuals in NFL history. We’ll call this one a tie.
Both gentlemen are considered all time greats, evidenced by their HOF gold jackets. Both players were named DPOY once in their careers. Blount finished his career with 57 interceptions, while Woodson tallied 71, which ranks third all time.
Woodson played substantially longer than Blount, partly because he was chasing a Super Bowl ring, something Blount accomplished 4 times in 6 years as an integral component of the Steel Curtain dynasty. In that regard, no corner can match Blount’s winning record. The same can be said for Woodson when it comes to explosive game changing plays. Woodson returned a NFL record 12 of his interceptions for touchdowns, and his 32 career fumble recoveries are the most all time. Slight edge for Woodson in this category.
The Steelers don’t win the aforementioned Lombardi Trophies without Blount taking his side of the field away from the opposition. The Steel Curtain was the most dominant defense I have ever witnessed, and their accomplishments in 1976 don’t even seem possible. Woodson was a superstar defender on those incredible Blitzburgh defenses of the 90’s, but they pale in comparison to the Steel Curtain at its peak. Blount holds the clear advantage.
There isn’t much to separate the two greats when it comes to legacy. Blount arrived on the scene first, and took the position to a whole nother level. Woodson arrived a few years after Blount’s retirement, picked up the baton, and ran with it. Blount set the standard, and gave the young Woodson a legacy to try and live up to. Great job by both individuals. Another tie in my opinion.
This is basically an impossible decision. An valid argument can be made for either gentlemen. But to be fair, and to show I understood the assignment, I have made an extremely difficult selection. In a competition between two all time Steelers greats, there is one parameter that gives Rod Woodson the slightest edge; supporting cast.
Blount was surrounded by a HOF supporting cast. Arguably the most talented and physically gifted collection of defenders in NFL history, and that’s not even taking the offensive side of the ball into consideration. Woodson didn’t share this advantageous circumstance. Woodson played with some Steelers legends, but his supporting cast pales in comparison. That’s why I have arrived at the conclusion that Rod Woodson is the greatest cornerback in Steelers history…..Wait a second, Blount played his entire career with the Black and Gold. Meaning he never put on a hated rival’s uniform.
On second thought, I have changed my mind. Mel Blount is the greatest corner in franchise history. Or maybe it’s just another tie. Feel free to draw your own conclusion from my research, recollection, and mental gymnastics. I love them both too much to choose.