6 Pittsburgh Steelers Inexplicably Snubbed by the Hall of Fame

Updated on March 5, 2020
Will Hines Ward make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame?
Will Hines Ward make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame? | Source

Biggest Steelers Hall of Fame Snubs

Every football fan wants to see their favorite team’s players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. When beloved players are inducted, it is a source of pride for the entire franchise. For the player, it is the ultimate honor.

Pittsburgh fans don’t have a lot to complain about when it comes to the Hall of Fame as there are 30 former Steelers players, coaches, and contributors enshrined. Then again, there are a few cases that make you wonder what in the heck is going on over there in Canton. Some great Steelers get snubbed year after year, even though they clearly have what it takes for Hall of Fame induction.

So what can you do about it? You can write articles like this one, for starters. Here are the worst Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame snubs. I’ve broken my list into two parts.

  • In the first section, I’ve listed six Steelers who should be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame but haven’t made it yet. Maybe they will get there eventually, or maybe not, but it is hard to argue they aren’t deserving.
  • The second part of my list is more like honorable mentions. These Steelers were great in their time and, while it would be wonderful to see them enshrined in the Hall of Fame, they probably don't have the necessary resumes.

This article could have been longer had a few deserving Steelers not made the cut recently. Steelers head coach Bill Cowher (1992-2006) and safety Donnie Shell (1974-1987) joined their fellow Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020, along with safety Troy Polamalu (2003-2014), who got in on his first ballot.

List of Steelers Hall of Fame Snubs

Player
Position
Year Retired
All-Pro Teams
Pro Bowls
Super Bowl Championships
Gary Anderson
Kicker
2004
1
4
0
Greg Lloyd
Linebacker
1998
3
5
0
Andy Russell
Linebacker
1976
0
7
2
Hines Ward
Wide Receiver
2011
0
4
2
Alan Faneca
Guard
2010
6
9
1
L.C. Greenwood
Defensive End
1981
2
6
4

6. Gary Anderson

It is tough to make the Hall of Fame as a kicker. There are only two pure placekickers enshrined in Canton: Morten Andersen and Jan Stenerud. (George Blanda kicked but also played quarterback and Lou Groza played tackle.)

Morten Andersen was a contemporary of Gary Anderson, and they were probably the two best kickers in the league during their time. Comparing Gary to Morten gives us the greatest argument for Gary Anderson’s induction into the Hall of Fame.

  • Gary Anderson played for 23 seasons in the NFL. Morten played 25, but he was injured for most of his rookie year.
  • Gary scored 2,434 points in his career, only 110 behind Morten’s career total of 2,544.
  • Gary made one All-Pro team and four Pro Bowls, where Morten made three All-Pro teams and seven Pro Bowls.
  • Gary has a career field goal accuracy percentage of 80.1% where Morten’s is 79.7%.

Looking at the above stats, it seems like if Morten Andersen is in the Hall of Fame, Gary Anderson should at least merit consideration. Unfortunately, he has never even been a finalist.

Jersey Number: 1

Position: Kicker

Years as a Steeler: 1982-1994

Career Statistics

  • 197 games
  • 672 field goal attempts
  • 80.1% field goals made
  • 827 extra point attempts
  • 99.2% extra points made
  • 2,434 career points scored

Career Accolades:

  • 1 All-Pro team
  • 4 Pro Bowls

5. Greg Lloyd

Lloyd is one of the greatest Pittsburgh players of the 1990s and among the best linebackers in Steelers' history. He was a ferocious pass rusher who racked up 53.5 sacks during his career. Like Jack Lambert before him, Lloyd was an intimidator who led the Steelers’ defense by example.

He was part of the Blitzburgh defense in the mid-1990s and lined up opposite fellow outside linebacker and Hall-of-Famer Kevin Greene. For three seasons, the duo abused and tormented every quarterback they faced. They led the team to the Super Bowl in 1995, where they lost to the Dallas Cowboys.

Lloyd left Pittsburgh after the 1997 season. In 10 seasons as a Steeler he made three All-Pro rosters and five Pro Bowls. This is comparable to Steelers safety Donnie Shell’s all-star accolades. Lloyd made more All-Pro teams and Pro Bowls than nine Steelers Hall-of-Famers including Lynn Swann, Terry Bradshaw, and John Stallworth. He lacks the Super Bowl achievements of those players, but it still seems that Greg Lloyd is worthy of consideration.

Jersey Number: 95

Position: Outside Linebacker

Years as a Steeler: 1988-1997

Career Stats

  • 147 games
  • 54.5 sacks
  • 11 interceptions for 189 yards

Career Accolades

  • 3 All-Pro teams
  • 5 Pro Bowls

4. Andy Russell

Russell was a tough outside linebacker who played for the Steelers from 1963 to 1976. His career spanned from the pre-Noll years (when the Steelers struggled) to the Super Bowl years of the 1970s. Russell never made an All-Pro roster, but he made an impressive seven Pro Bowls. He was also a starter for two Steelers Super Bowl championships.

The combination of Russell, outside linebacker Jack Ham, and middle linebacker Jack Lambert was probably the greatest Steelers linebacking unit in team history. It is tough to argue there has been a better trio of linebackers in a 4-3 defense.

Russell retired in 1976 after 12 seasons as a Steeler. After his departure, the Steelers never really filled his shoes for the rest of the years they played a 4-3. Linebackers like Loren Toews, Dirt Winston, and Robin Cole were very good, but Russell was one of the greatest Steelers linebackers of all time.

Jersey Number: 34

Position: Outside Linebacker

Years as a Steeler: 1963-1976 (missed 1964 for military service)

Career Stats

  • 168 games
  • 18 interceptions for 238 yards and 1 touchdown
  • (Note: Sacks were not kept as an official statistic until 1982)

Career Accolades

  • 7 Pro Bowls
  • 2 Super Bowl championships

Hines Ward is the greatest Steelers receiver of all time.
Hines Ward is the greatest Steelers receiver of all time. | Source

3. Hines Ward

Hines Ward is the best wide receiver in Pittsburgh Steelers’ history. He’s caught more passes for more yards and more touchdowns than any other player to wear the black and gold. He appeared in three Super Bowls, won two, and he even earned a Super Bowl MVP trophy. Over his 14-year career in Pittsburgh, he made four Pro Bowls.

All of that looks pretty good, yet Ward isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. In fact, he’s never even been a finalist. Ward’s statistics are only slightly less stellar than Isaac Bruce’s, a wide receiver who was a finalist three times before making it in 2020. Both players made the same number of Pro Bowls and neither was ever an All-Pro. Ward has one more Super Bowl ring than Bruce and was also a Super Bowl MVP.

Ward has more career catches and more Super Bowl rings than Hall-of-Fame receiver Randy Moss, though comparisons stop there. Still, Ward was the best blocking wide receiver of his generation and a tremendous team player, something Hall-of-Fame receivers Moss and Terrell Owens can never claim.

So, why has Hines Ward never even been a finalist in the years since he has been eligible? Your guess is as good as mine.

Jersey Number: 86

Position: Wide Receiver

Years as a Steeler: 1998-2011

Career Stats:

  • 217 games
  • 1,000 receptions
  • 12,083 yards
  • 85 touchdowns

Career Accolades:

  • 4 Pro Bowls
  • 2 Super Bowl championships
  • Super Bowl XL MVP

2. Alan Faneca

Steve Hutchinson was one of the best offensive guards of his generation. He made the Hall of Fame class of 2020, and he well deserves it. However, there is one Steeler not in the Hall of Fame who was a better guard than Hutchinson, and that’s Alan Faneca. Faneca was one of the greatest offensive linemen in Steelers history. He played for 10 seasons in Pittsburgh and helped win a Super Bowl in 2005.

Let’s compare the two players:

  • Faneca made six All-Pro rosters during his career. Hutchinson only made five.
  • Faneca was voted to nine Pro Bowls where Hutchinson made seven.
  • Faneca is a Super Bowl champion, where Hutchinson is not. In fact, Faneca’s Steelers beat Hutchinson’s Seahawks in Super Bowl XL.
  • Faneca played for 13 seasons, while Hutchinson played for 11.
  • Faneca has been a finalist for five years. Hutchinson was a finalist only three times before getting in.

These guys played the same position. How in the world did Hutchinson make the Hall of Fame in 2020 while they have snubbed Faneca five times in a row? Certainly, Hutchinson was a great player who deserves to be in the Hall, but Faneca was better by every measurable attribute. These are the situations that drive football fans nuts.

Jersey Number: 66

Position: Guard

Years as a Steeler: 1998-2007

Career Stats
158 games

Career Accolades

  • 6 All-Pro teams
  • 9 Pro Bowls
  • 1 Super Bowl championships

Former Steeler Alan Faneca (66) was snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.
Former Steeler Alan Faneca (66) was snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020. | Source

1. L.C. Greenwood

The Steelers of the 1970s were known for their Steel Curtain defensive line. While defensive tackle Joe Greene was the best overall player on the line, not to mention the greatest Steeler of all time, defensive end L.C. Greenwood was the most formidable pass rusher. At six-foot-six and 245 pounds, he was built more like a modern tight end than a defensive lineman. But it was a different era, and no Steeler put the fear in a quarterback’s heart like L.C. Greenwood.

Greenwood’s career spanned from 1969 to 1981. He started in and won four Super Bowls, made two All-Pro rosters, and was voted to six Pro Bowls. In Super Bowl X, he sacked Dallas Cowboys’ quarterback Roger Staubach four times. While the NFL didn’t keep official sack statistics until 1982, Greenwood had an unofficial count of 73.5 sacks in his career

It is hard to fathom how L.C. Greenwood isn’t in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He has the statistics, and he has the championships. He was a finalist six times, most recently in 2006. Greenwood passed away in 2013 and it is a travesty he was not recognized by the Hall in his lifetime.

Jersey Number: 68

Position: Defensive End

Years as a Steeler: 1969-1981

Career Stats

  • 170 games
  • 73.5 sacks (unofficial)
  • 14 fumbles recovered

Career Accolades

  • 2 All-Pro teams
  • 6 Pro Bowls
  • 4 Super Bowl championships

Who Is the Worst Steelers Hall of Fame Snub?

It is heartbreaking to think that L.C. Greenwood didn’t make it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his lifetime. To Steelers fans, this is an inexcusable error, one that will hopefully be corrected posthumously. Greenwood deserves to be in Canton.

It is also hard to swallow what has happened with Alan Faneca over the past five years. How he was snubbed in 2020 in favor of a less-decorated player who played the exact same position seems almost criminal.

Honorable Mentions

These guys probably don’t have a realistic chance of making it into the Hall of Fame, but they were great players in their time. If Steelers Nation had its way, these players would have their busts on display in Canton.

Jason Gildon

Gildon is officially No. 2 in Steelers history when it comes to all-time quarterback sacks. He played for the Steelers from 1994 to 2003 and brought down quarterbacks 77 times. Gildon earned a spot on the All-Pro roster in 2001 and he made the Pro Bowl from 2000-2002. He was also a member of the Steelers’ 1995 AFC Championship team that lost to the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XXX.

Carnell Lake

Lake played for the Steelers from 1989 to 1998. He was a speedy but undersized linebacker at UCLA and made the switch to strong safety in the NFL. As a safety, he made three Pro Bowls with the Steelers and one more in 1999 as a member of the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, Lake's most impressive feat came in 1995 when he filled in at cornerback for All-Pro Rod Woodson. Lake not only got the job done, but he also made the Pro Bowl and helped the Steelers make it to the Super Bowl. In 10 seasons as a Steeler, Lake intercepted 16 passes and returned three for touchdowns.

Joey Porter

Porter was a fierce pass rusher who is ranked number three in Steelers history with 60 official quarterback sacks. He played in Pittsburgh from 1999 to 2006 and was a powerful outside linebacker who served as an emotional leader for the Steelers’ defense. In 2005, Porter and the Steelers won the Super Bowl by defeating the Seattle Seahawks. He departed Pittsburgh after the 2006 season. Porter made three Pro Bowls and one All-Pro team as a Steeler and one Pro Bowl as a Miami Dolphin.

Casey Hampton

Casey Hampton was the prototypical 3-4 nose tackle, an enormous man with tremendous strength who dominated the space in the middle of the line and didn’t give an inch. He played for the Steelers from 2001 to 2012 and helped the team make it to three Super Bowls. Hampton started 164 games in his career while making five Pro Bowls.

Casey Hampton (98) was one of the best nose tackles of his time, but he is a long-shot for the Hall of Fame
Casey Hampton (98) was one of the best nose tackles of his time, but he is a long-shot for the Hall of Fame | Source

Why Does the Pro Football Hall of Fame Snub Players?

Looking at some players on this list, I can’t imagine how they haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame. Every team has legendary players that somehow miss the cut. So, what gives? How does this happen?

I can only make guesses. If you pay close attention, you might notice there seems to be a couple of unwritten guidelines for selecting players.

  1. The Pro Football Hall of Fame doesn't like admitting several players who play the same position in the same year. This explains why Steelers running back Jerome Bettis had to wait several years to get in, and it may be why Hines Ward is still patiently waiting in the wings while other receivers are admitted.
  2. The Hall also seems to shy away from enshrining too many players from the same organization. In 2020, the Steelers had Coach Bill Cowher, safety Donnie Shell, and safety Troy Polamalu enshrined. This might explain why they were reluctant to admit Faneca, yet one more Steeler. This might also explain why Greenwood has never been enshrined. During the late 1980s, when all the Steeler greats of the 1970s were getting in, it was looking a little like a Steeler invasion. Of the 22 Steelers who started on offense and defense in Super Bowl XIII, 10 of them are in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, along with Coach Chuck Noll. The fact that Shell has finally been inducted may be a good sign for Greenwood supporters.

Of course, this is all speculation. As far as I know, the Hall of Fame Selection Committee has never officially discussed such concerns. But, it explains why great players get snubbed every year.

For the NFL’s centennial year in 2020, the Hall tried to catch up on its backlog of deserving players by admitting 20 players, coaches, and contributors instead of the usual seven or eight. Still, it seems like a lot of great players are left out.

L.C. Greenwood deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame
L.C. Greenwood deserves to be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame | Source

Making the Hall of Fame

When a player is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, it is the final and most significant accolade that punctuates a career of NFL greatness. When their careers end, players must wonder where they stand in the long and storied history of the National Football League. Once they put on that gold jacket, there can be no more questions: They are among the best who ever played.

What about the players who don’t make it? Most NFL players, even some very good ones, don’t even come close. NFL Hall of Famers are an elite group and the barrier for entry is high. Many excellent players end their careers with no hope of Hall of Fame induction, yet they can feel good about the contributions they made to their teams and the League. You don’t have to make the Hall of Fame to call yourself a successful pro football player.

But the players who are on the cusp of Hall of Fame enshrinement have it tough. They live in a shadowy world of uncertainty, and they endure a roller coaster of emotions every year. Making it into the Hall of Fame is a life-defining event. Finalists who don’t make it may say all the polite things to the media, but nobody can blame them for being frustrated.

It is tough to feel bad for pro athletes who get paid millions of dollars to play a game many of us would play for free. But if any of them deserve our sympathy, it’s those who were snubbed by the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Comments

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    • EricDockett profile imageAUTHOR

      Eric Dockett 

      10 days ago from USA

      @TT - All good points. It is tough enough to get into the HOF without those kinds of sentiments working against them.

    • Ty Tayzlor profile image

      TT 

      10 days ago from Anywhere

      Gary Anderson will never live down his miss while in Minnesota. Greg Lloyd spent the beginning and end of his career injured which really hurt his career stats. Andy Russell gets forgotten because of playing alongside the two Jacks. Hines Ward is more remembered for his blocking. Alan Faneca is hurt by the way his tenure in Pittsburgh ended. LC is hurt because early on he was always mistaken for Joe Greene

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