TT is an online writer with over eight years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.
These are the big men up front that keep the quarterback upright and open up holes for the running back but have yet to be recognized by Canton. Today I rank the top 10 offensive linemen not in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
10. Jeff Van Note
When people think of the great centers in league history, Jeff Van Note's name doesn't come to mind.
Van Note was drafted as a linebacker by the Falcons in the 11th round of the 1969 draft. He was soon moved to center by head coach Norm Van Brocklin. Despite his modest draft status and lack of experience at the position, Van Note established himself as one of the finest centers in the NFL, making six Pro Bowls and helping the young Atlanta franchise to some of the greatest seasons in team history. His 18-year tenure with the Falcons is one of the 25 longest in NFL history and is the second longest while staying with the same team.
He played in 246 games over this stretch, and his 225 games started as a Falcon is second in team history to Mike Kenn. Van Note missed a mere four games in his entire NFL career.
9. Lomas Brown
He played for 18 seasons, but has yet to make the Hall.
A first round pick in 1985, Lomas Brown almost immediately gained the reputation as one of the league's premier offensive tackles. was one of the most durable offensive linemen in the Lions' history, starting all but one of the 164 games that he played for Detroit. Brown was a key blocker on a line that paved the way for Barry Sanders to lead the league in rushing twice. He was also a charismatic and respected leader on the team who donated a great deal of time, energy, and money to many charitable causes throughout the Detroit area. Brown played for four other teams before retiring after 2002 as a seven time pro bowler, six time All-Pro, two time NFC Champion, and Super Bowl champion as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Brown played on mediocre teams for much of his career and didn't win a championship until he was a backup. He also garnered controversy in 2012 when he admitted during an interview on ESPN Radio that he purposefully failed to block Green Bay defensive end Sean Jones during a 1994 game so quarterback Scott Mitchell would get injured and be forced to leave the game.
8. Erik Williams
"Big E" could have been the best right tackle ever.
A third round pick in 1991, Erik Williams played sparingly as a rookie before being named the team's starting right tackle in his second year. He gained national attention in 1992 when he held Reggie White without a sack in a 20-10 Dallas win and earning the NFC's Offensive Player of the Week award. His physical play and aggressive attitude that was rarely seen on the offensive side of the ball made him the top offensive lineman in the NFL. His ability to protect quarterback Troy Aikman and to run block for running back Emmitt Smith helped the Cowboys win three Super Bowls in four years. Williams spent his final year in Baltimore before retiring after 2001 as a four time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, and three time Super Bowl champion.
In 1994, Williams was involved in a serious one car accident. He suffered a damaged right knee as well as a broken rib, torn ligaments in his left thumb, and facial lacerations that required plastic surgery. He came back in 1995, not quite up to his standards, but still good enough to help the team win. If he doesn't have that car accident, he's in the Hall of Fame five years later.
7. Randy Cross
He was with San Francisco before they were dominant.
A second round pick in 1976, Randy Cross saw playing time at both guard and center. With the arrival of Bill Walsh, he became a standout offensive lineman, keeping quarterback Joe Montana off the ground and opening up lanes for Roger Craig. In his 13 seasons in San Francisco, Cross was a three time pro bowler, six time All-Pro, and three time Super Bowl champion.
With all the talent on the 49ers offense in the 80's, Cross gets lost in the mix. But he was the consistent anchor of that offensive line for 13 years.
6. Tom Nalen
He was the anchor of those great Bronco offensive lines.
A seventh round pick in 1994, Tom Nalen made Denver's squad despite being undersized for the center position. He protected quarterback John Elway in the latter half of his career and paved the way for six different running backs to rush for over 1,000 yards. He proved to be a perfect component for the Bronco's zone blocking scheme. In his 15 seasons in Denver, he was a five time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, the 2003 NFL Alumni Offensive Lineman of the Year, and two time Super Bowl champion.
Nalen gets overlooked because the Bronco's offense was stacked with star talent and the offensive linemen rarely get a lot of love. For a stretch he was the prototypical center in the game and deserves to be recognized as so.
5. Mark Stepnoski
He anchored one of the best offensive lines in NFL history.
A third round pick in 1989, Mark Stepnoski switched from guard to center due to his undersized frame. He used his athletic ability, leverage, and balance to outmaneuver bigger defensive players and become one of the leagues best centers of his era. He earned the nickname "P.I.T.T." meaning Perfect In Total Technique. In his 13 seasons between Dallas and Houston, Stepnoski was a five time pro bowler, a member of the 90's All-Decade team, and two time Super Bowl champion.
A lot of the controversy with Stepnoski stems from his post football life. In 2007, expressed support for the 9/11 Truth Movement. He is also an active member of NORML, an organization that advocates the legalization of marijuana. Because of this and other issues he believes in, he moved to Canada.
4. Joe Jacoby
He was a founding member of "the Hogs."
In 1981, Joe Jacoby signed with Washington as an undrafted free agent for $5,000. After clawing his way through rookie training camp, he embarked on an enviable career. Jacoby was a founding member of the Redskins renowned "Hogs" offensive line of the 1980s and early 1990s. He also helped Washington to four Super Bowl appearances with three victories. He also blocked for the top two rushing totals in Super Bowl history. In his 13 seasons, Jacoby was a four time pro bowler and All-Pro, played in 170 games, and was a three time Super Bowl champion.
A part from Russ Grimm, the Washington offensive line gets overlooked by Canton. Jacoby went from undrafted to 13 year starter. He was consistent and a monster to go against.
3. Steve Wisniewski
The "Wiz" played for the Raiders when they weren't a contender.
After being drafted in the second round by Dallas in 1989, Steve Wisniewski was immediately traded to the Raiders. He would play all of his 13 seasons in the league with the Raiders and became the standout guard of the 90's. He started 206 games and only missed two games in his career because of injury. At the time of his retirement, he had the most pro bowls of any Raider in history. Wisniewski retired after 2001 as an eight time pro bowler, eight time All-Pro, and a member of the 90's All-Decade team.
What hurts Wisniewski in the eyes of Hall of Fame voters is he played for Oakland when they were mediocre. He didn't play on successful Oakland teams until the later part of his career.
2. Jay Hilgenberg
He was the anchor of the Chicago offensive line for over a decade.
After going undrafted in 1981, Jay Hilgenberg signed with the Bears. By 1985, he established himself as one of the best centers in football and helped the offense lead the league in rushing yards in four straight seasons. In his 11 seasons in the Windy City, Chicago made the playoffs seven times and finished in the top three in rushing seven times. Hilgenberg spent his final years in Cleveland and New Orleans before retiring in 1993. He was a seven time pro bowler, seven time All-Pro, and Super Bowl XX champion.
He gets lost because he blocked for the greatest running back in NFL history in Walter Payton. The thing is, Hilgenberg helped Payton be productive in the latter half of his career and also helped Neal Anderson be productive after Payton retired.
1. Bob Kuechenberg
He was a fixture on the Miami offensive line for 15 years.
Bob Kuechenberg was a fourth round pick by Philadelphia in 1969 but quit shortly after training camp started and played a season of semi-pro football. He then signed with Miami in 1970 and was immediately named the left guard. He helped Miami make four Super Bowl appearances with two victories including the 1972 perfect season. He is the only offensive lineman to block for both Bob Griese and Dan Marino. Kuechenberg retired after 1984 as a six time pro bowler, three time All-Pro, four time AFC champion, and two time Super Bowl champion.
He get lost in Canton because he played alongside Hall of Famers in Jim Langer and Larry Little. Also many people believe he was a benefactor of the Dolphins great running game. Kuechenberg has also been critical of Dolphins teams in the past prompting retaliation from players like Jason Taylor.
Grant Vincent Broussard on July 10, 2020:
Tom Nalen. Richmond Webb.
Les Moore on August 12, 2017:
Kevin Goodwin on August 14, 2015:
How about Orlando pace.
Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on July 21, 2015:
So hard to decide which lineman do or don't wind up in the HOF because it is not a statistical position. You've listed so any deserving names, but I'm sure they're more. Personally I'd go Lomas or Boselli.