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Top 10 Offensive Lines in NFL History

TT is an online writer with over seven years of experience writing about sports and pop culture.

The Arizona Cardinals' offensive line

The Arizona Cardinals' offensive line

They're the big men up front that keep the quarterback upright and open up holes for the running back. Today, I'm counting down the top 10 offensive lines in the history of the NFL.

They may not have the impressive statistics of skill position players, but offensive linemen are the key to deciding the outcome of a game. The offensive lines on this list all displayed great play against dominating defenses in their era.

I take into account the impact of each individual member of the line and how well they played as a unit. I'm excluding the blocking abilities of a team's tight end as that is a list for another day.

10. Mid '70s Buffalo Bills
9. Late '90s Denver Broncos
8. Mid '70s St. Louis Cardinals
7. Mid '70s Pittsburgh Steelers
6. Late '80s Houston Oilers
5. 1980s Redskins ("The Hogs")
4. Mid '50s Cleveland Browns
3. 1960s Green Bay Packers
2. 1990s Dallas Cowboys
1. 1970s Oakland Raiders

Joe DeLamielleure, Buffalo Bills

Joe DeLamielleure, Buffalo Bills

10. Mid '70s Buffalo Bills

Known as the "Electric Company," the Buffalo Bills' O line was a dominant run-blocking force. Consisting of Joe DeLamielleure, Reggie McKenzie, Dave Foley, Donnie Green, and Mike Montero, the line helped running back O.J. Simpson rush for over 2,000 yards in the 14-game 1973 season. The team as a whole actually rushed for over 3,000 yards that same season!

Buffalo as a whole was not a talented team. The Bills' defense and quarterback situation were a mess during the decade, but the offensive line was always consistent.

Hall of Famers

Joe DeLamielleure is in the Hall of Fame and is generally regarded as one of the best guards ever.

Gary Zimmerman, Denver Broncos

Gary Zimmerman, Denver Broncos

9. Late '90s Denver Broncos

Denver's line of Gary Zimmerman, Tom Nalen, Tony Jones, Mark Schlereth, and Brian Habib was a big reason Broncos running back Terrell Davis averaged over four yards a carry in his first four seasons. They were also instrumental in providing quarterback John Elway with enough time to pilot the Broncos to Super Bowl victories after the 1997 and '98 seasons.

Hall of Famers

Tackle Gary Zimmerman was inducted into Hall of Fame as a great blindside blocker, and center Tom Nalen was the best center in football for over a decade and could soon join Zimmerman in Canton.

Dan Dierdorf, St. Louis Cardinals

Dan Dierdorf, St. Louis Cardinals

8. Mid '70s St. Louis Cardinals

This St. Louis Cardinals group of Dan Dierdorf, Conrad Dobler, Bob Young, Tom Banks, and Roger Finnie is considered the first to introduce weightlifting and powerlifting into the NFL training regimen. They were incredibly strong at the point of attack and kept quarterback Jim Hart safe and sound during his most productive seasons. Dierdorf went the entire 1976 and '77 seasons without allowing a single sack. In 1975, this line only allowed eight sacks for the whole year, at the time an NFL record.

Hall of Famers

Tackle Dan Dierdorf is in the Hall of Fame, and guard Conrad Dobler has an outside shot of joining him eventually as a senior nominee.

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Mike Webster, Pittsburgh Steelers

Mike Webster, Pittsburgh Steelers

7. Mid '70s Pittsburgh Steelers

The Pittsburgh Steelers' offensive line—including stalwarts like Mike Webster, Jon Kolb, Ray Mansfield, and Sam Davis—helped blaze a trail for running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier, and kept quarterback Terry Bradshaw safe during their epic run of four Super Bowl victories in six years.

Hall of Famers and Other Honors

Center Mike Webster is in the Hall of Fame and is considered one of the best centers in NFL history (if not the best). Webster was named to both the NFL 1970s and 1980s All-Decade Team. Ray Mansfield was a dominant run blocker, while John Kolb and Sam Davis were named to multiple Pro Bowl teams.

Former Oilers Bruce Matthews (L) and Mike Munchak at the 2007 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony

Former Oilers Bruce Matthews (L) and Mike Munchak at the 2007 NFL Hall of Fame induction ceremony

6. Late '80s Houston Oilers

Houston's group of Mike Munchak, Bruce Mathews, Bruce Davis, Dean Steinkuler, and Jay Pinner was special. Their brilliance is lost in the multiple NFC over AFC Super Bowl beatdowns of the late '80s and early '90s. However, during their time as a unit, Oilers quarterback Warren Moon was one of the most well-protected quarterbacks in the league.

Hall of Famers

Featuring two Hall of Famers in guard Mike Munchak and Bruce Mathews, this line was consistently great. Mathews is possibly the most durable player ever in NFL history, playing 19 seasons at every position on the offensive line. Munchak was seen as the ideal run blocker, and Bruce Davis, Jay Pinner, and Dean Steinkuler were solid contributors.

The Washington Redskins' O line was known as "The Hogs"

The Washington Redskins' O line was known as "The Hogs"

5. 1980s Redskins ("The Hogs")

Known as "The Hogs," the Washington Redskins' offensive line of Joe Jacoby, Russ Grimm, Jim Lachey, Raleigh McKenzie, Jeff Bostic, Mark Schlereth, and Mark May popularized the offensive line positions. While the group experienced a lot of turnover between 1988-90, they still remained a cohesive and utterly dominant force.

They were the biggest reason why the Redskins won their three Super Bowls from 1982-91. Their strongest outing was in Super Bowl XXII as they opened up holes for running back Timmy Smith to break the Super Bowl record for rushing yards in a game and kept quarterback Doug Williams upright as he threw four touchdowns in a single quarter.

Hall of Famers and Other Honors

Guard Russ Grimm was the leader of this group, and Tackle Joe Jacoby was named to the NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1980s. Grimm is the only member of the unit to be inducted in the Hall of Fame.

Lou Groza of the Cleveland Browns, so famous as a kicker that his nickname was "The Toe," doubled as tackle for those great '50s Browns teams

Lou Groza of the Cleveland Browns, so famous as a kicker that his nickname was "The Toe," doubled as tackle for those great '50s Browns teams

4. Mid '50s Cleveland Browns

The Cleveland Browns' line of Frank Gatski, Mike McCormack, Lou Groza, Abe Gibron, Harold Bradley Jr., and Gene Nickerson were responsible for protecting the legendary quarterback Otto Graham. They did that and much more. They helped win the 1954 and '55 NFL Championships and were the foundation of one of the best—if not the best—offenses in the era.

Hall of Famers

Hickerson, Groza, McCormack, and Gatski are all in the Hall of Fame and make this unit one of the best ever. Guard Gene Hickerson was a force as a run blocker and paved the way for three Hall of Fame running backs in Jim Brown, Bobby Mitchell, and Leroy Kelly. Tackle Lou "The Toe" Groza was a force at both tackle and placekicker.

Forrest Gregg helped the Packers win five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls.

Forrest Gregg helped the Packers win five NFL championships and the first two Super Bowls.

3. 1960s Green Bay Packers

The Green Bay Packers' line of Forrest Gregg, Jim Ringo, Jerry Kramer, Fuzzy Thurston, and Bob Skoronski paved the way for Hall of Fame running backs Jim Taylor and Paul Hornung, and also gave quarterback Bart Starr much-needed protection. In doing so, they were a large component to the 1961 and 1962 NFL Championship and the first two Super Bowls.

Hall of Famers

Tackle Forrest Gregg and center Jim Ringo are both in the Hall of Fame. Guard Jerry Kramer was key in Lombardi's most iconic play, the power sweep, and finally made Canton in 2018 after 45 years of eligibility, and Fuzzy Thurston and Bob Skoronski were no slouches.

Dallas Cowboys

Dallas Cowboys

2. 1990s Dallas Cowboys

As a unit, Dallas O linemen Mark Stepnoski, Nate Newton, Mark Tuinei, Erik Williams, Larry Allen, Kevin Gogan, and John Gesek combined for 30 Pro Bowls, three Cowboys Super Bowl wins, and paved the way for arguably the best running back in league history. Troy Aikman, Emmitt Smith, and Michael Irvin have this line to thank for their Hall of Fame careers. The success of the team was based on the offensive line destroying opposing defenses every week.

Hall of Famers and Other Honors

Guard Larry Allen is arguably the strongest offensive lineman to ever play and was inducted in the Hall of Fame in 2013. Erik Williams would be in the Hall of Fame if he wasn't in a car accident mid-career but is still seen as one of the greatest right tackles in history. Nate Newton, Mark Tuinei, Mark Stepnowski, Kevin Gogan, and John Gesek were all solid, and each made multiple Pro Bowls in their careers.

Oakland Raiders

Oakland Raiders

1. 1970s Oakland Raiders

Oakland's legendary group of linemen—including Jim Otto, Gene Upshaw, Art Shell, George Buehler, and Bob Brown—steamrolled the best defenses in football. In 1971, the Raiders' O line allowed only 24 sacks in 14 games and repeated this stat in 1972. They paved the way for running back Marv Hubbard’s three straight Pro Bowls.

Hall of Famers

Center Jim Otto, guard Gene Upshaw, tackle Bob Brown, and tackle Art Shell are all in the Hall of Fame. Each of them are arguably the best ever at their respected positions. Otto never missed a start in his career, Brown was a great run blocking tackle, Shell was an eight-time Pro Bowler, and Gene Upshaw went on to be the president of the NFLPA. Together, they are seen as the greatest offensive line in history.

People's Poll

Questions & Answers

Question: How about the Cincinnati Bengals line of Anthony Munoz, Max Montoya and Dave Remington, weren’t they a great line?

Answer: Munoz is arguably the best left tackle in history, but their line as a whole doesn’t stack up to other lines.

Question: Why isn't the Raider's offensive line the best?

Answer: I do have them ranked the best. They had 4 Hall of Famers

Question: Weren't the 1972-1973 Miami Dolphins a great offensive line?

Answer: They were a great run blocking line thanks to Langer, Kuchenberg, and Little. But their dominance felt too short given their talent

Question: Weren’t the 80s Dolphins O-line unbelievable, especially protecting a great but immobile QB?

Answer: Not that great. Dwight Stephenson was the only Pro Bowler on the line and he only played eight seasons.

Question: The 91-92 Redskins Line was a beast also right?

Answer: That’s the Hogs. Their run was from 1982-1991

© 2014 Troy Taylor

Comments

Troy Taylor (author) from Anywhere on December 17, 2019:

They were good for the time jeff. But their peak was just too short

Jeff Mills on December 16, 2019:

you forgot about the Miami Dolphins of the early 70's

they are the best run blocking line ever!!

Troy Taylor (author) from Anywhere on July 06, 2019:

The 80s Patriots o-line is summed up in one name. John Hannah

Noel on November 23, 2017:

Really where are the Patriots of 1975-1985 still hold the record for rushing yards by a team in a season

Edward Lane from Wichita Falls, Texas on December 31, 2016:

The current Cowboys line will be on the list. First offensive line to be good enough to allow a rookie quarterback and rookie running back to attain the best record.

Sam DeGrazia on December 10, 2016:

Ray Lewis is on record as saying the Chiefs O Line of Roaf...Waters etc...was best he played against...wonder where that line would rank all-time?

Rich Sweetz on December 09, 2016:

...Dolphins of the early 70's running game couldn't be stopped. HOF Larry Little & Jim Langer, should be HOF Bob Kuchenberg, Wayne Moore and Doug Crusan. 2,996 yds rushing 1972, destroyed the "Over-the-hill gang" and the "purple people eaters"

chris b61 on November 06, 2016:

Love this list, but I would switch one and 2. That cowboys oline was obscene. Watch films and see how many times Emmit was even touched prior to getting 3 yards. Very seldom.

Larry Rankin from Oklahoma on October 15, 2014:

People just don't understand that without a line, both defensively and offensively, you just don't have anything.

Love your list. I felt it was very well thought out, but of course I'm gonna argue, because that's what us sports fans do. That being said, I really don't have much complaint except for the Cardinals. Yes Dierdorf was great and Conrad was notoriously dirty, but they just didn't win all that much.

Those Oilers of the 90s were a juggernaut, but they also under achieved.

Also, the 49ers of the 80s didn't do what they did without an offensive line.

One other note, the line the current Cowboys have is the best I've seen in a decade. Too early to tell, but they may be on your list one of these days.

Loved the article.

LOB 2013 on August 25, 2014:

I would have include the Seahawks o line during the 2000s.

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