Greatest Unit of Athletes – All-Time

The recent release of three-time Pro Bowl linebacker Joey Porter by the Pittsburgh Steelers caused me to think about a post I’d made on an old blog. I went down the line, back to Andy Russell and the dynasty teams of the 1970’s. The list is rather long and uniquely distinctive, I believe, in the history of the league. This is possibly the single greatest collection of players on a single unit over time that has ever played for any franchise.

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Consider that the Steelers legacy at the position of offensive center is analogous to the Lakers tradition of center in the NBA. Of course, George Mikan, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Shaquille O’Neal are three four of most supremely dominant players of all time. While a center in football does not garner as much attention as an NBA center, they are in the thick of it on every single play. Consider Mike Webster, Dermontii Dawson and Jeff Hartings. To the ear of the average fan, it doesn’t sound right to compare these players, but I would imagine that Hall of Fame voting committees would see a connection. By extension, the goalies of the Montreal Canadiens would merit inclusion in such a group. Vezina, Hainsworth, Durnan, Dryden, and Roy. It doesn’t get any better than that. Now, if we look at the linebacker position, can we find a similar legacy of greatness on another franchise?

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Andy Russell (7(7))
Jack Lambert (9(9))
Jack Ham (8(8))
Robin Cole (1(1))
Mike Merriweather (3(3))
Hardy Nickerson (0(4))
David Little (1(1))
Greg Lloyd (5(5))
Kevin Greene (2(5))
Levon Kirkland (2(2))
Chad Brown (1(3))
Mike Vrabel (0(0))
Jason Gildon (2(2))
Earl Holmes (0(0))
Joey Porter (3(3))
Kendrell Bell (2(2))
James Farrior (1(1))
Carlos Emmons (0(0))
James Harrison (0(0))
Larry Foote (0(0))
Clark Haggans (0(0))

Total Steeler Pro Bowls: 48
Total NFL Pro Bowls: 57

What about the pitchers for the L.A. Dodgers? Don Newcombe, Don Drysdale, Sandy Koufax, Mike Marshall, Fernando Valenzuela, Orel Hershiser, Eric Gagne, Hideo Nomo, Steve Howe, Rick Sutcliffe, etc. Perhaps it’s not quite the same.  9 Cy Young awards., 2 MVPs.  I suppose, though, if I count Hardy Nickerson for the Steelers, I should count Pedro Martinez for the Dodgers.  This may be the most comparable unit in baseball.

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I’ll keep looking, but I’ll be hard pressed to find a more dominant unit than that corps of Steeler linebackers from Andy Russell to the present.

4 comments

  1. You know what, Les? I might have to give it to the Lakers centers because it doesn’t get any better than that. The weakest link in the chain, believe it or not, is Wilt (at least with respect to rings). These guys are all the FIRST names you think of during their respective eras (except for Bill Russell).

    With football, at least with middle linebackers, I think Butkus, Lambert, Singletary, Ray Lewis…with outside linebackers, I think Jack Ham, Ted Hendricks, Lawrence Taylor, Derrick Thomas, Junior Seau, and Derrick Brooks. That’s my super short, super man list.

    It’s close either way.

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