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The five toughest Pittsburgh Steelers ever

The top 5 | Toughest Steelers of all time

Jack Lambert

Middle linebacker (1974-84)

The snarl said it all. Lambert's four front upper teeth were missing, making for a scary snarl that was signature of the Steel Curtain defense and a reason he was called "Count Dracula in Cleats." During one players only meeting in 1976, he reportedly threatened bodily harm to teammates who didn't put in the necessary effort. His biography is aptly titled, Tough as Steel. Fellow Steeler Rocky Bleier once said of Lambert, "He likes to inflict a lot a pain … and that's just when he's out on a date."

Mean Joe Greene

Defensive tackle (1969-81)

Nicknamed "Mean" for a reason, Greene was ferocious from the start, getting ejected from two games his first season. He hit. He kicked. And, yes, he spit. In Dick Butkus' face. Enough said. Greene would beat up on opposing guards, like the Oilers' Brian Goodman. "When we saw the films of the second Houston game last year," Art Rooney Jr. once told Sports Illustrated, "we sat by the phone waiting for the league office to call up and say they were going to put Joe in jail. He just beat on the poor guy."

Rocky Bleier

Running back (1968, 1971-80)

Just the name, Rocky Bleier, should put him on the list. But he has a better backstory. Bleier suffered shrapnel wounds to his right leg while in the Army during the Vietnam War, and was told by doctors he'd never play again. Bleier, recipient of the Purple Heart and Bronze Star, returned after a three-year absence, earning a reputation as both a fearsome blocker and a powerful runner. Today, he tours the country giving motivational speeches. Who wouldn't listen to him?

Ernie Holmes

Defensive tackle (1971-77)

On the Steel Curtain defensive front, many said Holmes evoked the most fear. The ferocious All-Pro, who once shaved an arrowhead into his head, was as physical as they come. After his football career, he dabbled in pro wrestling and fittingly had a guest appearance on the A-Team with Mr. T. "If you look at that Front Four, it probably wasn't noted, but the real tough intimidator was 'Fats' Holmes," former Steelers defensive back J.T. Thomas told the Pittsburgh-Tribune Review. "We, as players, knew that. 'Fats' was the one that would hurt you."

Hines Ward

Wide receiver (1998-present)

Known for his crack-back blocks, Ward once broke the jaw of Bengals rookie Keith Rivers. The Ravens placed a bounty on Ward, to which the former Super Bowl MVP responded, "Bring it on." Considered one of the best blocking receivers in the NFL, Ward is also one of the toughest, having played through torn PCL and MCL ligaments last year. Anyone doubt he'll play with a sprained MCL in the Super Bowl?

Joe Smith, Times staff writer

The five toughest Pittsburgh Steelers ever 01/24/09 [Last modified: Saturday, January 24, 2009 8:17pm]
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