The Pittsburgh Steelers have had dozens of great linebackers over their history. Significantly more than any other franchise in the NFL. With so many players to choose from, it was a difficult task narrowing down the top ten Steelers linebackers of all time. We made this list to include only players from the Super Bowl era (1967-present). Check out version one here: Top 10 linebackers in Steeler history
A very good linebacker during some tough times for the Steelers during the mid-80s. Merriweather was a three time All-Pro with 18 career interceptions.
If not for his tragic injury, Ryan Shazier was destined for the top five on this list. Easily the most athletic linebacker the Steelers ever had, Shazier was well on his way to greatness.
Check back with us for version three of this list in a couple of years and this player may be in the top five. Watt is coming off a career year where he nearly won defensive player of the year. The future is bright for this Steelers outside linebacker.
10. Jason Gildon:
Jason Gildon held the Steelers all time sack record for well over a decade until James Harrison took that title from him. Often overlooked in the long history of Steelers pass-rushers, Gildon put together quite a career. He had one All-Pro season, and three consecutive Pro-Bowl appearances from 2000-2002. Gildon is still second all-time in sacks with the Steelers with 77.
Joey Porter comes in at third on the all time sack list for the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was a major factor in the Super Bowl XL victory over the Seattle Seahawks as well. Porter boasts four Pro Bowls, 2 first team All-Pros, and 2 second team All-Pros during his career. Joey Porter was quite a character during his time in Pittsburgh. As evidenced here by his famous (or infamous) quote….”They shot me in Denver” https://youtu.be/99m46vMAcvI
8. James Farrior:
James Farrior was a former first round pick by the New York Jets who came into his own after joining the Steelers. Farrior led the Steelers in tackles for several seasons, and was runner up for Defensive Player of the Year to Ed Reed in 2004. He was a key piece of two Super Bowl Champion defenses as well.
7. Levon Kirkland:
Levon Kirkland was a freak athlete who played inside linebacker at 6’1”, and 275 pounds. That’s right…..275lbs!! Even at that size, he still had the athletic ability to carry tight ends done the field in coverage. His real talent was bottling up opposing running games. This was highlighted by his 10 tackles and one sack during Super Bowl XXX. Kirkland was a big part of a Steelers defense that held Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith to just 55 yards rushing on that day. Levon Kirkland was two time first team All-Pro, and a member of the NFL All-Decade team for the 90s.
7. Kevin Greene:
Kevin Greene was without question one of the best pure pass rushers to ever wear a Steelers jersey. He is one of the first big time free agents signed by the team, and maybe the best. Greene’s list of accomplishments includes 5 Pro-Bowls, 3 first team All-Pros, the 1996 DPOY, and he remains third all time in sacks for the entire NFL with 160. In 2016, Kevin Greene was enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The only thing keeping Greene out of the top five on this list is that he only played three seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
6. Greg Lloyd:
When you think of Steelers intimidating defenses, Greg Lloyd would be among the first players that come to mind. A former sixth round pick, Lloyd became one of the most dominating linebackers of the 90s culminating in being voted the DPOY in 1994. He also had 5 Pro-Bowls, and 3 consecutive first team All-Pro seasons in his resume.
5. Andy Russell:
Andy Russell was a key contributor to the early 70s Steel Curtain defenses. A former SIXTEENTH round pick out of the University of Missouri, Russell carved out quite a career for himself. To go along with being a two time Super Bowl Champion, he also managed 7 Pro-Bowls and 4 All-Pro seasons for the Steelers. Not often mentioned among the greats of the 1970s Steelers defenses, Andy Russell deserves his spot among the best of that era in Pittsburgh.
3. James Harrison:
In his prime, James Harrison was one of the best all around linebackers of all time. He is the current all time sacks leader for the Steelers, to go along with 34 career forced fumbles and 8 interceptions. Harrison is a two time Super Bowl Champion, five time Pro-Bowler, and four time All-Pro. Despite the bad taste he left when leaving the team, James Harrison belongs on the upper half of the top ten linebackers in Steelers history.
Let’s not forget he made one of the greatest plays in Steelers Super Bowl history as well:https://youtu.be/TGYS6IfLZC4
2. Jack Ham:
Jack Ham was not quite as famous as his Steel Curtain teammates like Joe Green or Jack Lambert, but he was every bit as good. Ham was a turnover machine with 32 career interceptions and 21 fumble recoveries. His list of accolades is nothing short of incredible:
4X Super Bowl Champion
6X First team All-Pro
2X Second team All-Pro
1970s All-decade team
100th NFL Anniversary team
For most other franchises, a resume like this would make Jack Ham the greatest linebacker in thier history by a wide margin. Unfortunately for him, there was another great linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers………
1. Jack Lambert:
Is there a more iconic image from the vaunted Steel Curtain defense than the toothless scowl of Jack Lambert? Forget Steelers history, Lambert was one of the greatest linebackers in NFL history. It started in 1974 where he was named defensive rookie of the year, and ended eleven seasons later with four Super Bowl trophies. Along the way, Lambert was named to the NFL All-Pro team eight times from 1975-1983, and went to nine straight Pro-Bowls. In 1976, he won the Defensive Player of the Year award. There are very few defensive players who can come close to this kind of hardware. Jack Lambert is the greatest linebacker in Steelers history hands down.
Here’s a highlight package that best defined Jack Lambert. https://youtu.be/ZRUnlTMwWMg