Who has the Best Nickname in Steelers History?
Since their establishment in 1933, the Pittsburgh Steelers have molded themselves into one of the most historic/successful franchises to grace the National Football League. The numbers speak for themselves: 27 members in the Pro Football Hall of Fame (that number looks to grow this winter). 23 division titles. 16 conference championship appearances. Eight Super Bowl appearances. Six Super Bowl titles. Three head coaches since 1969, all of which have won championships. One logo on the helmet.
Given the historic success in Pittsburgh, there's no doubting the superior talent that have worn the black and gold through the years. From Jack Lambert to Troy Polamalu, the Steelers have seen all-time greats scattered across the depth chart.
We've established great players have come and gone... But what about great nicknames?
Nicknames have been an vital part of Pittsburgh lore. When you think of the Steelers franchise, things such as "The Immaculate Reception", "The Steel Curtain" and "Blitzburgh" come to mind almost immediately. Even the city itself has a nickname (Steel City, Sixburgh, pick your poison).
When it comes to players, there is no shortage of great nicknames. From generations of the past and present, Steelers fans have had no problem assigning clever names to their favorite players.
So who holds the title of the greatest nickname in Steelers franchise history? While there are many to choose from, I managed to keep the list to ten names (partly for organization, mostly for argumentative purposes). Throw talent out the window (although all are clearly talented) and indulge in the top ten nicknames in Steelers history.
Before we start, let's take a look at our honorable mentions:
Player: Jack Ham
Nickname: The Hammer
Jack Ham was one of many vital parts of the legendary Steelers defense during the 1970's, a decade in which the team won four Super Bowls. Ham, a Penn State product, was what would now be considered your "modern day" linebacker who was athletic enough to cover the run and drop into coverage.
That doesn't mean he lacked physicality, however. With a nickname such as "The Hammer", you'd better be able to turn a ball-carrier into a nail. Ham had no problem doing that in an era where physicality was king.
Player: Kordell Stewart
Continuing the "athletic" mold, look no further for an athlete at the quarterback position than Kordell Stewart. Stewart, who was deployed as quarterback/running back/wide receiver for the Steelers through the late 90's (Don't tell Lamar Jackson he wasn't just a quarterback), was voted as one of the most versatile players in NFL history by NFL Network. Stewart's 38 rushing touchdowns ranks as the fourth-most by a quarterback in league history.
While "Slash" sounds more like an aggressive nickname, the term was actually coined by Myron Cope for his ability to play different positions despite Kordell's on-field agility. Kordell later added punter to his resume with the Baltimore Ravens, furthering the legend of "Slash".
10. "Big Play" William Gay
That just rolls off the tongue so smooth, doesn't it? Big play William Gay. What a nickname to have for a cornerback, a position that requires a swagger to match talent, and William Gay had it during his time with the Steelers.
Gay is the only player in NFL history to return five consecutive interceptions for a touchdown, with one of those providing a priceless moment between him and then Steelers linebacker coach Joey Porter.
While Gay has yet to play since 2018, his nickname still lives on through my failed attempts on Twitter to keep it alive. Stellar cornerback with a catchy nickname? Count me in.
9. "Big Ben" Roethlisberger
Starting our list off with two consecutive "bigs" was a gamble I had to take. Putting Pittsburgh's greatest quarterback in franchise history at #9 might be controversial, yet it lacks originality.
I get it. His name is Ben. He's big. There's a clock in London with the same name. The physical comparison is solid. It's an easy nickname for people to remember. It's catchy. Why am I hating? It's definitely a top ten nickname in Steelers history. It's stood the test of time, much like the actual tower across the pond.
8. Bill Cowher, "The Chin"
Now we're entering prime nickname territory on this list. Bill Cowher ranks in with the eighth-best nickname on the list, and for good reason: His chin is impeccable.
Cowher reigned as Pittsburgh's head coach from the 90's to 2006, winning a Super Bowl while appearing in another. While Cowher's success was what fans will mostly remember about him, the players will remember him for (you guessed it) his chin.
Well, fans may remember it, too. I grew up watching Cowher spew spit into the faces of players on Sundays out of anger. The fire and passion Cowher displayed derived from his facial expressions and his chin of steel, a trademark of his that still applies to this day.
7. "Big Snack" Casey Hampton
Casey Hampton was perhaps one of the most under-appreciated players in the league during his time. He didn't show up much on the stat sheet. He never garnered hardware. Yet his ability to clog the middle and command double-teams purely off of his size and strength helped the Steelers defense more than the average fan believes.
"Big Snack" rightfully earns his nickname, as he was so big his jersey stretched across his torso and his helmet barely fit him during his playing days. Hampton wasn't winning any relay races during his prime, yet he did his job and will go down as a legend, both with the Steelers and the eating department.
6. James Harrison, "Deebo" and "Silverback"
How badass do you have to be to get two nicknames?
James Harrison looked, talked and played like a mean you-know-what. His attitude earned him the nickname "Deebo", an infamous character from the Friday movie series who steals bikes and snatches chains. He's the neighborhood bully, and Harrison perfectly represented the persona both on and off the field.
As for his "Silverback" nickname, his brute/strength resembles that only of a Silverback gorilla. I'm willing to bet he'd beat one in a fight with the way he trains.
Steelers fans may disagree with this ranking, partially for how Harrison and the organization's relationship went sour just a few years ago. However, time heals all wounds. His nicknames still stand the test of time as well, and it'd be awfully hard to disagree with Harrison straight to his face.
5. "First 48" Bud Dupree
We're now into the top five, and what a better nickname to get us going than "First 48" Bud Dupree? While the nickname isn't exactly a common staple like others on this list, the mean crime/killer mentality behind it is a clever twist with Dupree's jersey number. While Dupree is likely a nice guy, the nickname reinforces the killer Pittsburgh oh-so needs him to be.
While not exactly tried and true like his fellow nominees, Dupree has transformed into a whole new animal this season. It remains to be seen if Dupree's stay in Pittsburgh will be extended past 2019, yet if he continues to get to the quarterback, he might have to stay purely for the "First 48" parodies.
4. Jerome Bettis "The Bus"
Are you going to tackle a running back who has been donned "The Bus"? Yeah, me neither.
Jerome Bettis was one of a kind, and the Hall of Fame running back was indeed a force to be reckoned with during his day. Bettis transitioned from playing fullback to running back, yet his physical running-style stuck with Bettis until his final downs as a Pittsburgh Steeler.
A Pittsburgh legend, I'm willing to bet more terrible towel-wavers refer to Bettis as "The Bus" more than his actual name, which makes sense. Much like Roethlisberger, it fits and is catchy. The nickname has provided a lasting effect with the city, and I wouldn't be surprised if one day, children rode the Jerome Bettis to school on a daily basis.
3. Tommy "Tommy Gun" Maddox
It might be just me, but any weapon-like nickname just sounds pretty awesome, no matter the player. This is the case for former Steelers quarterback Tommy Maddox, who won the XFL's championship and MVP honors before joining the team.
While Maddox's career may not have been everything Pittsburgh hoped it would be, Maddox did possess one of the best Steelers nicknames of the modern era. As a quarterback, the nickname "Tommy Gun" signifies the ability to throw the ball at will, and could also pass as a mob name as well. Sign me up for another quarterback named Tommy.
2. "Mean" Joe Greene
Joe Greene is nothing short of a hero in Pittsburgh for his contributions to the Steel Curtain, and is one of only two players to officially have their number retired by the organization (#70 Ernie Stautner). What do people remember most about Greene?
He's pretty mean.
From forcing a quarterback to take a knee instead of scoring to kicking players in the groin, there's no denying "Mean Joe" was indeed mean on the field. The nickname helped further add to his legend on top of already being one of the most dominant defensive linemen in NFL history.
The respect. The simple yet hostile nickname. Everything about Greene is revered, and that's a credit to his hard work and stone cold demeanor on the field. There's only one man who could possess that nickname, and he wore #75 for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
So from Steelers fans across the globe: Wow! Thanks Mean Joe.
1. Art Rooney, "The Chief"
Through all the nicknames in Steelers history, one stands alone: The Chief.
Just saying those words out loud give those from Pittsburgh goosebumps. "The Chief" nickname demands respect when brought up, and should only be spoken about in a positive light.
Art Rooney, the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers (Pirates at the time), is viewed as somewhat of a holy figure in the Steel City, and for good reason. Rooney provided the city of Pittsburgh with professional football, which now acts as a staple for the city to this very day. Rooney helped piece together winning football while also helping mold the NFL into it's modern form. His impact not only for Pittsburgh but the game of football simply cannot be undersold.
As a result, the Rooney family is forever royalty in Pittsburgh.
"The Chief" is often thought of with his short white hair, glasses, and a cigar hanging out of his mouth. I wouldn't want to picture somebody with that nickname any other way.