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Backyard Brawl Power Rankings: Best Steelers Pitt, West Virginia Alumni

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Steelers QB Kenny Pickett

From the very beginning, the Pittsburgh Steelers have built their teams with local college football talent, and there are a ton of players that have suited up in the black and gold that earlier played for Pitt’s blue and gold or West Virginia’s gold and blue.

With the Backyard Brawl returning on Thursday night, we tried to figure out who has been the greatest Steelers player from Pitt or West Virginia. Kenny Pickett will be on this list eventually, but we limited ourselves to players that have played in the NFL already.

Alan Saunders, Nick Farabaugh, and Cale Berger broke down the Steelers players that played their college ball on either side of the Brawl. Our power rankings were compiled with each first-place vote getting 10 points and so on and so forth.

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.

 

Dick Haley

Dick Haley is probably best known as the Steelers’ director of player personnel from 1971-90, and probably deserves a spot in the team’s Hall of Honor for the role that he played in building four Super Bowl champions. Also the father of former Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley, Dick Haley is a franchise icon for his off-the-field contributions. But he was also a solid player, as well. A ninth-round pick of the Washington Redskins out of Pitt in 1959, Haley played two years in D.C. and one with the Minnesota Vikings before joining his hometown Steelers mid-season in 1961.

A halfback and defensive back, Haley played mostly safety and cornerback for the Steelers, and started 39 games in his four seasons in Pittsburgh before he traded his cleats for a clipboard after the 1964 season. Haley also worked in the front office of the Miami Dolphins and New York Jets after his playing days.

Paul Martha

An All-American running back at Pitt, Martha was the Steelers’ first-round pick in the 1964 NFL Draft. The big Pittsburgh native played six seasons with the Steelers, moving from offense to defense, where he played safety, in 1966. Martha started 51 games for the Steelers and had 15 interceptions. In 1970, the Steelers traded Martha to the Denver Broncos where he played one final season.

Martha also had a long post-playing career in Pittsburgh spots, though not with the Steelers. Martha became CEO of the Pittsburgh Penguins in 1977, ran the Civic Arena and also worked for Edward DeBartolo with the San Francisco 49ers. He was the general manager of the USFL’s Pittsburgh Maulers in their lone season.

James Conner

Conner was an All-American running back at Pitt and became a Pittsburgh Steeler during the 2017 draft with their third-round pick. The Erie native was a hometown guy through and through, and his story only makes it better. Conner overcame adversity off the football field by defeating cancer and returning to a high-level form in 2016 when he was named a 2016 first-team All-ACC player.

With the Steelers, he took over for Le’Veon Bell. In his second year with the team, Conner went to the Pro Bowl after putting up 1470 yards from scrimmage in relief of Bell, who sat out the season. While injuries held back Conner from his full potential in Pittsburgh, he enjoyed a career revitalization in Arizona last season, going to the Pro Bowl once again.

Jerry Olsavsky

Long before he was the linebackers coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers, Olsavsky was a standout linebacker himself at Pitt. He posted 129 tackles as a senior in 1988, and at the time became the first Panther since 1976 to record over 100 tackles and three-straight seasons. Olsavsky was selected 10th round of the 1989 NFL Draft by the Steelers and went on to play nine seasons in Pittsburgh. A special teams ace, he accounted for 227 tackles and revived the Ed Block Courage Award in 1995.

Mike Logan

McKeesport-native Mike Logan was an outstanding cornerback and return man for the Mountaineers during his college days. He recorded 140 tackles, 18 passes broken up, two forced fumbles, eight interceptions and two fumble recoveries, but also averaged 23.5 yards per return on kickoffs and 10.7 on punts. Selected in the second round of the 1997 NFL Draft by Jacksonville, Logan would join his hometown Steelers in 2001 following four years with the Jaguars. He totaled five interceptions, seven forced fumbles and 30 pass defensed over his career, and won Super Bowl XL with Pittsburgh.

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