The Steelers are a franchise with a storied history. That includes putting the third most NFL inductees in the Hall of Fame with 24 inductees over the team’s history. Only the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers can claim more, but are there more coming down the pipeline for Pittsburgh? Here are four players right now that could be Hal of Famers.
CB Patrick Peterson
The most obvious one on the list, at least for players, is one of the new additions this offseason. That is Patrick Peterson, who was recently snubbed from a potential Hall of Fame list by the 33rd Football Team. But if we are being real to ourselves, it is hard to not see Peterson making that list. Simply put, he defines a generation at the cornerback position.
Peterson has the returner stats to go with being one of the best cornerbacks of the 2010s, earning a place on the Hall of Fame all-2010s team. He is a three-time first-team All-Pro and 8-time Pro Bowler. I’m not sure if Peterson is first ballot just yet. But he’s going to get in at some point, and will likely go in as an Arizona Cardinal.
Making the Hall of Fame as a cornerback is hard, and that has been demonstrated over the years, which is why Peterson might have to wait a bit. But with his longevity and decade-defining level of play, Peterson has a bust waiting for himself in Canton at some point.
HC Mike Tomlin
This is the most obvious induction on the entire list, I think. Mike Tomlin is certifying himself as a legend. With a Super Bowl win, two AFC Championships, and of course, the non-losing season streak, the narrative behind Tomlin will land the Steelers head coach a spot in Canton whenever he finally wants that honor. Still only 51 years old, Tomlin could have a lot left in the tank in terms of coaching longevity.
Tomlin is 16th in NFL history with 163 wins, and he’s 13th in the Super Bowl era. Of coaches with at least 150 wins, he’s seventh all-time in winning percentage (.636) and fourth in the modern era. When you look at his career as a whole with similar resumes, there’s simply little reason to believe he will not make it. And again, Tomlin has even more time to continue stacking onto this already impressive resume.
OLB T.J. Watt
T.J. Watt is not a lock to make the Hall of Fame yet, but if the pace continues, you have to imagine that he will make it. Entering just his 7th season at 28 years old, Watt already has a lot in his arsenal. He is on pace to shatter a lot of marks that guys in the Hall of Fame reach. Watt tied the single-season sack record, something that a lot of players simply can not tout at this stage in their careers.
There are other active players such as Von Miller and Khalil Mack that are ahead of him on the totem pole, but both are over 30 years old. In fact, Watt could easily overtake Mack for career sacks soon enough, with Mack posting 84.5 career sacks and Watt already up to 77.5 sacks.
Watt’s work isn’t done. But if he keeps up the breakneck pace and stays healthy, it’s hard to see him not making the Hall of Fame. Like Peterson, Watt is defining this current era of pass rushers and his legacy will be as one of the best in the game at the time he played.
DE Cam Heyward
Out of all the guys on this list, I think Heyward is the one hardest to pin down. Up until recently, this wasn’t much of a discussion, but Heyward is the ageless wonder. Now, you look at the fact that is starting to climb lists on terms interior defensive linemen in sacks and other categories, and he’s really putting together a case. With three first-team All Pros and 8 Pro Bowls, he has a solid basis.
He might need to bump up the number of All Pros a bit considering how stingy voters can be with interior defensive linemen. But Heyward already laps some Hall of Famers in production. Considering it seems like he still likely has a few years in the tank, he should continue to climb that board.
As of now, he’s not in the Hall of Fame, but the Hall of Very Good. But that easily change with another elite season or two. He’s 34, but it seems like he gets better with age, so don’t rule out Heyward making this thing a reality.