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Top 6 Rookie Campaigns in Steelers History

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The Steelers have had a lot of great players over the years. But not everyone has been a star right out of the gate. In some cases (see Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu) it can take a year or two to get your feet under you and learn the nuances of the pros.

But then there are the players who comprise this list.

The six, plus the three honorable mentions, had no trouble making the leap from college to the professional ranks. They were rookies of the year, Pro Bowlers or even All-Pros from the start.

The Steelers have won six rookie of the year awards since it was first handed out in 1967 to the best offensive and defensive rookies in the league. You should know the 2004 offensive winner, that would be the team’s current quarterback, Ben Roethlisberger. The rest of the list will have plenty of names you know, although you may not know they were rookies of the year. Of course, winning Rookie of the Year award doesn’t necessarily put you on this list. After all, you won’t find a single winner from the offensive line in the history of the award. But we’ve included one here after he put together a phenomenal rookie campaign.

The Steelers have had one quarterback (the aforementioned Roethlisberger), one running back and one wide receiver win the offensive Rookie of the Year award. On the defensive side, it’s been two linebackers and a defensive end. Five of the six winners are represented here. The only one not to make the list? Louis Lipps, who won the award in 1984 after a phenomenal season which saw him set the record for punt return yardage by a rookie and rack up 10 touchdowns and 931 yards from scrimmage. It’s a good reminder of some of the legends that the Steelers have had on the team over the years.

Also just missing the cut were JuJu Smith-Schuster, who had 917 yards and seven touchdowns his rookie campaign and Darren Perry, who despite being an eighth-round pick, started every game for the Steelers in 1992 and had six interceptions.

Honorable mentions: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Darren Perry, Louis Lipps

6. Jack Lambert

Taken in the second-round of the 1974 NFL Draft, the Kent State product acclimated himself pretty nicely to the league in his rookie year. Starting every game for one of the greatest defenses in NFL history, Lambert won the Defensive Rookie of the Year award and helped the Steelers to a 10-3-1 record and their first ever Super Bowl victory. Lambert could probably be higher but we’re docking him a few spots because it was one of two years he didn’t make the Pro Bowl (his last year when he only started three games was his other). By his own lofty standards, it was a down year.

5. Joe Greene

We could probably put Joe Greene here just on reputation alone. But it turns out he was incredibly productive from day one in the NFL, too. Drafted to the moribund Steelers, the team, even with Greene anchoring the defensive line went 1-13 in his first year. The NFL didn’t keep stats on tackles, sacks or forced fumbles back then, so it’s hard to judge just exactly how good he was without seeing the film. But from all accounts, he was a heck of a player from the start of his NFL career. In his rookie year, Greene played every game, was named as the AP Defensive Rookie of the Year and received an invite to the Pro Bowl.

4. Maurkice Pouncey

An All-Pro caliber player from basically the moment he stepped on to the field, Maurkice Pouncey’s 2010 was one of the best ever by a Steelers rookie lineman. He started every game in the regular season as well as two playoff games before getting injured in the AFC Championship game against the Jets and subsequently missing the Super Bowl. Despite the disappointment of not finishing the season, Pouncey was named to the Pro Bowl and garnered second-team All-Pro status.

3. Kendrell Bell

What could have been if not for a series of debilitating injuries. Kendrell Bell was an absolute monster in his rookie year. Drafted in the second-round, Bell came into the league with a vengeance. The Georgia product had nine sacks, 82 tackles and a ridiculous 23 tackles for loss (second in the league behind Michael Strahan‘s 24.) For comparisons sake, the 2019 leader, Aaron Donald, had 20. Bell was named the defensive rookie of the year and was named to the Pro Bowl and as a second-team All-Pro. Unfortunately, that would be a high water mark for the linebacker.

2. Franco Harris

There wasn’t much adjustment for Franco Harris when he burst onto the scene with the Steelers in 1972. The 1st round pick had one of his finest seasons as an NFL player, putting up 1055 yards rushing on a gaudy 5.6 yards per attempt, as well as 180 yards receiving and 11 touchdowns. For his efforts, Harris was named the NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year. Adding to the honors, he was also chosen for the Pro Bowl (his first of eight consecutive trips) and named a second-team All-Pro. Harris was so good he even enlisted Frank Sinatra as a general into the “Franco’s Army”.

1. Ben Roethlisberger

The city had high expectations for Ben Roethlisberger after the Steelers selected him with the 11th overall pick in the 2004 NFL Draft. But no one expected the young quarterback out of Miami (Ohio) to lead the team to 15-1. After taking over for Tommy Maddox after he was injured in week two against the Ravens, Roethlisberger went 13-0, the best mark in NFL history by a rookie, and an appearance in the AFC Championship game. Roethlisberger lead the league with four 4th quarter comebacks and five game-winning drive. He was unanimously named the Offensive Rookie of the Year, becoming the first quarterback in 34 years to achieve that honor. Despite the AFC Championship game loss to the Patriots, Roethlisberger quickly established himself as one of the top quarterbacks in the league, a mantle he’s carried to this day. Steelers fans wouldn’t have to wait long for that championship, either, as Roethlisberger would help the team win their fifth championship just a year later.

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Should Steelers Sign Zach Banner to be Starter in 2021?

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Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault.

He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. With Banner expected to be ready for a return next season, should the Steelers sign the 27-year-old with the anticipation that he could be a key piece to bolster the offensive line that was missing during the 2020 season?

Do you believe in Zach Banner? Comment below with why or why not.

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Steelers

Zach Banner Announces Self-imposed Social Media Ban Until he Signs New Deal

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Zach Banner is sending a clear message about his priorities ahead of the 2021 NFL season. Banner, who is a free agent and looking for a new deal with the Steelers, tweeted that he is going to stay off social media until he officially signs on the dotted line.

Zach Banner has become a prominent member of the Steelers, but that’s not because he’s had success on the field over the past year. Banner’s success has come off the field by connecting with fans on social media and doing his part to help those in need than he has on a football field. But by no means is that Banner’s fault. He suffered a season ending torn ACL in Week 1 of the 2020 season. This injury was especially devastating for the USC product because it occurred on the heels of Banner winning the starting right tackle position following a tough training camp battle with Chukwuma Okorafor.

Due to Banner’s injury, it was Okorafor who ended up starting 16 games, including the postseason. While Banner kept in good spirits and became his team’s loudest cheerleader on Twitter during games, it was clear he wanted to be on the field and contributing.

Earning a starting spot as a member of the Steelers offensive line was a major career achievement for Banner, but it was one he didn’t get to enjoy. Banner now hopes to return to Pittsburgh and be the missing piece the Steelers offensive line desperately needs.

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Steelers

Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp

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There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.

It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.

“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”

Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.

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