Steelers QB Trio Of Bradshaw, Roethlisberger, O’Donnell Only Ranked 7th All-Time

Elliot Harrison of NFL.com recently decided to go about ranking all 32 franchises based on the historical strength of the quarterback position and his results certainly warrant some scrutiny.

In order to do these rankings, Harrison had to pick three quarterbacks from each franchise and when it came to the Pittsburgh Steelers, he selected Neil O’Donnell to go along with Terry Bradshaw and Ben Roethlisberger. He admits that he considered Bobby Layne instead of O’Donnell.

Harrison has the Steelers trio ranked seventh overall even though they’ve combined to win six Super Bowls and played in a total of eight of them. With all due respect to the Rams and Redskins franchises, the Steelers quarterbacks probably deserve to be ranked higher than both of them and even without O’Donnell being included.

It’s probably not a huge surprise that the Green Bay Packers trio of Bart Starr, Aaron Rodgers and Brett Favre were ranked No. 1 overall by Harrison, but I’m not so sure that the Colts trio of Johnny Unitas, Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck are a slam-dunk No. 2 choice.

So, where do the Steelers belong in these rankings in your opinion?

  • srdan

    Can we rate duos?

  • Matt Manzo

    Cuz Odonnell sucked!

  • T R

    hell I rather pick Cordell Stewart over him.. LOL and that’s bad too

  • hojo

    Well, when you’ve only had two franchise quarterbacks, it’s tough to compete with teams who’s had three, isn’t it?

  • Orlysteel

    Rate them on Super Bowl wins the rest doesn’t matter.

  • Unfortunately, O’Donnell really drags down the Steelers in this ranking. He was fine, but that’s a significant drop-off after the first two. And the thing is, while Ben is great, he’s probably only a borderline HoFer, and really at no time in his career has he been one of the top-tier QBs in the league. He’s a winner, to be sure, and he’s put up huge numbers recently, and his longevity means a lot, but he’s not in the Manning-Brady-Brees-Rodgers-Luck category. And, too, while Bradshaw was great, I’m not sure he was ever one of the truly elite. (I know, I know: different era, lower numbers, etc. and he did win the four Super Bowls. But one could argue that he’s somewhat overrated given the success the team had and the strength it had all across the lineup.) So the Steelers are high on the list because they won, and that means a lot, of course, but not because they put up elite numbers.

    That said, it’s not like the trios immediately after them are all that great. Rivers as the #2 for San Diego? Tannehill as the #3 for Miami, after the hardly great Griese?

    Anyway, I’d move the Steelers up to 6, flipping with the Rams. I’d keep the Washington NFL Franchise at 5 — again, we’re talking different eras, but Baugh and Jurgensen were both great and Theismann is a pretty solid #3.

    The most under-rated on this list might be the Bills at 17.

  • John

    Tommy Maddox was better than O’Donnell but to keep Bobby Layne off the list is a travesty

  • Jon Hartman

    Big Ben is a 1st ballot hall of famer when it’s all done. The case is closed.

  • JohnB

    is he related to Kordell?

  • Bill

    You don’t think Unitas, Manning and Luck aren’t #2. Who, pray tell, should be #2. Remember this is a QB rating not a team rating.

  • The Notorious TOM

    I don’t think Ben’ll be first ballot. I can see him getting snubbed easily.

  • Dennis Anders

    Giants got snubbed. That’s three solid QB’s.

  • LucasY59

    nice to see the ratbirds at #30 two QBs with SB rings and still at the bottom of the rankings where they belong, 2 of the worst QBs to win a ring (especially Dilfer) Brad Johnson with the Bucs was pretty bad also (and him and Josh Freeman are ranked two spots higher HA)

  • LucasY59

    Also good to see Tom Shady and the Cheatriots ranked back at 13

  • PittsburghSports

    Played 13 years with a career 81.8 QB rating.

  • LucasY59

    I think at the end of Luck’s career its easy they are #2 or could even get to #1 if he can win a few rings, but the Niners and Cowboys could bump them, with Lucks premature ranking (what if he goes RGIII?) I would hesitate to give them #2 until he does more than makes the playoffs

  • Greg Taylor

    O’Donnell doesn’t rate and if this guy put the New England Patronage anywhere close to the top, neither does Brady, who won with a combination of Cheating and special protection from Goodell. Terry Bradshaw was the first NFL QB to win four Super Bowls – without cheating. Joe Montana was second. Ben has played in three, won two. The top three should be: Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Green Bay.

  • PittsburghSports

    lol you aren’t serious? Brister and Tomzack were better Steeler QBs than Maddox was. He had 1 good season.

  • Milliken Steeler

    Oh man, here we go with Bradshaw again. Overated? Did you look at his stats? He not only was a TWO time MVP of those Superbowls, he was up against the best defenses, the NFL ever saw. The purple people Eaters and the Doomsday Defense…..twice? He is the only QB out of all of those guys to have a 100 rating in all four Superbowls. He had a ridiculous 158 QB rating in the 4th quarter of those Superbowls. The steel curtain gave up 21 and 31 points to the Cowboys and until The Ravens just equaled it against the 9ers……it was the most points given up by the winning team in a Superbowl. Overated? No, I’m gonna say underrated just based on these comments I continue to see about TB.

    When you shine the brightest, when it absolutely counts the most…that needs to be recognized.

  • PittsburghSports

    So difficult to say one way or the other right now. It all depends on who he’s going up against, but if there’s not another sure-fire 1st ballot QB on the list, it would be difficult not to vote Ben in.

  • PittsburghSports

    First off, they shouldn’t use a QB more than once on this list. Peyton Manning is a Colt first, Bronco second. Same goes for Bobby Lane. He is a Lion before he is a Steeler.

    O’Donnell is definitely our 3rd QB, but Kordell Stewart is running a close 4th. It really annoys the crap out of me when Steeler fans hate on these two. Both were very good QBs for us during their times and were voted team MVPs at one time because of that. Sure, they didn’t have multiple Pro Bowls or win Super Bowls, but they deserve to be on our top 5 list. Have some pride in the positives they brought to our history instead of just harping on the negatives. O’Donnell went 39-22 with us, was a very good game manager and had a few playoff games that were outstanding, but fans only remember the SB game. Slash was one of the most versatile players in NFL history, plus his record of 46-29 as the Steelers QB was pretty darn good. His 38 rushing TDs for a QB ranks only 2nd to Steve Young. He suffered through 3 bad years in Pittsburgh that were not just his fault. Injuries, the loss of Thigpen, drafting Will Blackwell and Troy Edwards, and Ray Sherman and Kevin Gilbride as the coordinators killed the offense. After getting benched for Kent Graham, Stewart came back with a vengeance, going 20-7 the next 2 years. Stewart’s problem was always the big game. He just choked in the playoffs, but I think his overall career is worthy.

    As far as the Steelers 7th ranking, I think it’s fair, but I agree they could easily be moved up a few spots. Hard to argue against any of the teams ahead of them though.

  • I think the rams have a better trio. 3 HOF QBS. The redskins I would put the Steelers ahead. So I’d put Pittsburgh at 6. As for the Colts. I’d put the 49ers over them at 2 and move the Colts to 3. Andrew Luck is a star, and he will be a perennial pro bowler as long as he’s healthy. So, I don’t have much issue putting the colts at 3 in that aspect.

  • That said, if we’re talking duos. Pittsburgh makes the top 5. #5 behind Manning/Unitas, Young/Montana, Aikman/Staubach, Favre/Rodgers.

  • That said, I wish he would of stayed at receiver. The sky was the limit for him at wide out.

  • Steve

    One thing Terry had going for him was the Steel Curtain Defense they had at the time. Steelers could win 7-3 or 3-0 cause the D Would win the game for them. O’Donald threw the SB away and was paid off by the bookies.

  • lou rock

    hear, hear!!!

  • The O’Donnel choice is quetionable, but I can’t see the issue with Unitas/Manning/Luck being ranked no. 2?

  • To me, if Luck was gonna go RGIII, he would have done it by now. He is at worst a top-5 QB in the league. The Niners and Cowboys, in particular the Cowboys, could push, but aren’t quite there IMO.

  • LucasY59

    I agree he is not likely to have RGIII’s issues, but a career ending injury could happen to anybody and his career has not had the longevity or accomplishments to put him in a trio at #2 (even the Steelers #3 O’Donnell at least made it to a SB, and then unfortunately lost it almost single handily) I am not arguing that Luck is no good, just that making him one of the best is premature

  • I think we just look at it differently. I don’t see it as including him as one of the best, but rather as the supporting member of an already great group. Yes, he doesn’t have the longevity of some of the other guys, but he is clearly the third best Colts QB in history.

    Interesting fact I found. SB trip aside, and a lot of that was the team around O’Donnell, Luck actually has 90 more yards and 18 more TDs in 3 seasons (48 starts) with the Colts than O’Donnell had in 5 seasons (61 starts) with the Steelers. Even if his career ended this year, I don’t think anyone would argue O’Donnell was the better QB, though he will have had the better career.

  • PittsburghSports

    Maybe, but only if they kept O’Donnell. Steelers overreacted like a fan would after that Super Bowl loss and turned the team over to Jim Miller the next year, who was benched the 1st game lol and then Tomczak started the rest of the year. Stupid. Tomczak had thrown 1 TD and 9 INTs the year before. He played well in ’96, but his 4 INTs in the playoffs ushered in Stewart as the starter. They had no other QB and no choice.

  • NinjaMountie

    You have to be joking. I’m sorry, bro, but that is insane.

  • NinjaMountie

    I agree, as it stands now he’ll have to wait. If he wins another SB, he may still wait but it will not be long. If he wins two, he’s 1 and in. If he wins one more with really good statistical seasons here on out is another way he might get in on the first vote.

  • Krankor

    Right off the bat, the list shows ignorance, because the Green Bay trio of Brett Favre, Bart Starr, and Aaron Rogers does NOT belong at number one, not by a longshot. Anyone who knows anything about football knows that number one should be the Green Bay trio of Favre, Starr, and Arnie Herber. Nobody remembers Arnie Herber, but he is a Hall of Fame quarterback who won *four* NFL championships with the Packers back in the ’30’s. Compared to that, what has Rogers done?

  • steelster

    Wait, I thought landry Jones was the 3rd quarterback.

  • PittsburghSports

    Nice. I like the knowledge, but I think Herber was only QB for 2 of those teams(’36 and ’39). Thought he was a Tailback before that. Besides, it’s impossible to compare a 30’s QB that totaled 8,000 career passing yards in 13 years with the 2x NFL MVP and SB MVP Rodgers that’s already thrown for 28,000 yards with 226/57 TD/INT ratio and has a QB rating of 101.0 in 11 career playoff starts.

  • Steelers im my mind are the best team with only 2 franchise QBs on the list. My Homer’s opinion is that #4 is about right.

    raiders, eagles, and bengals are all too high IMO. Bills, Oilers too low.

    Can we not have Tomczyk as #3?

  • mhurk

    I thought O Donnell played for the Cowboys??? or at least it looks like He did in that Superbowl.

  • Krankor

    No, not really correct. Technically he was a tailback, but he was tailback in the *single wing*, which is, effectively, quarterback. The Packers were running the Notre Dame box, which was a single wing variant, all through the 30’s, and Herber led the league in *passing* a number of times in that period. We don’t *know* about passing for the 30 and 31 season because the NFL *didn’t keep stats on it yet*. But it’s clear that he didn’t make some transition from running back to quarterback; as the “tailback” he was the qb of the single wing offense.
    And I think it’s hopelessly unfair to just throw ones arms up and say “well, you can’t compare between the different eras”. One could argue that what Herber did was MORE impressive, leading the league and setting passing records back when the game was such a running game, and, prior to 1934, he was throwing the *old* style rounder ball! He was clearly the star of the early 30’s teams; until Don Hutson came along, can you even *name* anybody else on the ’30 and ’31 team?
    Now, I didn’t remember that Rodgers had 2 NFL MVPs, that is indeed impressive. But come on, *four NFL championships*??? Who else can say that apart from Starr, Bradshaw, Montana, Brady, and SId Luckman? Let Rodgers win a few more and make the Hall, and then we’ll talk.

  • VaDave

    May be we could include Unitas in with the Steelers. We found him first after all. And while we are at it, you could also add Len Dawson as well.
    As for Bradshaw, if you are just looking at just his QB stats, like yardage, completion rates, I can see the results being what they are. But when you put his (4) 4th quarter Super Bowl performances out there, there was none better, or more clutch. Talk about rising to the occasion.
    For those of us that have gotten over the two interceptions in Superbowl XX, O’Donnell was a very accurate passer, without a lot of weapons to throw to.
    Big Ben put together the best closing drive ever Super Bowl history in XLIII. In XL, not so much there, but his play that year down the final stretch of the season leading up to it was outstanding. His play over the last couple of years has proved he is Hall worthy.
    I’m ok with The Pack taking the 1st place honors. Probably had the Giants trio of Simms, Manning & Tittle/Connerly in third place behind the Cowboys trio of Merideth, Morton, and LaBarron.. ok, Stabauch, White, and Aikman……
    How about Otto Graham, Bernie Kosar, and Frank Ryan?
    In conclusion, there is no way to compare players from different eras. Players like Luck, Ben, Manning & Manning, have and will put up numbers those older gents could only dream about. Somehow, the thought of a guy like Suh landing on a shrimp like Eddie LaBarron kind of ruins the romance of it all.

  • Krankor

    Yes, you can compare players of different eras. You just can’t mindlessly compare them using stats. You have to do the harder job of comparing them by quality and impact. Granted, this is harder and more imperfect, but it’s also much more interesting and enlightening. Stats never really tell the story.

  • Ryan

    I would’ve gone Packers, 49ers 1 and 2. It’s tough to pick between us cowboys and Colts. The more I think about it I wanna go Us, Colts and Cowboys I just think Unitas over Staubach and Luck over Romo but I still have a hard time deciding between Manning and Aikman.

  • Ryan

    He may have only had 1 good season but I would want Tommy Maddox on here lol I dunno why but I loved that dude. Not that I’d trade Ben for him or anything.

  • Krankor

    Ok, so I’ll take 7th for QB. Now let’s see them do the same thing for linebackers. Or centers. 😉

  • Rob Olzer

    Yes i remember 2001 slash finished at the top in league in voting for the mvp of the NFL

  • VaDave

    Interesting? Absolutely. I’m just having trouble getting my arms around the enlightening part. I do agree with the stats part. I’ve never put too much weight behind analytics. Keep in mind, I watched most of these guys mentioned in their prime. The game has changed so much, you could almost make a case that Gordie Howe was the best QB ever. The players today are so much bigger, faster, more athletic. 60 years ago, most of the players in the NFL had full time jobs OUTSIDE of Football. They played 12 games a year. Starting linemen weighed about 200 lbs. They wore leather. They played in mud half the season, unless you were the Packers, Vikings, Lions or Bears that played half of their season on ice.
    Would Bobby Lane be as good if he had only about 1.5 seconds to get a pass off before a hulk like Holi Ngta tears his head off and asks for change? I guarantee an experience like that would sober him up for once in his life.

  • The GreekGeek

    The only thing I would diagree with here is putting Luck above BR today. Maybe eventually when his career is finished, but I think as of today based on his body of work and winning, and stats, and even who i would pick for this upcoming season, I go with Ben over Luck.

    I don’t think Luck has proved it yet. He probably will, but we’re still mostly talking about potential versus results.The other guys have done it so I won’t argue there.

  • The GreekGeek

    I’ll take Kordell over all of them. Maybe toss up with O’Donnell but I think Stewart never got a fair chance and was better than his stats.

  • PittsburghSports

    I know the article does it a few times, but they shouldn’t use a QB for more than 1 team. In saying that, Bobby Lane is a Detroit Lion more than he is a Steeler. That’s why Detroit retired his number, not the Steelers. Lane never made the playoffs as a Steeler, but he won 2 championships with Detroit. O’Donnell, on the other hand, led the Steelers to 4 straight playoff appearances. Not even Roethlisberger can say that lol. I know O’Donnell had a horrible Super Bowl, but they would’ve never even made it to that game if not for his 38 yard pass to Erie Mills down to the 2 yard line in the AFC Championship game. One of the biggest pass completions in Steeler history.

  • PittsburghSports

    Ya know I would too. Kordell is my all-time favorite college player, so I loved it when they drafted him, but what the Steelers accomplished under O’Donnell was a bit more impressive, going to the playoffs 4 straight years(not even Ben has done that), 2 Champ games and a SB appearance, although Stewart led them to 2 Champ games as well.

  • PittsburghSports

    Hey, you make some great points, and what Herber accomplished with his team and at the position is impressive.

  • PittsburghSports

    What 2 Steeler QBs have lead their teams to 4 straight playoff appearances?

  • mhurk

    I always wonder, how much did JJ pay Him to throw that game??? I reckon about 5 mill.

  • PittsburghSports

    2001
    Winner
    Rams quarterback Kurt Warner (21.5 votes) — 14-2 record, 4,830 passing yards, 36 TD, 22 INT, 68.7 percent, 546 attempts

    Runners-up
    Rams running back Marshall Faulk (17.5 votes) — 14-2 record, 1,382 rushing yards, 5.3 avg., 765 receiving yards, 21 combined TD
    Packers quarterback Brett Favre (5 votes) — 12-4 record, 3,921 passing yards, 32 TD, 15 INT, 61.6 percent, 510 attempts
    Steelers quarterback Kordell Stewart (4 votes) — 13-3 record, 3,109 passing yards, 14 TD, 11 INT, 60.2 percent, 442 attempts, 537 rushing yards, 5 TD
    Bears linebacker Brian Urlacher (2 votes) — 13-3 record, 90 tackles, 6 sacks, 3 INT, 2 forced fumbles, 1 TD

  • James Bradley

    That’s the mistake the article makes,….O”Donnel never should have been included, Bobby Layne was a Pro Bowler, a record breaker, and a winner who helped resurrect a horrid franchise and actually had a winning record as a starter and even put PGH in the playoffs, a feat more rare than lunar eclipses in the Pre Chuck Noll era. Layne is also in the Pro Football HOF, even if his best days were in DET his days in Pgh were very good

  • James Bradley

    Luck hasne even played long enough to be on the list….#3 for Colts should have been Bert Jones, and while GB is a great choice for #1, SF should be #2

  • James Bradley

    Luck’s career has been get injured, lose games when healthy, team misses the playoffs. And it’s a short career right now too. Luck shouldn’t even be on the list, Bert Jones should be #3 for Colts. Meanwhile, no team can match the 1-2 punch of Montana & Young and Brodie might be the best #3 option outside of GB any team has.

  • James Bradley

    And yet after O’Donnel left as his career went off the rails and he couldn’t keep a job to save his life except as a back up, PGH did exactly what they did Won-Lost wise with Tomczak (10 wins, Div Title, Playoff Win, lost to to AFC Champ NE) and Stewart (11 wins, AFC Title Game loss to SB Champ Den), then rebuilt the defense & O-Line and did about the same again with Stewart (13 wins, AFC Title Game loss to SB Champ NE) & Maddox (10 wins, Div Title, playoff win).