Pittsburgh Steelers All Underrated Team: Defensive End

New series we’re kicking off to take us throughout the summer. We’ve written about the best players in franchise history and the most underrated on the current edition but we’ve never gone through the list of most underrated position-by-position. Not the best ones to ever wear a Pittsburgh Steelers’ uniform but ones who fans have – and shouldn’t – forgot.

Flipping over to the defensive side of the ball.

Keith Gary/DE – 1983-1988

Throughout this series, we’ve journeyed through almost every era of team history. The Pre-Noll times, the 70s dynasty, the 90s run, and everywhere in the 2000s. The only decade we’re missing are the 80s. A forgotten time in history and for good reason. The success couldn’t match what the 70s did and what the 90s would accomplish. Thanks to guys like Gary, it wasn’t always terrible, and honestly, better than what’s remembered.

Keith Gary in Pittsburgh nearly never happened though. A first round pick by the team in 1981, he opted against playing in the NFL, signing with the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes. He spent two seasons there before making his NFL debut with the Steelers in ’83.

Jot a list of defensive ends in Steelers’ history – since sacks were made official, anyway – with two seasons of 6.5+ sacks. It’s a short one. Keith Willis, Cam Heyward, Aaron Smith, Ray Seals, and Gary. Gary is probably the forgotten one on this list; Seals may be too, but I didn’t consider him for this honor after spending just two years with the team.

In 1983, Gary burst onto the scene with 7.5 sacks. 6.5 more came in ’86. But his production was steady throughout recording at least four sacks in four of his six seasons spent with the squad.

His most famous sack was also his most illegal. Gary nearly took Ken Anderson’s head off with a twisting facemask during a win in 1983. The photo made the front cover of the PPG’s Sports Section, though here’s a better look at it from the AP.

In total, he finished his career with 25 sacks for the Steelers, basically matching the same output as Heyward. And Gary’s games to sack ratio bests Aaron Smith, Brett Keisel, Kimo Von Oelhoffen, and Stephon Tuitt.

So when Mark Malone made you want to turn the knob on your TV, guys like Gary made the decade a lot more tolerable.

All Underrated Team

QB – Bobby Layne
RB – John Henry Johnson
FB – Dan Kreider
TE – Eric Green
WR – Ron Shanklin
WR – Roy Jefferson
OT – John Jackson
OT – Frank Varrichione
OG – Ramon Foster
OG – Bruce Van Dyke
C- Jeff Hartings
DE – Keith Gary
DE – Bill McPeak

About the Author

Alex Kozora

Full-time blogger from mom’s basement. Marrying tape and statistics. Chidi Iwuoma is my favorite Steeler of all-time.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    Excellent, like the nod to Bill McPeak too.

  • Big White

    Hey easy on Mark Malone. He did play in an AFC Championship against the fish in 84′, plus he’s in the Tom Selleck Look-Alike HOF.

  • Alex Kozora

    I figured you would.

  • Alex Kozora

    Malone will make the all-mustache team. Promise.

  • John Noh

    Going to put in my vote for John Banaszak, an underdog Steeler if there ever was one. Wasn’t the most talented but he played hard on every down he was involved in.

  • Alex Kozora

    A solid choice, John.

  • Beaver Falls Hosiery

    I thought he was a defensive tackle. No matter; he is a great choice on d-line.

  • nutty32

    3 Picks

  • John Noh

    He played both positions, tackle and end.

  • Jefferson_St_Joe

    My memory is not the greatest,, but I recall Gary as a big disappointment. He had a ton of hype and and the expectations were huge, especially after he held out and went to the CFL, but I never remember him having much influence on the games, aside from jumping offsides. He was not in the league all that long and would have been out sooner, if he wasn’t a first round pick and a big name.. There was a reason he only started 36 out of 85 career games. I think the sack numbers are deceiving in this case.

  • BlackAndGold97

    Eric Green made this list? How does a 1st rounder make this list? He of the infamous rap video before the 94 AFC Championship loss to San Diego.

  • Dorian James

    WOW, Ray Seals. I remember he and Joel Steed were my guys up front. Wasn’t there a guy named Evans on that three-man front too??