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Tim Benz: Steelers fans will hate centennial list of Top 100 NFL teams

Tim Benz
1509630_web1_ptr-SteelersSuper-080819
AP
Steelers quarterback Terry Bradshaw turns to hand the ball to off during action Jan. 21, 1979 against the Dallas Cowboys in Super Bowl XIII action in Miami, Fla. The Steelers went on to defeat the Cowboys 35-31.

A lot of national outlets have spent a lot of time taking shots at the Pittsburgh Steelers this offseason. And many are predicting Baltimore or Cleveland will win the AFC North.

Therefore, USA Today’s Nate Davis probably made a lot of friends in Western Pennsylvania when he predicted the Steelers would go 11-5 and win the division.

Unfortunately, he probably lost most of them when he published his list of the top 100 NFL teams of all time.

As part of the NFL’s centennial season, Davis decided to rank the 100 best teams of the past century.

They don’t have to all be champions, mind you. For instance, the 1976 Steelers (who lost in the AFC title game) make the cut, as did the 18-1 New England Patriots of 2007 who came up short in the Super Bowl.

That said, let’s look at the Steelers teams that did make Davis’ top 100.

8. 1975 Steelers (Won Super Bowl X)

13. 1978 Steelers (Won Super Bowl XIII)

39. 1976 Steelers (Lost in AFC Championship)

41. 1979 Steelers (Won Super Bowl XIV)

62. 2005 Steelers (Won Super Bowl XL)

69. 1974 Steelers (Won Super Bowl IX)

71. 2008 Steelers (Won Super Bowl XLIII)

So, the Steelers are hardly underrepresented. But failing to rank any one of the four ’70s teams higher than eighth is a mistake and should have old-school Terrible Towel wavers in a tizzy.

Davis has the 1985 Bears first. They won Super Bowl XX. The 18-1 Super Bowl-winning 49ers of 1984 are second. The 1962 World Champion Packers are third. The undefeated 1972 Dolphins are fifth.

That’s fine. I’d still go with the 1978 Steelers first. Blame my bias if you like.

We’ve all heard the arguments for and against those other teams compared to any one of the Steelers’ four winners from that era. So, I’m not going to gnash my teeth over the advancement of those four iconic winners from other franchises.

But how Davis crammed three San Francisco teams and the 1991 Redskins in the top seven before the 1975 Steelers is a mystery to me.

That Redskins team was fantastic. I wouldn’t put them in the top 10, though. And the flaw with making three editions of the San Francisco clubs (1984, 1989, 1994) appear within the top seven is that he’s implying there is very little variance over those 10 years of 49ers excellence — even with Joe Montana giving way to Steve Young by that last title.

Great. Then how are there 28 notches of difference between the 1979 and 1978 Steelers clubs and 61 spots between the 1974 and 1978 teams?

Here’s Davis’ rationale.

It ‘feels’ a touch disrespectful waiting this long to mention the Steel Curtain dynasty, perhaps the league’s greatest. The issue? None of those teams seemed to feature its wealth of Hall of Famers at a simultaneous apex, the defense largely showing the way in the early ’70s before the offense truly flourished later in the decade. (A 1970s Pittsburgh team that did not win the Super Bowl might have been the best entry … keep reading.) But the ’75 team’s case is compelling given a 12-2 record and the largest point differential (plus-211) in franchise history. Throw in a Super Bowl win against a Cowboys team that was nearly as good, and you have the makings of a powerhouse deserving recognition as one of the NFL’s 10 greatest teams.

Well, that’s why I’d argue the 1978 team should be higher than the 1975 one, and why it should get the Steelers into, at least, the top four.

The statistical rankings and averages within most major categories between the 1978 and 1975 clubs are a lot closer than suggested in that synopsis — on both sides of the ball. And if that 1978 Cowboys team is as good as Davis is claiming (ranked No. 64, in front of two Steelers title winners), then it’s the 1978 club that should be considered before any other entry.

A few other observations:

• If you think you’re mad at this list, imagine what they are saying in New England. That 2007 Patriots team is the first Tom Brady-Bill Belichick team that appears … at No. 17!

No Patriots Super Bowl-winning team shows up until the 2016 club at No. 19. That group overcame Brady’s DeflateGate suspension and came back to beat Atlanta 34-28 in the Super Bowl.

What I’m saying is, whatever angry emails Davis gets from this half of Pennsylvania may get lost in the wash from those six states in New England.

• The 1969 Jets are very overrated at No. 16 (before any Patriots teams). They were more important than they were good.

• I laughed out loud at the 2005 Seahawks being 76th. Maybe 176th? Maybe?

• And if beating good teams in the playoffs matters, how are the 2011 Giants 98th, behind two teams on the list (Green Bay and New England) that they beat in the postseason?

Aside from that, and about 50 other things, the list was perfect.

Tim Benz is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tim at [email protected] or via Twitter. All tweets could be reposted. All emails are subject to publication unless specified otherwise.

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