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ALL-MODERN ERA: Offensive line

The following is another in a series that picks a Steelers All-Modern Era Team. Players were considered based on having careers with the Steelers from 1992 until the present. The All-Modern Era team is made up of 26 players – 11 on offense, 11 on defense, and four specialists.


TODAY: Offensive line
Dermontti Dawson. Carlton Haselrig. Duval Love. Alan Faneca. Jeff Hartings. Marvel Smith. Maurkice Pouncey.

Jonathan Scott. Chris Kemoeatu. Darnell Stapleton. Doug Legursky. Brendan Stai. Tom Newberry.

Check out the greatest photos of Pittsburgh Steelers center Dermontti Dawson.

The first list represents every Steelers offensive lineman to have been voted to a Pro Bowl in the 23 seasons the game has been held since 1992. The second list represents some of the offensive linemen who have started for the Steelers in their Super Bowl appearances during the same span.

The Pittsburgh Steelers won a lot of games, division championships, playoff games, four AFC Championships, and a couple of Super Bowls since 1992. It's easy to remember the seasons Barry Foster and Jerome Bettis had during separate eras with the Steelers, and wasn't it impressive the way the running attack was just as effective when it was being triggered by the undrafted rookie who came to be known as Fast Willie Parker. Then there were those back-to-back seasons where Rashard Mendenhall ran for 2,381 with a 4.2 average and 20 rushing touchdowns. And it was just last year that Le'Veon Bell averaged 4.7 yards per carry on the way to a 1,361 total.

Not to mention the passing numbers Ben Roethlisberger has posted since being drafted in 2004. A completion percentage of 63.9 to go along with 39,057 yards and 251 touchdowns

Easy to remember, all of that. But not so much the names of the guys who helped it be possible. Besides the centers, of course. Everybody acknowledges them. Dermontti Dawson is in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Maurkice Pouncey, who only turns 26 in July, was just voted first-team All-Pro for the second time in his five NFL seasons, one of which was spent almost entirely on injured reserve.

Those two guys – Dawson and Pouncey – are the heart of the Steelers' All-Modern Era group of offensive linemen. The others are Alan Faneca, Marvel Smith, and Max Starks.

The top photos of Center Maurkice Pouncey throughout 2014 season.

It should be noted that in selecting this group an effort was made to choose five players capable of operating as a unit, and even though Dawson and Pouncey played the same position, they had to be accommodated. Dawson played guard during his college career at Kentucky; and during his rookie season with the Steelers, all eight of his appearances – including five starts – were at guard. Pouncey started at guard during his freshman season under Urban Meyer at Florida. One is the center, and the other is a guard. Rock, paper, scissors.

The other guard is Faneca. Big, could run, did a good job of getting to linebackers and even safeties. Alan Faneca also was a presence in those locker rooms, one of those players respected by his peers as a teammate and as a man. Faneca was a six-time first-team All-Pro selection as a guard during his time with the Steelers.

Picking a pair of offensive tackles came down to looking for guys who played a lot on teams that won a lot of games. Smith fit into that description nicely. During a six-season span in which Smith was the primary starter at left tackle, the Steelers were 63-32-1 and made the playoff four times. Smith was the starting left tackle in Super Bowl XL.

Starks was the starting right tackle in that same Super Bowl, and he was the starting left tackle in Super Bowl XLIII. Maybe this is another rock, paper, scissors deal for left side vs. right side, but Smith and Starks are the tackles.

OTHERS TO CONSIDER
The toughest name to omit from the five who make up this offensive line is JEFF HARTINGS. A first-team All-Pro for the Steelers team that finished 15-1 in 2004, Hartings also anchored the offensive line the following season when the Steelers won the Super Bowl. Hartings, a leader and a respected teammate, spent the first five of his 11 seasons with a different team (Detroit), and fell just below the Dawson-Pouncey-Faneca triumvirate along the interior of the offensive line. Hartings was a much better guard than either Pouncey or Dawson, but both of them are better centers.

As a starting guard in 2002-03 and again in 2005-07, KENDALL SIMMONS was part of a team that finished 45-34-1, made the playoffs twice, and won a Super Bowl. He just can't crack an interior three of Dawson, Pouncey, and Faneca.

CARLTON HASELRIG and DUVAL LOVE each were voted to one Pro Bowl, but Haselrig flamed out midway through his third pro season, and Love had been a Plan B pickup who attracted attention after Barry Foster's 1,690 yards in 1992, and the team's total of 2,180 rushing yards during a 12-4 season in 1994.

LEON SEARCY was a three-year starter for the Steelers during a time when they made the playoffs each season, once advancing as far as Super Bowl XXX. DAVID DeCASTRO was the team's No. 1 pick in 2012, but after his rookie season was ruined by injury, he remains a promising yet unfinished product.

TOMORROW: Specialists

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