Defense dominates the 2020 Hall of Honor Class

The hardest part for those who select the Steelers Hall of Honor Class each year isn't coming up with enough members to include in the group, it's finding a way to narrow it down to a reasonable number of individuals to induct each year.

That was once again the case this year because the legends who have made the Steelers who they are through the years are plentiful.

The members of the 2020 Steelers Hall of Honor Class are spread out over decades, but there is one thing they all have in common – their impact on the Steelers defense was invaluable.

The Steelers legends who will be inducted into the Hall of Honor for 2020 include James Farrior, Greg Lloyd, Troy Polamalu, Mike Wagner and Dwight White.

"This is the first time our class has included only players," said Art Rooney II. "I think that is great. It recognizes what a great number of players we have. It's really a great class.

"Over the years we have become known as a franchise that has always put strong defense on the field. Some of our most significant players in history have been defensive players. I guess that is how it should be as Steelers football has evolved."

The team introduced the Hall of Honor in 2017, an idea that came from Steelers President Art Rooney II, along with late Chairman Dan Rooney. The Hall of Honor was established to recognize former players, coaches, and front office personnel who played an integral role in the success of the franchise, from the beginning in 1933 until now. To be considered, a player must be retired at least three years and played a minimum of three seasons for the Steelers. Former coaches and contributors had to make significant contributions to the team and community.

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The Steelers have had some impactful free agent signings over the years, and there is no doubt that Farrior is right near the top of that list. Farrior, the New York Jets former No. 1 draft choice, played 10 seasons with the Steelers, recording 30 sacks and 1,078 tackles.

"It's very overwhelming for me to be mentioned with all of the guys who are in there now," said Farrior of joining his fellow legends in the Hall of Honor. "Just to be in a group with those players we all looked up to growing up and admired over the years is something special.

"It's good to know people still care about you, that the organization still wants to do positive things like this and recognize the players and the work they put in. The Rooney family, you can't say enough about them and what they did for the Steelers and throughout the NFL. The impact they made is unbelievable."

Farrior, a two-time Super Bowl champ, was a key component in the Steelers run to Super Bowl XL, in particular his performance against the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC Divisional playoffs when he recorded 10 tackles and 2.5 sacks, coming through big all the way to the end of a heart-pounding win.

Farrior was a two-time Pro Bowl selection, named first-team All-Pro once and was voted the Steelers MVP in 2004.

"I could have never dreamed coming to the Steelers would do what it did for me," said Farrior. "I never would have thought my career would end up the way they did. I appreciate the opportunity they gave me. I didn't know how good a fit it would be when I first signed with the team. I could tell from Day 1 it was the place for me and Pittsburgh became my second home. I fell in love with the city, the fans, my teammates. It was a great experience all around.

"When you look at the history, the championships they had before I was with the team in the 1970s, and the legacy those players left and the opportunity we had to live up to that was special. For me, not being drafted by the team and coming in as a free agent, I got to see what it was like to be elsewhere. Hands down Pittsburgh was the best organization I could have ever played for."

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Take a look at some of the best photos of LB James Farrior throughout his career


His demeanor appeared to match the shirt he wore on a regular basis. It simply said, "I wasn't hired for my disposition." It was a message that had many avoid Lloyd, but for him, it was simply a gift from a group of kids that he promised he would wear that eventually turned into a whole lot more.

"I somehow got chosen to go speak to an elementary school," said Lloyd. "How or why I don't know. When it was over the kids wanted to present me with something and here is this t-shirt with 'I wasn't hired for my disposition.' I told the kids I was going to wear the t-shirt every day, so they knew I appreciated what they did.

"Then it caught on. It was like Clark Kent goes into the booth and he comes out as Superman. That is kind of how it was. You come to work as a mild-mannered guy. You put this thing on, and you are this superhero thing."

Lloyd played collegiately at Fort Valley State, not a football powerhouse, but the Steelers noticed him on his tape from the Sheridan All-Star Game, which featured players from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The Steelers drafted him in the sixth round of the 1987 NFL Draft, and he made an impact from the moment he arrived, making an interception on his first play in minicamp.

"When I played in Pittsburgh, I was a young kid coming out Fort Valley, I just wanted to play," said Lloyd. "When I got there and you meet the likes of Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Lambert and Jack Ham, and I got to play with Donnie Shell and John Stallworth and see the work habit, you want to be like those guys. I wanted to be like those guys and have someone wear my jersey. I knew I had to work hard. I wanted to be considered one of those guys when I left there. When they talk about linebackers in Pittsburgh, if they don't mention my name when I retire, then I didn't play well. That was my whole thing when I played. I wanted to be the best. It doesn't come by talking, it comes by what you do on the field.

"I am so tickled I ended up in this class."

Lloyd was a three-time All-Pro and ranks ninth on the team's all-time sack list with 53.5. He played in five Pro Bowls and was named team MVP twice for a team he loved to play for.

"I didn't get a chance to play with guys like Franco (Harris), but just to meet them, to see them come around, the history of the team, I was built for that," said Lloyd. "Pittsburgh had a bunch of guys that had a certain DNA that you needed to play on the defense. Being in that black and gold, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I will always bleed black and gold. It's an honor to be considered among the best that played for the team, the guys I played with and came before me. I always wanted to be one of those guys, and I am honored they consider me one of them."

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It takes a special player to be elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility.

Well, there is no doubt Polamalu was a special player.

Polamalu was a first-ballot selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a Modern-Era member of the Class of 2020. While he won't be enshrined until 2021 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he earned his spot in Canton and then some.

A two-time Super Bowl champion, Polamalu also was a four-time first-team All-Pro selection, two-time second team All-Pro selection, NFL Defensive Player of the Year (2010), eight-time Pro Bowler and a member of the NFL 2000s All-Decade Team and Steelers All-Time Team.

His career totals include 12.0 sacks, 32 interceptions, 13 forced fumbles and seven fumble recoveries during the regular season, and his postseason numbers include one half-sack and three interceptions, one which was returned for a touchdown.

And while everyone you come in contact with will happily sing his praises, he is quiet, soft-spoken and doesn't look at himself as special.

"That is why Troy is Troy," said LeBeau. "He doesn't think what he did is particularly exceptional, with the assistance of his teammates. We had a great bunch, but Troy was as productive and more as any. We all know what he did was completely one in a million type of athletic feats.

"What makes Troy, Troy is the fact that Troy is simply Troy. That's it. I think the good Lord made only one Troy and I am very thankful he placed him in our lives, that being mine and the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's a once in a generational player. There won't be another safety like him in another 100 years. If you are asking for one word from being his coach it would be instincts. He was the most instinctual player I have ever seen."

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Take a look at some of the best photos of S Troy Polamalu throughout his career


Wagner was one of those diamonds in the rough that teams find, an 11th round draft pick in the 1971 NFL Draft out of Western Illinois, who went on to play 10 years and be a key piece to the puzzle as a starter on the four Super Bowl Championship teams of the 1970s, before he retired in 1980.

"I am very honored to have been selected to join a pretty wonderful group of Steelers players, administrators, scouts and ownership," said Wagner. "I couldn't imagine me being in it. I don't know how I am qualified, but I am deeply honored.

"When I first came here, I was a late draft pick and didn't expect to make the team. I heard how great the Rooney family is to players and the community. Over time, I was fortunate to make the team. Chuck Noll gave me a chance, and I was able to capitalize on it. I learned a lot about the Rooney family and their kindness and sense of empathy. I don't know if people talk about that enough. They make you feel like family. The door is always open, and it continues that way today with Art II. It's like going back to high school. You are always welcome, and the door is always open. They are the real deal."

Wagner, who joked that he was lucky to hang on for 10 years, did more than that. He was a two-time Pro Bowl selection who finished his career with 36 career interceptions, including a personal best eight in 1973, which tied for the NFL lead that season.

Wagner had an innate ability to make big plays when it mattered the most, including interceptions in Super Bowls IX and X, with both interceptions being key plays in the Steelers victories. In Super Bowl IX, Wagner had a fourth-quarter interception off of Fran Tarkenton to help seal a 16-6 win over the Vikings and allow the offense to run out the clock. In Super Bowl X he intercepted Roger Staubach in the fourth quarter as well, setting up a field goal to extend the Steelers lead to 15-10. Wagner also helped secure the win when he tipped Staubach's pass on the final play of the game, and Glen Edwards intercepted it to secure the 21-17 win over the Cowboys.

"To go from a team that never won anything to four-time Super Bowl champion during my era is a treasure, and it's a treasure for all of Steelers Nation," said Wagner. "The fans still remember all of the players from my era, and that is special."

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When you think about the Steelers defense from the 1970s, the first thing that comes to mind is the 'Steel Curtain.' Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White made up that legendary unit. They all brought their own niche, their own personality, their own strength to the unit that helped the Steelers win four Super Bowls.

"I am very appreciative of the Steelers doing this," said Karen White, the wife of the late Dwight White, who died in 2008. "It's always nice that he gets recognized by the team and organization he was a part of. I am thrilled. My daughter and I are both thrilled."

White was nicknamed 'Mad Dog' because of the intensity he brought to the field. That intensity was on display during Super Bowl IX. White was diagnosed with severe pneumonia after the Steelers arrived in New Orleans for the game and spent a week in the hospital, losing 18 pounds. That didn't stop him from playing in the franchise's first Super Bowl…and even scoring the first points in Steelers Super Bowl history. Vikings running back Dave Osborn fumbled at the 10-yard line, and the ball rolled into the end zone. Vikings quarterback Fran Tarkenton landed on the ball, but White tackled him for the safety.

The Vikings tried to run the ball against the Steelers, thinking they could go after White's side. The first eight running plays went to his side and he made three tackles, zero yards gained. The Vikings finished with only 17 rushing yards.

White was selected to two Pro Bowls and his 46 sacks rank tenth in team history.

"The Steelers are special to me. It's a part of Pittsburgh, it's a part of me," said Karen White. "I am a native Pittsburgher. I have grown up with the Steelers all of my life. My family were Steelers fans. The organization means a lot. The fact that Dwight is being honored by the Steelers, it means so much.

"It's beyond words those times in the 1970s. I don't think anything will ever be repeated like that. It was wonderful to be a part of it. Dwight was honored to be a part of the Steelers organization. This really is very special."

Take a look at some of the best photos of DE Dwight White throughout his career

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