5 longest playing careers in Pittsburgh Steelers history

Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Webster
Pittsburgh Steelers, Mike Webster / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been as loyal to their players as any team in professional sports. When they find a legendary player, they do everything in their power to make sure he remains a Steeler for life. This mentality derived from the Rooney's and it's a big reason why this team has only had three head coaches since 1969.

Because of their loyalty, you won't find many teams that have had numerous players with longer playing careers. This fanbase has had the pleasure of seeing a number of Hall of Fame careers from start to finish with every single year coming as a member of this team. Here are the five longest playing careers in Pittsburgh Steelers history.

*All statistics courtesy of Statmuse.

5. Mel Blount: 200 games played with Steelers

Mel Blount hit the 200-game mark right on the nose. For a cornerback in today's game, this would be nearly impossible to do. Blount defied the odds and was able to remain a full-time starter until the age of 35 during his final season in 1983.

It's incredibly rare that you see a cornerback play 14 seasons all with the same team. Even '90s legends like Deion Sanders and Steelers Hall of Famer Rod Woodson weren't able to do so. Modern stars of the past two decades like Champ Bailey, Charles Woodson, Richard Sherman, and Darrelle Revis weren't able to stick with one team either.

In addition to playing a total of 200 games in black and gold, Blount recorded 189 starts en route to a Hall of Fame career. His physical play style resulted in new rules that forced defensive backs to tone it back a bit.

4. Donnie Shell: 201 games played with Steelers

It's rare enough for a team to have one defensive back play at least 200 games all with the same team, but the Pittsburgh Steelers actually had two who did so at the same time. Donnie Shell was an All-Pro safety in the late '70s and early '80s and his Steelers career stretched just beyond Blount's at 201 total games played.

While it took Shell much longer to enter the Hall of Fame, he eventually earned a gold jacket of his own. Shell had a remarkable six-season stretch from 1979 to 1984 in which he recorded between 5-7 interceptions each year.

Shell arrived in the legendary 1974 season. Despite 17 rounds of draft picks back then, Shell climbed the ladder as an undrafted free agent. He joined Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster as the fifth Hall of Famer who entered the league on the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974.

Unlike Mel Blount, Shell wasn't a starter from the gate, as he recorded just 3 starts in his first three seasons before earning the trust of Chuck Noll and the coaching staff. He went on to start 162 games, but his 201 games played put him fourth all-time among Pittsburgh Steelers' longest playing careers.

3. Hines Ward: 217 games played with Steelers

One career that seemed to last forever was that of Hines Ward. The former third-round pick began his career all the way back in 1998 and it spanned over 14 years until he finally hung up his cleats for ghppd at the age of 35 following the 2011 season.

Just two years after he was drafted and with only 14 starts under his belt at the time, Pittsburgh spent the 8th overall pick in the draft on wide receiver, Plaxico Burress. At the time, Burress was thought to be the future of the wide receiver position in Pittsburgh. But despite being a pedestrian athlete with a compact frame, Ward proved why he was the go-to receiver in Pittsburgh.

By year four, Ward made his first Pro Bowl and recorded his first 1,000-yard season. While his single-season statistics never took the league by storm, he was an essential piece of the offense and a trusted security blanket for Steelers quarterbacks throughout his career.

Ward finished his Steelers career with 217 games played and 190 starts. Playing a skill position like wide receiver from the age of 22 to the age of 35 will be hard for anyone to top. The former Pro Bowl receiver was blessed with terrific health throughout his playing career and only missed 7 total games in 14 years.

2. Mike Webster: 220 games played with Steelers

Now we are starting to get into some uncharted territory when it comes to longevity with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite starting his career in the early '70s, Mike Webster was able to stick around as the starting center in the NFL all the way until 1990 (though his final year with the Steelers came in 1988).

Webster's outstanding NFL career consisted of five First-Team All-Pro honors and 9 Pro Bowl appearances. These were well-deserved, as Webster was one of the best to ever play his position in the NFL.

In terms of longevity, Webster outlasted Hall of Fame quarterback Terry Bradshaw. Heck, by the time he hung up his cleats, he was only five years away from seeing the Kordell Stewart era begin. Webster had two seasons cut short due to injuries -- suiting up for just 9 games in 1982 and in his final season in 1990. It's also worth noting that the NFL didn't move to a 16-game schedule until Webster's fifth season, so he could have had even more games under his belt.

It's exceptionally rare to find a player at any position who could play this many games in the NFL. Even though he played his final two seasons in Kansas City, he still finished second on this list with 220 games played in his Pittsburgh Steelers career (245 total in his career).

1. Ben Roethlisberger: 249 games played with Steelers

Here's a record that might never be broken. Not even some of the best to ever play the game like Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Joe Montana had the benefit of spending their entire career in one city. Ben Roethlisberger was able to call Pittsburgh his home for all 18 years of his playing career from 2004 to 2021.

While injuries cut his season short at times (including elbow surgery that forced him to miss all but two games in 2019), Roethlisberger still managed to play a whopping 249 games as a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers -- starting 247.

Both the amount of games played and started are records that are unlikely to ever be broken. In order to do so, a player would have to have a nearly two-decade career without missing significant action. In today's NFL, it seems like a longshot to assume any player will be given as long as Roethlisberger was.

Big Ben holds claim to practically every Steelers passing record. He officially finishes first on the list of longest playing careers in Pittsburgh's franchise history, and he had over 64,000 passing yards to go with his two Super Bowl rings.

Next. 10 greatest single-season performances in Steelers history. 10 greatest single-season performances in Steelers history. dark