The 10 best cornerbacks in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers

Still Curtain ranks the all-time best cornerbacks in franchise history.
Philadelphia Eagles v Pittsburgh Steelers
Philadelphia Eagles v Pittsburgh Steelers / George Gojkovich/GettyImages

The Pittsburgh Steelers are known for their legendary defenses over the years, but this team has gone long stretches without elite cornerback play. The CB position has never been the focal point of the defense, but there have been a few Hall of Fame gems sprinkled in over the years who stand the test of time.

The Steelers have an unmatched record when it comes to finding linebackers and defensive linemen during their storied history, but this team hasn't found the same success at the cornerback position. Much of this has to do with their defensive philosophy and limited draft investment at CB.

The top names on my cornerback rankings could go ages without being unseated, while others could slide down the list as a promising up-and-comer emerges.

Criteria for selection

A lot of thought goes into comprising cornerback rankings. This is one position in football where it's not always a good thing to record gaudy numbers on the stat sheet. While statistics were weighed in the rankings, these were only a fraction of the criteria.

I took into account the longevity of a player's career and how dominant they were at their peak. Cornerbacks who could lock down the opposing team's best weapons or travel with receivers earned a bump in these CB rankings.

Personal accolades were also considered as several cornerbacks over the years have earned Pro Bowl or All-Pro honors. These players were recognized by the league as some of the best in the NFL at their position.

I also considered the era in which each cornerback played, what they did for their respective teams, and how they raised the overall performance of the defense.

The top 10 cornerbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers history

10. Marv Woodson

There aren't many Pittsburgh Steelers fans around today who remember watching Marv Woodson (much less any player in the mid-1960s). Selected by the Baltimore Colts in the first round of the 1964 draft, he was quickly traded to the Steelers in his first season.

After dealing with injuries, Woodson started at safety for Pittsburgh in 1965 before moving to cornerback. The 6'1'', 190-pound defensive back later made the switch to left cornerback where he earned Pro Bowl honors following the 1967 season after a seven-interception campaign.

Woodson is seldom mentioned in cornerback rankings, but his 18 interceptions in 55 starts (67 games) for the Steelers is an impressive ratio.

9. Joe Haden

Though most of Pittsburgh's best cornerbacks over the years were drafted by the team, Joe Haden was already an established Pro Bowl CB before joining the Steelers. Haden, the seventh-overall pick of the Browns in 2010, earned back-to-back Pro Bowls in 2013 and 2014 before finally coming to Pittsburgh in 2017.

Haden immediately asserted himself as the team's top cornerback. He brought his alpha dog mentality with him from Cleveland and bodied up against the opposing teams' best receivers.

Haden was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2019 after a five-interception performance at 30 years old. He played the final five seasons of his 12-year career in Pittsburgh, starting 67 of 68 games and recording 10 interceptions with a defensive touchdown.

8. Dewayne Washington

You don't start 171 games at cornerback in the NFL unless you are a superstar or extremely dependable. Dewayne Washington was the latter.

Despite playing 12 years in the NFL and recording four straight seasons of at least four interceptions, Washington never earned Pro Bowl honors. That doesn't mean he wasn't deserving of recognition. Washington was the 18th overall pick by the Vikings in 1994, and he joined the Steelers in his fifth season in 1998.

From there, Washington was the epitome of consistency for Pittsburgh's defense -- playing and starting all 16 games for five seasons in a row. In his final season with the team in 2003, Washington started 12 of 16 games. He finished his Steelers career with 19 interceptions and two defensive touchdowns.

7. Deshea Townsend

Not many cornerbacks in franchise history can match the longevity of Deshea Townsend. Pittsburgh's fourth-round pick was with the team from 1998 to 2009 before playing a final NFL season at 35 years old with the Colts.

It took Townend some time to earn the trust of head coach Bill Cowher and his defensive coaching staff. Townsend started just five games in his first four seasons before carving out a bigger role. Eventually, Townsend became a full-time starter and worked opposite cornerback Ike Taylor during the Steelers' Super Bowl teams of the 2000s.

Townsend's lengthy Steelers career ended with 183 games played, 21 interceptions, 111 passes defended, three defensive touchdowns, and a pair of Super Bowl rings.

6. J.T. Thomas

On a defense riddled with Hall of Famers in the 1970s, J.T. Thomas was often an afterthought. But that's what makes him one of the most underrated cornerbacks in Pittsburgh Steelers history. Thomas worked across from Mel Blount for most of his career and played a key role on the Steel Curtain defense.

Thomas, a first-round pick in 1973, recorded five interceptions in his second NFL season -- a year that had the Steelers landing the greatest draft class in NFL history and a Super Bowl win in 1974. Thomas followed this with another stellar performance in 1975 and a Pro Bowl season in 1976.

After missing the entire 1978 season with an injury, Thomas bounced between safety and cornerback late in his career. Before playing his final season in Denver in 1982, Thomas started 88 of 116 games for the Steelers -- recording 19 interceptions and aiding his team to four Super Bowl wins.

5. Dwayne Woodruff

As the sun was setting on J.T. Thomas' playing career, Dwayne Woodruff's was just beginning. Woodruff was the team's sixth-round draft choice in 1979, but playing time was hard to come by early in his career.

By his third NFL season in 1981, Woodruff asserted himself as a starting cornerback for Pittsburgh. This is a position he would hold for the next eight seasons. In year four, Woodruff started his reputation as a takeaway machine when he recorded five interceptions in just nine games.

From Woodroof's fourth NFL season to the end of his career in 1990, he recorded 35 interceptions in 109 games. The longtime cornerback started 105 of 157 games for Pittsburgh and never played for any other team.

4. Ike Taylor

I vividly remember Ike Taylor going from one of the most frustrating cornerbacks to a lockdown CB the Steelers could leave on an island. His struggles early in his NFL career were notable, but once the Lousiana product got his sea legs, he was an excellent player for the Steelers.

One thing Taylor never lacked was confidence. He could shake off a bad play like it never happened and redeem himself with a key pass breakup the very next play. Once he established himself as a starter in 2005, there was no looking back. Taylor became the top CB on the team during Pittsburgh's Super Bowl runs of the 2000s.

Unfortunately, Taylor's Achilles heel was his stone hands which led to just 14 interceptions in 13 seasons. Even with his infrequent takeaways, Taylor was an excellent cornerback for the Steelers thanks to his consistency, longevity, toughness, and man-coverage ability. He started 140 of 174 games for the black and gold.

3. Jack Butler

Jack Butler played so long ago that cornerbacks were identified under a different name than they are today. Despite a 30-round draft in 1951, Butler was not one of Pittsburgh's selections. He joined the team as a free agent out of St. Bonaventure and immediately carved out a significant role on defense.

Butler was listed as a free safety to begin his career before moving to cornerback. In his first four seasons, Butler raked in 25 interceptions. The second half of his career was even better. In his final four seasons from 1956 to 1959, Butler recorded 27 interceptions and made First-Team All-Pro three times (primarily as a safety).

Butler was a versatile piece in the secondary who started 102 of 104 games for the Steelers at cornerback and free safety. He was one of the greatest players to suit up for the Pittsburgh Steelers before the NFL merger -- regardless of position.

2. Mel Blount

Mel Blount will forever be remembered as a cornerback who forced the league to change the rules. At 6'3'' and 205 pounds, Blount was tall, long, and strong. His ability to reroute wide receivers was in a class of its own.

Blount had already established himself as an excellent NFL cornerback by Pittsburgh's first Super Bowl win in 1974, but in 1975, Blount put up one of the best single seasons we have ever seen from the cornerback position -- recording 11 interceptions in a 14-game season and earning Defensive Player of the Year honors.

Blount continued his streak of dominance through his 1981 season and would play two years when he finished his career after the 1983 season at 35 years old. Blount is the only Steelers cornerback ever to play 200 games in Pittsburgh (189 starts), and he raked in 57 interceptions en route to Hall of Fame honors.

1. Rod Woodson

Rod Woodson not only claims the spot as the best cornerback in Steelers history but he is also considered one of the best defensive backs to ever grace the NFL stage. Woodson was the 10th overall pick in the draft by Pittsburgh in 1987. After missing time with injuries as a rookie, the Purdue product made a name for himself.

Woodson earned four interceptions in his second season in 1988, and by year three, he was already considered one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL. The remarkable defensive back earned First-Team All-Pro honors in five of six seasons from 1989 to 1994 before playing in just one game in 1995 and missing the rest of the season with an injury.

Woodson would play one more season in 1996 (earning Pro Bowl honors) before playing with the 49ers, Ravens, and Raiders. Woodson had incredible longevity and production with unmatched personal accolades, which included a Defensive Player of the Year award in 1993.

The 10 best cornerbacks in Steelers history by intercepions



Years With Team



Mel Blount




Jack Butler




Rod Woodson




Dwayne Woodruff




Deshea Townsend




Dewayne Washington




J.T. Tomas




Chad Scott




Marv Woodson




John Rowser