The Pittsburgh Steelers have been blessed at the wide receiver position, that’s for sure.
Just look at the names of these receivers the Steelers have had over the years, drafted or not:
Heck, let’s even throw Mike Wallace in there.
Only Thigpen and Dial were not drafted by the Steelers out of that crop.
Not many teams could boast that many above average wide receivers to ever play on their team.
But we’re not even done here. The Steelers have drafted three of the best receivers of all time.
And it’s so hard to choose who’s the best among those three Steelers legends:
John Stallworth, Hines Ward and Lynn Swann.
Two (Swann, Stallworth) are in the Hall of Fame and Ward is sure to follow once he’s eligible.
So, we’ve got to pick one. Who is it?
Let’s break it down statistically.
Clearly—in a much more offensive NFL, Ward has the better numbers by far—One-thousand receptions, 12,083 yards and 85 touchdowns.
Behind him, statistically, is Stallworth—Five-hundred-twenty-three receptions, 8,723 yards and 63 touchdowns.
Swann rounds them out with 336 receptions (only?), 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Those are great numbers for any receiver but Stallworth’s 63 touchdowns in 52 less games played than Ward is quite impressive. So, in that sense is Swann’s 51 touchdowns in 101 fewer games played than Ward and 49 fewer games than Stallworth is even more telling, for sure.
Okay, so we already said that Ward played in a more receiver-friendly era. So let’s take a look at touchdowns per reception of each player.
Swann caught a touchdown every 6.6 receptions.
Stallworth’s 8.3 touchdown to reception ratio is nothing to scoff at.
And Ward’s 11.8 is indicative of the era, but at almost double the rate at which Swann was catching touchdowns, it’s still a little low.
Have to go with the two old-timers on that stat. It’s always humbling to remember that the common stats aren’t everything when comparing players from different eras. When you dig deeper, the story becomes more clear.
But one stat the record books don’t record is blocking. Ward is the greatest blocking wide receiver to ever play the game. And that counts for a lot. Especially playing for the blue-collar Pittsburgh Steelers.
Statistically, I’d have to say that Swann and Ward push, with Stallworth coming in third.