I’ll keep this short and simple. Point blank, which player is the Pittsburgh Steelers’ greatest wide receiver of all-time? Lynn Swann or John Stallworth?
Long, lean and graceful vs. athletic, nimble and explosive.
Here is a review of each player’s career along with my random thoughts and selection on the greatest wide receiver in Pittsburgh Steelers history.
Stallworth was born July 15, 1952, in Tuscaloosa, Alabama and played for college football at Alabama A&M before becoming the Pittsburgh Steelers fourth round draft (82nd overall) pick in 1974.
Blessed with excellent speed and great leaping ability, Stallworth became a starter in his second season and held that position for the remainder of his 165-game career.
Stallworth compiled several impressive career statistics in Pittsburgh, catching 537 balls for
8,723 yards and 63 TDs. His 537 receptions were a franchise record that stood until it was surpassed by Hines Ward in 2005.
Stallworth played in six AFC championships and helped the Steelers to win four Super Bowls in the 1970s. Stallworth also played in four Pro Bowls and was the Steelers’ two-time, team MVP.
In Super Bowl XIII, Stallworth caught a record-tying 75-yard touchdown pass from Terry Bradshaw and finished the game with 3 receptions for 115 yards and 2 touchdowns in the Steelers exciting 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
One year later, at Super Bowl XIV with the Steelers trailing the Los Angeles Rams 19-17 early in the 4th quarter,Bradshaw dropped back and threw a long pass to Stallworth who caught it and beat cornerback Rod Perry to the end zone for a 73-yard touchdown that would pave the way for the Steelers 31-19 win and their 4th world championship. That amazing catch put Stallworth on the cover of Sports Illustrated and Stallworth finished the game with three receptions for 121 yards.
Stallworth also holds the Super Bowl records for career average per catch (24.4 yards) and single-game average, 40.33 yards in Super Bowl XIV. He had 12 touchdown receptions and a string of 17 straight games with a reception in postseason play. Stallworth led the AFC with a career-high 1,395 yards on 80 receptions in 1984, when he was named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year. Stallworth was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in August of 2002.
Swann, born on March 7, 1952, Alcoa, Tennessee, was an All-American at the University of Southern California, and was selected by the Pittsburgh Steelers with the 21st pick of the first round in the 1974 NFL Draft.
Although Swann never recorded more then 880 receiving yards in a single season, his superb catching ability and clutch performances were vital to the Steelers’ success in the 1970s and nearly unmatched in NFL postseason history.
As a rookie, Swann led the NFL with 577 punt return yards, a franchise record and the fourth most in NFL history at the time.
The following season became the highlight of Swann’s career as he caught 49 passes for 781 yards and a league-leading 11 touchdowns. In the AFC title game against the Oakland Raiders Swann suffered a severe concussion that forced him to spend two days in a hospital, but surprised many by returning to play for Super Bowl X. Swann recorded four catches for a Super Bowl record 161 yards and a touchdown in the game, assisting the Steelers to a 21-17 win and becoming the first wide receiver to earn Super Bowl MVP honors.
Two seasons later, Swann and the Steelers made it to Super Bowl XIII, and Swann once again had an outstanding performance. He caught seven passes for 124 yards and scored the final touchdown for Pittsburgh in their 35-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys, their Super Bowl opponent for the second time during the decade.
The Steelers made it back to the Super Bowl again in the 1979 se ason, and for the third time, Swann was a key component in the Steelers’ win. He caught five passes for 79 yards and a touchdown in Pittsburgh’s 31-19 win in Super Bowl XIV. Overall, Swann gained 364 receiving yards and 398 all-purpose yards in his three Super Bowls, which were both Super Bowl records at the time.
Swann retired after the 1982 season with 336 career receptions for 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns. He also rushed for 72 yards and gained 739 yards and a touchdown on punt returns. Swann was selected to the Pro Bowl three times (1975, 1977, 1978) and was selected to the 1970s all-decade team.
Swann was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 1993, and although his professional career didn’t yield large statistics, Swann was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Both players could make the long catch down the field, but I think Swann was a much better receiver on crossing patterns across the middle of the field and could generally make the tougher catch slightly better than Stallworth could. No doubt, Stallworth was a fine receiver in his own right. It wpould be foolish to argue otherwise. However, I’ve always been a Swann guy and I guess I always will be – unless we’re talking politics that is.
Maybe it’s me and the fact that I’ve always been partial to smaller, more athletic receivers who can jump through the roof and make spectacular grabs, but I firmly believe that Swann was the better receiver of the two, although his career statistics don’t necessarily show it.