The NFL’s greatest player of all time at center: ESPN

Few centers, if any, in NFL history can come close to matching the accomplishments and overall impact that Pro Football Hall of Famer Mike Webster had from 1974 to 1990 in a career spanning 17 seasons in the trenches.
Webster, a fifth-round pick out of Wisconsin in 1974, went on to start in 217 career games with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, playing in 245 total from 1974-90. Webster was a key figure in four Super Bowl victories for the Steelers during that 17-year span, earning six First Team All-Pro honors, two Second Team All-Pro honors, and nine trips to the Pro Bowl.
Webster’s accomplishments on the field were matched by those off the field, as he was named to the NFL’s All-Decade teams in the 1970s and 1980s. He was also named to the NFL’s 75th and 100th Anniversary teams, as well as the Steelers’ All-Time team, and was inducted into the Steelers’ Ring of Honor in 2017. Webster was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997, five years before his death at the age of 50 from a heart attack in 2002.

Mike Webster was the offensive line anchor for the #Steelers for 15 seasons, winning four Super Bowls. #NFL100
December 14, 2019 — Steelers Depot 7 (@Steelersdepot)

An ESPN panel named Webster the NFL’s “GOAT” at center on Tuesday in a piece highlighting the league’s best-ever at each offensive position, owing to his impressive play on the field and his long, illustrious list of accolades. ESPN polled 50 experts, reporters, and analysts to name the greatest NFL player of all time at each position, with one player at each offensive position making the cut. Unsurprisingly, Webster was voted the best center in ESPN’s “GOAT” poll.
According to the survey results, Webster received 15 of the 50 votes cast for the position, for a total of 30%. Webster was chosen as ESPN’s “GOAT” center over Jim Otto (13 votes) and Chuck Bednarik (11 votes). Along with Webster, former Steelers great and Pro Football Hall of Famer Dermontti Dawson received 5 votes in the survey at the position.
Webster was a team captain during the Steelers’ 1970s dynasty, splitting time at center with Ray Mansfield in his first two seasons, but he started the final game of the 1975 season and didn’t miss a start after that until 1986, when he suffered an elbow injury, becoming a true ironman at the position.

#Steelers Mike Webster — Old Time Football (@Ol TimeFootball) March 19, 2022

His ability to stay on the field while also playing at an extremely high level earned him the title of “GOAT” at center in ESPN’s poll.
“I gave Webster the edge because of a perfect blend of championship titles, individual achievement, and longevity,” ESPN Stats & Info writer Doug Clawson writes about his choice of Webster. “He is the only offensive lineman in NFL history to have won four Super Bowls and been named to at least four first-team All-Pro teams.” Iron Mike made 150 consecutive starts and held the Steelers record for most games played (220) until Ben Roethlisberger passed him.”
“It’s difficult to find a more complete resume than Webster’s, who became synonymous with Pittsburgh’s excellence during the Steel Curtain era,” ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler said of Webster’s selection. “His consistency was outstanding, and Webster was the complete package.”

“The Steelers created a football anomaly: a deceptive power running game.”
Chuck Noll, Rocky Bleier, and Mike Webster debate the effectiveness of the Steelers’ 1970s trap plays.
January 22, 2022 — Steel City Star (@steelcitystar)

Webster was truly the complete offensive lineman. He was slightly undersized coming out of Wisconsin, but his quickness and play strength really set him apart at the time. That size issue led to him falling to the fifth round, and the Steelers were fortunate he did, snapping him up as part of the greatest draft class in NFL history, which also featured the likes of Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Donnie Shell as an undrafted free agent. Five Hall of Famers in one class…it’s still unbelievable to think about.
Webster was arguably the best amongst them all. He was tough as nails, exceptionally smart, and was a tremendous leader overall, holding down the offensive captaincy role for nine seasons in the black and gold on an offense loaded with stars. He was also the strongest player on the Steelers despite his size limitations, earning him the “Iron Mike” moniker.
Safe to say, ESPN’s panel got this one right with the selection of Webster as the NFL’s “GOAT” at center.