There is no doubt, in all aspects of life there are some things that really are underappreciated—especially when it comes to the Pittsburgh Steelers. In this series, I will examine former (and some current) Pittsburgh Steelers that can sometimes be forgotten when we talk about Steelers history. Some of these Steelers had brief careers, some excellent longevity. However, while every player has played a role, some have gone under the radar despite their contributions. This could be due to the era they played in, the talent in that era, or even just some of the Steelers teams they played on.
To start, I think of a guy I really appreciated watching the Steelers of the 2000’s: cornerback Deshea Townsend…
Many Steelers fans will know him as the first guy to wear 26 since the departure of Hall of Fame defensive back Rod Woodson. Drafted in the 4th round of the 1998 NFL Draft—one that included the likes of Hall of Famer Alan Faneca and Hines Ward—Deshea Townsend entered the league from the University of Alabama. With Dewayne Washington recently signed in free agency and Carnell Lake holding down the opposite side, it was going to take time and work for the kid from Batesville, Mississippi to get his shot to flourish—and he made it happen.
Over the years, he made his role as a solid special teams contributor and a steady nickelback. He never backed down from challenges. He was someone who flew under the radar through the 2000’s—playing alongside talent like Chad Scott, Ike Taylor, Chris Hope, and the Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu. Despite being a guy under the radar, he made his fair share of memorable, impactful plays.
Many of us remember the painful loss in the 2002 Divisional Playoff in Nashville (per usual, thanks refs.) But what some folks may (and should) remember is what set up the last Steelers lead of the game. On the Titans’ first play after Tommy Maddox and Hines Ward tied the game, Deshea Townsend picked off Steve McNair’s pass that led to a Jeff Reef field goal; taking a 31-28 lead.
After that game, Townsend would go on to log 66 regular-season starts over the next 5 seasons—registering 13 of his 21 interceptions over his 12-year Steelers career. These included plays such as the pick-six against the undefeated Patriots in 2004; creating a 21-3 lead. Most recently, his 4th quarter pick-six of Tony Romo in 2008 to win the game is arguably his signature career play. He wasn’t anything flashy, but he was a dedicated player who made plays.
Not to mention, he registered a 4th sack in Super Bowl XL that helped close the game away—as he hoisted the Steelers’ 5th and a 6th Lombardi Trophy 3 years later. Throughout his entire career, he was someone you didn’t hear about in the national media. There is no doubt, however, his career was one that Steelers fans will forever appreciate. He truly is one of the most underappreciated players in Steelers and NFL history.
So Mr. Townsend. Though I have never had the pleasure to meet you, I do want to say this on behalf of Steeler Nation: Thank you. Your dedication and body of work are well appreciated in the Steel City and Steeler Nation around the globe.