The party’s finally starting in Canton, just a year later than anyone anticipated. And the Steelers are still the guests of honor.

Yes, other big names will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame — Calvin Johnson, Charles Woodson, Peyton Manning — but no city will have as much of a stranglehold on the festivities as Pittsburgh. The Steelers haven’t had a new bust go in since the late Kevin Greene in 2016, but it’s worth the wait to see five new honorees from the franchise. And not to be outdone, another son of Western Pennsylvania will be enshrined in former Freedom High School and Pitt great Jimbo Covert.

Troy Polamalu, Donnie Shell, Bill Cowher and the late Bill Nunn all are part of the Hall’s 2020 Centennial Class whose ceremony last year was postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and Alan Faneca is a member of the Class of 2021. They come from various eras in team history and contributed in different ways, but together, they’ll share the common bond of receiving the game’s highest honor amid a sea of Steelers fans there to ring them into immortality. -Brian Batko


Donnie Shell

From going undrafted out of South Carolina State to the Hall of Fame, 2020 inductee Donnie Shell was a hidden gem when he arrived in Pittsburgh in 1974 alongside one of the greatest draft classes in Steelers history. While he didn’t hear his name called in the draft, the Steelers took a chance on him, as scout Bill Nunn sought out athletes like Shell from historically black colleges and signed him as an undrafted free agent. The safety played for the Steelers for 14 seasons and started for 11 of them as a pivotal yet often overlooked member of the Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s. He won four Super Bowls, including back-to-back rings in his first two years in the league, and played in 201 games for the Steelers, second only to Hall of Fame center Mike Webster. Shell was a menace in the secondary, hauling in 51 career interceptions, 490 interception yards and two touchdowns, leading all NFL safeties in picks upon his retirement. One of the best to ever play the positions for the Steelers, Shell was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1998 and will earn a long overdue spot in Canton this summer.

Career Highlights

51 career interceptions
19 fumbles recovered
4x Super Bowl champion (IX, X, XIII, XIV)
5x Pro Bowler
3x First-team All-Pro
1x Second-team All-Pro


Alan Faneca

One of the best offensive guards in NFL history, Alan Faneca will get his gold jacket this summer as a 2021 inductee. After being drafted 26th overall out of LSU in the 1998 NFL draft, Faneca spent 10 of his 13 seasons in the league in Pittsburgh. The nine-time Pro Bowler started 201 of his 206 career games, including 153 with the Steelers. After earning the Joe Greene award as the team’s top rookie, Faneca went on to lead an offensive line that helped running backs Jerome Bettis, Duce Staley and Willie Parker set individual and team rushing records. In the 2005 season, he helped propel the Steelers to a 21-10 win over the Seattle Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Pittsburgh rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns that game, averaging 5.5 yards per carry, and Faneca helped spark a 75-yard Parker touchdown, which remains the longest rushing play in Super Bowl history. In 2008, the New York Jets signed Faneca to a five-year, $40 million contract, which made him the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history at the time. He spent two seasons in New York before finishing his career with the Arizona Cardinals, but he will always be remembered for his presence on the Steelers’ offensive line.

Career Highlights

206 games played, 201 games started
11 fumbles recovered
Super Bowl champion (XL)
9x Pro Bowler
6x First-team All-Pro
2x Second-team All-Pro


Jimbo Covert

Born and raised in Conway, Pa., Jimbo Covert was a legend both during his time at Pitt and in the NFL. In the late 1970s and early 80s, he joined the Panthers, his hometown team, as a defensive lineman. After his freshman season, his coach urged him to switch to offensive tackle, where he played for his remaining three seasons and ultimately made him a Hall of Famer. As a starter for his final three seasons at Pitt, Covert’s Panthers boasted a 31-5 record in that span, finishing in the nation’s top 10 each year. He surrendered just three sacks, earning first-team All-American honors as a junior and consensus status as a senior. In the 1983 NFL draft, he was selected sixth overall by the Chicago Bears, where he played for eight seasons. He was a pivotal part of Chicago’s 1985 team that went 15-1 and won Super Bowl XX — one of the best teams in NFL history. After earning a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame in 2003 and having his number (75) retired by Pitt in 2015, Covert will get his bust in Canton this summer.

Career Highlights

111 games played, 110 games started in NFL
6 fumbles recovered
Super Bowl champion (XX)
College Football Hall of Fame (2003)
2x All-American
2x Pro Bowl
2x First-team All-Pro


Troy Polamalu

An iconic player whose overflowing locks made him easily stand out on the field, 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Troy Polamalu’s playing ability spoke for itself. Perhaps the greatest safety in Steelers history, Polamalu was one of the most feared defensive players of his generation in 12 years leading Pittsburgh’s secondary. While he perfected the “Polamalu Plunge” with brilliantly timed leaps over opposing offensive lines and corralled multiple one-handed interceptions, the career Steeler also came through in the clutch for the black and gold. In the 2008 AFC championship game’s fourth quarter with Pittsburgh clinging to a 16-14 lead, Polamalu snatched an errant Joe Flacco pass and returned it for a touchdown to confirm his second trip to the Super Bowl. Though the Steelers would come up short against the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV, Polamalu’s game-sealing pick was just one instance of how he could be counted on when Pittsburgh needed him most. But Polamalu could also sustain excellence for an entire campaign, as was the case in 2010 when he intercepted seven passes and was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Career Highlights

32 Career interceptions
2-time Super Bowl champion
2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year
8-time Pro Bowl selection
4-time First Team All Pro


Bill Nunn

It takes more than an excellent coaching staff to compete at a championship level; often, the key is an innovative scouting department. Such was true with the successful Steelers teams of the 1970s, whose player evaluation personnel featured one-time sportswriter and news editor Bill Nunn. While writing for the Pittsburgh Courier, the 2021 Hall of Fame inductee closely followed the football programs of historically black colleges and universities. In 1967, Nunn and his vast knowledge of under-represented football programs joined the Steelers’ scouting staff. During his time with Pittsburgh, Nunn played an influential role in helping the franchise bring aboard players who would play key roles on the Super Bowl-winning squads. Among the core players Nunn helped identify who propelled the Steelers to four championships were South Carolina State’s Donnie Shell, Mel Blount from Southern, John Stallworth from Alabama A&M’s and L.C. Greenwood of Arkansas-Pine Bluff. In addition to being selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Nunn was inducted into the Black College Football Hall of Fame and Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2010 and 2011, respectively.

Career Highlights

Black College Football Hall of Fame inductee, 2010
Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, 2011
Notable players acquired: Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, John Stallworth, L.C. Greenwood


Bill Cowher

After cycling through 13 head coaches in the organization’s first 35 years, the Steelers have achieved unprecedented consistency by NFL standards over the last 52 years. Just three men have served as Pittsburgh’s leader, with Chuck Noll and current head coach Mike Tomlin sandwiching another all-time great in Bill Cowher. The Steelers’ coach for 15 seasons, Cowher’s tenure in the Steel City was originally marked by coming up just short despite regular season success. In his first six years, Cowher’s Steelers won at least 10 games and the AFC Central five times, yet advanced to the Super Bowl just once, where they lost to the Cowboys 27-17. After a three-year dry spell of playoff-less football in Pittsburgh, the Steelers entered the new millennium looking to flip the script. But despite leading the Steelers to 13-3 and 15-1 regular seasons, Cowher’s squad was twice stopped in its tracks by Tom Brady’s New England Patriots in the AFC championship game. Finally, in 2005, the then-14th year head coach pushed the Steelers over the top, guiding Pittsburgh to its first title in 26 years to secure his place in franchise lore as a Super Bowl-winning coach for arguably the most successful organization in NFL history.

Career Highlights

One-time Super Bowl champion
AP NFL Coach of the Year
Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, 2011