NFL's All-Decade Team of the 1970s - DEFENSE

General Published on : 1/22/2010

The National Football League's All-Decade Teams have been determined by the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee.

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The 1970s had many great moments by individual players such as the NFL’s first 2,000-yard season by O.J. Simpson in 1973 or Terry Bradshaw’s two Super Bowl MVP performances. But perhaps more than the star players, the decade was dominated by dynasty teams like the Pittsburgh Steelers, Minnesota Vikings, Miami Dolphins, Oakland Raiders, and Dallas Cowboys.

So when it came time for the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s Selection Committee to spend the offseason prior to the 1980 campaign voting on the All-Decade Team, it came as no surprise that players from these leading teams were picked in large numbers. The Steelers, who won four Super Bowls in a six-year span from 1974-79, had nine members on the team including their coach. The Oakland Raiders followed with seven players, including five on the first team, and Dallas with six.

The closest voting came for the coach of the decade. Miami’s Don Shula narrowly edged the Steelers’ Chuck Noll for that honor by a vote total of 11-9. The top overall vote-getter on the All-Decade Team with 24 tallies was Raiders’ punter Ray Guy. The only other players with 20 or more votes were Simpson, Lynn Swann, Dave Casper and Jack Ham.






(First Team)

College: Florida
Pro Career: 1971-1984 Los Angeles Rams. HOF: 2001
There was certainly a lot more to Youngblood’s career than the famous story of him playing with a broken leg in the 1979 playoffs. But it clearly symbolizes the toughness that helped him become a dominant force in the NFL. Two Hall of Fame teammates, Deacon Jones and Merlin Olsen tutored Youngblood early in his career and helped him quickly get on track for a Hall of Fame career himself.

College: Minnesota
Pro Career: 1964-1978 Minnesota Vikings; 1979 Seattle Seahawks. HOF: 2004
Eller was a fixture at left defensive end on the Vikings’ vaunted “Purple People Eaters” defensive line that also included Hall of Fame DT Alan Page.  The peak of his Hall of Fame career came at the end of the ’60s and spanned to the mid ‘70s at which time he received All-Pro honors each season from 1967 to 1973.

(Second Team)

College: Arkansas AM&N
Pro Career: 1969-1981 Pittsburgh Steelers
A big part of the front line to the Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain Defense,” Greenwood was named first-team All-Pro in each of the team’s first two Super Bowl seasons. A six-time Pro Bowl choice, he played in all six of the Steelers’ championship games and four Super Bowl victories. 

College: East Texas State
Pro Career: 1973-1983 Dallas Cowboys
Martin’s finest season of his career came during the Cowboys’ Super Bowl season. He was named consensus first-team All-Pro and capped the season by earning co-MVP honors in Super Bowl XII. In all he was a member of six division champion teams and voted to four Pro Bowls.



(First Team)

College: North Texas State
Pro Career: 1969-1981 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1987
Coach Chuck Noll built the Steelers into winners through the draft. The first pick he made upon taking over the Steelers was Joe Greene. It proved to be a perfect selection as the defensive tackle became the team leader during his Hall of Fame career. He was twice named NFL Defensive Player of the Year in the ‘70s and was an All-Pro or All-AFC nine times in his career.

College: Texas Christian
Pro Career: 1961-1974 Dallas Cowboys. HOF: 1980
Lilly was the Cowboys first-ever draft pick and later became the first Cowboy enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The anchor of the Cowboys “Doomsday Defense,” the durable DT also saw action occasionally at defensive end and even was voted to a Pro Bowl at that position. 

(Second Team)

College: Notre Dame
Pro Career: 1967-1978 Minnesota Vikings; 1978-1981 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1988
Noted for his extreme quickness even at his size, Page was named the NFL’s MVP in 1971 and voted as the league’s Defensive Player of the Year twice during the early 1970s. He was voted to nine straight Pro Bowls during his career and was key to a defense that helped the Vikings to four Super Bowl appearances.

College: Utah State
Pro Career: 1962-1976 Los Angeles Rams. HOF: 1982
No player in history has played in more Pro Bowls than Olsen who was voted to the All-Star game 14 times. The anchor of the Rams’ “Fearsome Foursome” that also included fellow Hall of Famer Deacon Jones, Olsen was also a member of the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1960s. He remained at the top of his game into this decade through his retirement after the ’76 season.


(First Team)

College: Illinois
Pro Career: 1965-1973 Chicago Bears. HOF: 1979
Butkus is regarded as one of the toughest and meanest players ever to step onto a NFL field. He was especially known for his great tackling ability that included impeccable range as he roamed from sideline to sideline to stop any player with the ball. He also was adept at covering tight ends or running backs on pass plays and had 22 career interceptions.

(Second Team)

College: Kent State
Pro Career: 1974-1984 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1990
Possibly the most intimidating player on Pittsburgh’s “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970s, Lambert quickly developed into the prototype middle linebacker. Twice named Defensive Player of the Year, he was devastating tackler but also was talented on covering the passes. He recorded 28 interceptions during his career. 


(First Team)

College: Penn State
Pro Career: 1971-1982 Pittsburgh Steelers. HOF: 1988
A second round pick in 1971, Ham turned into the quiet leader of the Steelers defense that dominated opponents during this decade. He was regarded as an intelligent linebacker who was as good against the run as he was the pass. Perhaps his greatest reputation came for making big plays at the right time. He was named All-AFC and/or All-NFL every season from 1973 to 1979.

College: Miami (FL)
Pro Career: 1969-1973 Baltimore Colts; 1974 Green Bay Packers; 1975-1983 Oakland/Los Angeles Raiders. HOF: 1990
At 6’7”, Hendricks blocked 25 field goals or extra points during his Hall of Fame career. Noted for great speed and quickness, he reached the pinnacle of his career with the Raiders who he joined midway through the decade. In all, he played in eight Pro Bowls, seven AFC championship games, and four Super Bowls.

(Second Team)

College: Jackson State
Pro Career: 1975-1984 Houston Oilers
By his second season Brazile was regarded as an elite linebacker in the NFL. He earned All-Pro accolades for the first of four times in 1976. He was also voted to the first of seven straight Pro Bowls following that season.

College: Minnesota
Pro Career: 1963-1974 Kansas City Chiefs. HOF: 1983
A member of the AFL’s All-Time Team, Bell continued to stay at the top of his game when he and the Chiefs became part of the NFL in 1970. Already a veteran of six AFL All-Star games, he played in three AFC-NFC Pro Bowls during this decade.


(First Team)

College: Grambling
Pro Career: 1963-66 Denver Broncos; 1967-1978 Oakland Raiders. HOF: 1984
One of the few undrafted players to earn election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Brown was as consistent of a cornerback as there may have ever been. He used his speed and strength to shut down receivers throughout his career. Brown was a big reason why the Raiders posted the best win-loss record in football from 1967 to 1978.

College: UCLA
Pro Career: 1961-1976 San Francisco 49ers. HOF: 1994
While he didn’t always receive great fanfare, Johnson used his outstanding speed and athletic ability to become one of the finest corners of his era. Eventually opponents stopped trying to challenge the four-time All-Pro. In all, he picked off 47 passes which was a 49ers record at the time of his retirement.

(Second Team)

College: Bakersfield College; Arizona State; San Jose State
Pro Career: 1975-1986 Denver Broncos
Wright was named All-NFL four times, twice in the ‘70s and two times in the ‘80s. He was a key component to the Broncos’ “Orange Crush” defense that led the team to its first-ever division title and Super Bowl berth in the 1977 season followed by another division crown in 1978.

College: Missouri
Pro Career: 1969-1982 St. Louis Cardinals. HOF: 2007
Wehrli earned a starting role with the Cardinals as a rookie and developed into one of the NFL’s best cover guys. Twice during the 1970s, he intercepted a career-high six passes (1970 and 1975). Wehrli was named All-Pro and All-NFC five times.


(First Team)

College: Prairie View A&M
Pro Career: 1967-1972 Houston Oilers; 1973-1980 Washington Redskins. HOF: 1986
Ken Houston’s Hall of Fame career included a magical 1971 season when he intercepted nine passes and returned a record four of them for TDs. Recognized as the premier safety of his time, he intercepted 49 career passes, was voted to two AFL All-Star Games and 10 Pro Bowls, and named All-Pro and/or all-conference every season from 1971 to 1979.

College: Ouachita Baptist
Pro Career: 1970-79 Dallas Cowboys
A standout in the Cowboys secondary, Harris was named first-team All-NFL each season from 1975 to 1978 and voted to six Pro Bowls. He had multiple interceptions during each of his 10 seasons including a career-high 5 picks during the Cowboys’ Super Bowl season in 1977.

(Second Team)

College: Utah
Pro Career: 1960-1972 St. Louis Cardinals. HOF: 1978
Noted for making the “safety blitz” famous, Wilson had the final 12 of his 52 career interceptions come at the start of this decade and the end of his Hall of Fame career. In all, Wilson earned All-NFL acclaim six times and was named to eight Pro Bowls.

College: Colorado
Pro Career: 1968-1974, 1976-77 Miami Dolphins
Anderson was at his prime at the exact time when the Dolphins dominated the NFL in the early 1970s. He was voted All-Pro three straight seasons, 1972-74. Three times in his NFL career he picked off eight passes in a season including his rookie season and in 1973 when he captured his lone interception title. He led the NFL in interception return yards his first year and again in 1970. In all, he had 34 interceptions for 792 yards and 3 TDs.