Are these Steelers linebackers the best ever?

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Ed: With the group of linebackers (James Harrison, LaMarr Woodley, James Farrior, Lawrence Timmons) we have heading into the season, do you believe this is quite possibly the best linebacking corps the Steelers have had? Even (gulp) better than the linebackers we had in Levon Kirkland, Chad Brown, Kevin Greene & Greg Lloyd and even the unit we put together in the '70s?

Dan Cohen, Columbia, Mo.

BOUCHETTE: This group looks pretty good, and I would say the best in the NFL today. But I'm sorry, I cannot put them ahead of either of those two -- at least not until their full story is told in a number of years. The '70s group, for those who forget, played a 4-3, which means they had only three linebackers and not four like today. Two of those, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert, made the Hall of Fame and a third, Andy Russell (through their first two Super Bowls) remains a strong candidate to someday get in. That's a tough record to top, as are the four Super Bowls Ham and Lambert helped win. Remember also, that because of the 4-3 defense, linemen and not linebackers had more opportunities at sacks, unlike today. The second group, from the 1990s, was the second-best in their history. Again, this group has a long way to go and has accomplished much in the early going, but I'd rank it No. 3 at the moment.



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