Steelers 'Triplets' Making History

Ben Roethlisberger, Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell could become first trio in NFL history with statistical achievement.

The term "triplets" entered the NFL vernacular in the early 1990s with the Dallas Cowboys and Troy Aikman, Michael Irvin and Emmitt Smith.

But today's generation of NFL player is probably more attuned to the triplets of the latter portion of that decade with the Indianapolis Colts and Peyton Manning, Marvin Harrison and Edgerrin James, or the St. Louis Rams in the early 2000s with Kurt Warner, Torry Holt and Marshall Faulk.

What does today's Pittsburgh version think when they hear the term triplets?

"Three," said Le'Veon Bell.

"Three," said Antonio Brown.

OK, the savvy veteran quarterback will get this.

"Really?" asked Ben Roethlisberger. "Three kids?"

Well, that's to be expected from a guy who has to go home and change diapers.

But, no, no, no, no, "triplets" should make at least one of these players think of NFL greatness, upon which they themselves are on the cusp.

With one game left in the regular season, this current set of Steelers triplets can accomplish what has never, in the 82-year history of the NFL, been done: finish among the top two in yardage in their three respective categories.

* Brown leads the NFL in receiving yardage with 1,570, 35 ahead of Julio Jones and 66 ahead of Demaryius Thomas.

* Roethlisberger is second in passing yardage with 4,635 yards, 36 behind Drew Brees and 34 ahead of Andrew Luck.

* Bell appears locked into the second spot in rushing yardage with 1,341. He's 305 behind DeMarco Murray and 95 ahead of Marshawn Lynch.

Does finishing in the top 2 and making NFL history mean anything to these Steelers?

"Not if we don’t win," said Roethlisberger. "That’s what it’s all about for me. I am sure those guys would tell you the same thing. That’s what this game is about. That’s why we play this, to win football games."

Winning actually hasn't gone hand-in-hand with this rare statistical accomplishment.

The only two modern-era teams that've had three players finish in the top three of their respective categories -- the 1999 Colts and the 1995 Detroit Lions -- both lost in the first round of the playoffs.

But going back through NFL history, 10 other teams had top-3 triplets and two -- the 1948 Philadelphia Eagles and the 1943 Chicago Bears -- won championships.

Of course, the 1992 Cowboys -- with Smith first in rushing, Irvin second in receiving and Aikman fourth in passing -- did win the Super Bowl, so there's still hope yet for these Steelers.

Dick LeBeau, who coached against and beat some of the greatest sets of triplets in the modern era, believes so.

"They're all great players and I think our guys this year compare favorably to all of them," LeBeau said. "I mean, look at the numbers. Our guys have probably been more productive than some of those guys you're talking about. Our offense is having a great year and I think they compare with any set of three guys who've played. Look at what they've done individually, and collectively."

By the numbers, as opposed to the rankings, these triplets do match up well.

Of the three great sets listed at the top of this story, Roethlisberger needs 195 yards (single season) to surpass all three quarterbacks; Brown needs 93 yards to surpass all three receivers; and Bell needs 41 yards to rank as the No. 3 back.

So, yes, the "Killer B's" rank right with the best both collectively and individually.

Bell explained why Brown and Ben make his job easier, and vice versa.

"AB as a receiver can get open anytime in one-on-one coverage, so he's a guy who's always going to draw attention with safeties," Bell said. "He's going to always have a safety on top of him. He'll never have just a corner out there, so that's taking a safety out of the box for me.

"And Ben, the fact he's been playing for so long he's so respected and he's taking guys out of the box, the other safety or whoever that may be, so the box isn't as loaded. Even when the box is loaded you've got a guy like AB who can make plays in that one-on-one situation.

"In a sense I'm helping those guys out, too. That's what's so great about this offense. We're so balanced. We can run the ball and beat you; we can pass the ball and beat you. That Tennessee Titans game we ran the ball down guys' throats, and then that Colts game where we threw the ball for 500 yards, six touchdowns. I guess it's to the point where you pick your poison and we all make each other's jobs easier."

The most fun you've had playing football?

"Most definitely."

Now they just have to win.

Historical Triplets (Each Finished In Top 3)

1999 Indianapolis Colts: 1. Edgerrin James (rush), 1. Marvin Harrison (rec), 3. Peyton Manning (pass).

1995 Detroit Lions: 1. Barry Sanders (rush), 2. Scott Mitchell (pass), 3. Herman Moore (rec).

1959 Los Angeles Rams: 1. Del Shofner (rec), 3. Ollie Matson (rush), 3. Billy Wade (pass).

1956 Chicago Bears: 1. Rick Casares (rush), 1. Harlon Hill (rec), 3. Ed Brown (pass).

1954 Los Angeles Rams: 1. Norm Van Brocklin (pass), 2. Elroy Hirsch (rec), 3. Tank Younger (rush).

1953 Los Angeles Rams: 1. Hirsch (rec), 2. Dan Towler (rush), 3. Van Brocklin (pass).

1948 Philadelphia Eagles: 1. Steve Van Buren (rush), 2. Pete Pihos (rec), 3. Tommy Thompson (pass).

1946 Chicago Cardinals: 1. Mal Kutner (rec), 2, Pat Harder (rush), 3. Paul Christman (pass).

1945 Washington Redskins: 2. Sammy Baugh (pass), 2. Frank Akins (rush), 3. Steve Bagarus (rec).

1944 Detroit Lions: 3. Frankie Sinkwich (rush), 3. Sinkwich (pass), 3. Dave Diehl (rec).

1943 Chicago Bears: 1. Sid Luckman (pass), 3. Harry Clarke (rush), 3. Clarke (rec).

1935 New York Giants: 1. Ed Danowski (pass), 2. Tod Goodwin (rec), 3. Kink Richards* (rush).

Steelers Triplets (Each Finished In Top 5)

1977: 3. Lynn Swann (rec) [4. John Stallworth (rec)], 4. Franco Harris (rush), 5. Terry Bradshaw (pass).

1958: 2. Layne** (pass), 2. Orr (rec), 4. Tracey (rush).

1934: 2. Warren Heller (pass), 3. Joe Skladany (rec), 5. Heller (rush).

* Within one yard of second place and becoming only set of NFL triplets to each finish in top 2.

** Traded to Steelers after 2 games with Lions.

(Statistics courtesy of

Steel City Insider Top Stories