Though Mike Florio is an admitted Pittsburgh Steelers fan who grew up watching the Steel Curtain, it’s not bias to think linebacker Jack Lambert is the toughest player in NFL history. It’s just reality. Florio listed Lambert No. 1 overall on his competing list of NFL’s toughest players alongside co-host Chris Simms.

“I’ll go with a guy that defined my era,” Florio told Simms via the NFL on NBC YouTube channel. “When I first discovered football…he was the toughest son of a gun I had ever seen.”

Considered too skinny and lanky coming out of Kent State, Lambert made up Pittsburgh’s historic 1974 NFL Draft class. Four draft picks, Lambert included, along with UDFA Donnie Shell, went on to become Hall of Famers and core pieces of the team’s dynasty run.

“Count Dracula in cleats” as John Facenda once bellowed, Lambert had an imposing presence. The two front missing teeth, the wide eyes staring down the quarterback across the line, and his no-nonsense attitude. Something Cliff Harris found out when Lambert threw him down in Super Bowl X after Harris taunted K Roy Gerela for missing a field goal. No Cowboy came to Harris’ defense and that moment changed the tone of the game, Pittsburgh going on to win its second Lombardi.

“He was fearless, and he struck fear in the hearts of everyone he dealt with,” Florio said, referencing that Super Bowl moment.

A nine-time Pro Bowler and six-time All-Pro, Lambert could do it all. Hit, stuff the run, pressure the quarterback, and cover. He picked off 28 passes, including six in 1979 and 1981. To put that in perspective, Troy Polamalu had 32 career interceptions. Different eras but few made the overall impact Lambert did. And no one was tougher.

Here are the lists Florio and Simms came up with.

Mike Florio’s Toughest Players

1. Jack Lambert
2. Earl Campbell
3. Lawrence Taylor
4. Steve Atwater

Chris Simms’ Toughest Players

1. Chuck Bednarik
2. Ronnie Lott
3. Ray Lewis
4. Jack Youngblood/Joe Greene

The segment honored Dallas Cowboys OG Larry Allen, who died yesterday. He was regarded as one of the NFL’s toughest players, prompting Florio and Simms to make this list, though Allen didn’t appear on either.


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