Does Pitt or Penn State have the better all-time team?
Pitt and Penn State are set to meet for the 99th time Saturday, and it’s the final game in Pittsburgh between the in-state rivals for the foreseeable future. Bragging rights, of course and as always, are on the line.
But no matter who wins Saturday night at Heinz Field, the debate over superiority will linger. Pitt fans will note a decisive edge in claimed national championships, and Penn State partisans will point to their school’s advantages in undefeated seasons and conference titles.
Nittany Lions supporters can trumpet a lead in the head-to-head series. Panthers enthusiasts will be quick to mention they’ve won the past two meetings in Pittsburgh.
Pitt has more consensus All-Americans. Penn State more College Football Hall of Famers.
One side will say, simply, “48-14.” The other, a succinct “42-39.”
And so on.
Trib Total Media decided to add one more argument to the list: Which program can boast a better all-time team of alumni based solely on their NFL careers?
Two teams, each comprised of former or current NFL stars who matriculated at Pitt and Penn State, were assembled by staff writers Chris Adamski and Jerry DiPaola in consultation with Penn State historian/author Lou Prato, Pitt historian/author Sam Sciullo, Pitt associate athletic director E.J. Borghetti and six-decade NFL executive and analyst Gil Brandt.
A total of 24 players were selected from each school: one quarterback, two running backs, two wide receivers, a tight end, five offensive linemen (adhering as much as possible to natural tackles, guards and centers) on offense, with a front seven and two safeties and two cornerbacks on defense, in addition to a kicker and punter.
The team spans 90 years of NFL stars, from Mike Michalske (1927-37) to the still-active Larry Fitzgerald and Aaron Donald. It includes 14 Pro Football Hall of Famers -- eight from Pitt, six from Penn State -- with at least a couple more (Fitzgerald and Darrelle Revis) almost assured of joining that list. There are MVPs, Super Bowl champions and All Pros. Three Super Steelers, two “Hogs,” an Iron Mike and a quarter of The Fearsome Foursome.
How good are these teams? Multiple-time first-team NFL All Pros such as LeSean McCoy and NaVorro Bowman were left off.