15 greatest offensive linemen in NFL history

Donnie Shell Alan Faneca
Oct 17, 2021; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA; Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell (left) and guard Alan Faneca during halftime against the Seattle Seahawks at Heinz Field. They were recognized for their induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Mandatory Credit: Philip G. Pavely-USA TODAY Sports

Selecting the best offensive linemen of all time might be one of the toughest tasks for NFL fans. It’s obvious when an offensive lineman fails, but picking out the best isn’t always as easy. How does one even go about choosing the best offensive linemen in NFL history?

Best offensive linemen of all time

While not easy, we did the leg work in picking out some of the greatest offensive linemen ever. When it comes to the best o-line men, there were a lot of great candidates, forcing us to leave some worthy names off the list.

But being considered among the best wouldn’t mean as much if we didn’t leave some great players off of our list. That’s why we have limited our list to the 15 best offensive linemen of all time.

15. Orlando Pace

The likes of Kurt Warner and Marshall Faulk get most of the credit for leading “The Greatest Show on Turf,” but it was Orlando Pace who set the stage by blocking for them. Pace was the star on the offensive line who paved the way for the prolific offenses the Rams had in those days.

Outside of his final season, Pace spent his entire career with the Rams, playing 169 games in his Hall of Fame career. At one point, he was selected to the Pro Bowl in seven straight seasons, which is an accomplishment only the greatest offensive linemen ever achieve.

14. Dan Dierdorf

Most fans who know Dan Dierdorf strictly as a commentator may not understand just how good he was on the field. He spent all 13 of his seasons playing with the Cardinals back when they were located in St. Louis.

He went to the Pro Bowl six times while earning a spot on the 1970s All-Decade Team. Year after year, Dierdorf anchored one of the best offensive lines in the NFL with Dierdorf himself not allowing a sack in 1976 or 1977. He even managed to return from a serious knee injury and played at a reasonably high level for a couple of more seasons before retiring as one of the greatest offensive linemen ever.

13. Mike Munchak

For virtually all 12 of his seasons in the NFL, Mike Munchak was one of the top offensive linemen in the game.

He was a top-10 pick and more than lived up to expectations. In those 12 seasons, Munchak was selected to the Pro Bowl nine times and the All-Pro team eight times. He played 159 games during his Hall of Fame career and earned a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team.

12. Alan Faneca

Among offensive linemen in the 21st century, there aren’t many better than Alan Faneca. He spent the first decade of his career with the Steelers, becoming an integral part of the team’s success while being named a First-Team All-Pro six times in those 10 years.

During that time, he helped to protect future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger while also opening holes for several standout running backs. Even when he left Pittsburgh, Faneca continued to excel, ultimately going to the Pro Bowl in nine consecutive seasons.  

11. Forrest Gregg

Before he was a coach who once guided the Bengals to the Super Bowl, Forrest Gregg was an elite offensive lineman. Between 1959 and 1968, he went to nine Pro Bowls in a span of 10 seasons.

During the 1960s, Gregg was a part of arguably the greatest offensive line ever with the Packers, helping Green Bay to victories in the first two Super Bowls. Across 16 seasons, Gregg played in 188 consecutive games, which was a record at the time and earned him the nickname of “iron man.” Despite playing in a different era than some of the other great linemen, he still deserves to be recognized among the greatest offensive linemen of all time.

10. Gene Upshaw

For much of the 1970s, offensive linemen didn’t get much better than Gene Upshaw. His entire 13-year career was spent with the Raiders with Upshaw playing a huge role in some of the best offensive lines of that era.

He was a starter right away and owns the NFL record for 231 consecutive starts (including playoff games) to begin a career. More importantly, he was a part of two teams that won the Super Bowl. During the prime of his career, Upshaw went to the Pro Bowl in six straight seasons, separating himself from the pack. 

9. Will Shields

Since he was a guard and not a tackle, Will Shields doesn’t get nearly as much credit as he deserves for being one of the best offensive linemen of all time. Including the playoffs, he started 231 consecutive games for the Chiefs, playing 14 seasons with Kansas City.

Starting with his third pro season and lasting until his final season, Shields went to the Pro Bowl in 12 consecutive years while also being a seven-time All-Pro. He never missed a game and was always a reliable blocker. What more could you want from an offensive lineman?

8. Mike Webster

The Pittsburgh defense gets most of the credit for the Steelers winning four Super Bowls during the 1970s, but the offense deserves a lot of credit too, and Mike Webster was a big part of that.

He was the best center of his generation, anchoring the offensive line that paved the way for Pittsburgh’s offense during that era. Starting in 1978, Webster was selected to the Pro Bowl in eight consecutive seasons and was a First-Team All-Pro six years in a row.

Sadly, his post-football life was plagued by the negative effects of his playing career. However, Webster should be remembered fondly for his incredible toughness and Hall of Fame career, starting 217 games during his Hall of Fame career.

7. John Hannah

John Hannah may not be remembered by all of today’s fans, but he was arguably the best of his generation. He spent 13 seasons with the Patriots, being selected to the Pro Bowl nine times and being an All-Pro 10 times, including seven First-Team selections.

Along with Leon Gray, Hannah was part of one of the best offensive line tandems the league has ever known. He started all 183 games during his time in the pros, missing out on only eight games in his Hall of Fame career. Hannah was the anchor for plenty of quality offensive lines in New England and easily one of the most consistent players at his position of all time.

6. Randall McDaniel

Among offensive guards during the 1990s, it’s hard to find anyone better or more reliable than Randall McDaniel. The guy was selected to the Pro Bowl in 12 consecutive seasons, spanning the entire decade of the 90s.

He was also a First-Team All-Pro selection in nine straight seasons. It’s almost hard to imagine someone sustaining that high of a level for that long. Yet, McDaniel did just that, starting 220 games across his 14-year, Hall of Fame career, rarely missing a game and rarely missing a block during that time.

5. Willie Roaf

While he was rarely flashy, Willie Roaf was remarkably consistent during his long NFL career. He excelled at both pass protection and run blocking, helping to make him one of the greatest offensive linemen ever.

Outside of the 2001 season when he suffered a serious injury that ended his season prematurely, Roaf was a Pro Bowler in 11 straight seasons and a nine-time All-Pro Selection. Roaf was able to return from that injury and continued his Hall of Fame career. He played from 1993 to 2006, putting Roaf on both the 1990s and 2000s All-Decades Team, cementing his spot as one of the true legends at his position.

4. Jonathan Ogden

The Ravens took Jonathan Ogden fourth overall in 1996 as the first-ever pick in franchise history, and they were not disappointed. He played all 13 of his NFL seasons with the Ravens, going to the Pro Bowl in every season but his first and his last season and was an All-Pro nine times.

At 6’9’’ and 345 pounds, Ogden had the size of a great left tackle and far more athleticism than one would expect of a player his size. Ogden played the game with endless passion and intensity, starting 176 of his 177 career games. He also found a way to recover 10 fumbles and score two touchdowns during his career, creating a resume that even many of the greatest offensive linemen ever can’t match.

3. Larry Allen

He was big, strong, fast, and just a little bit mean, all of which made Larry Allen one of the best offensive linemen of all time. The only thing that hurts him is that he played guard rather than a more premium position like left tackle.

But other than that, Allen was the ideal offensive lineman. He was faster and quicker than most fans can imagine anyone of that size being. More importantly, Allen knew how to use that to his advantage.

He played in over 200 games during his Hall of Fame career, going to the Pro Bowl 11 times and being a First-Team All-Pro selection seven times. Allen was also Johnny on the spot, helping his team by recovering four fumbles during his career.

2. Bruce Matthews

More than one of the best offensive linemen of all time, Bruce Matthews is a part of one of the great NFL families, as his brother, sons, and nephews have all played in the league. It took him until his sixth season in the league to go to the Pro Bowl for the first time, but once he started going, Matthews was selected 14 years in a row during his 19-year career.

His longevity for an offensive lineman is almost unfathomable based on the physical demands of the position. But Matthews was able to hold up over time without a drop-off in performance.

He started 293 games in his 19 seasons and was a nine-time All-Pro. Plus, in addition to being an elite offensive tackle, Matthews would occasionally play guard and center and also served as a long snapper, separating himself from the other top linemen in NFL history.

1. Anthony Munoz

Anthony Munoz is one of the greatest players in NFL history at any position, so it’s almost a given that he’s the best offensive lineman in league history.

He started all but three games that he played with the Bengals over 13 seasons, serving as a dominating force at left tackle during some of Cincinnati’s best seasons. For 11 straight seasons, Munoz was selected to the Pro Bowl, receiving First-Team All-Pro honors in nine of those 11 seasons and earning a spot on the 1980s All-Decade Team.

He was the living embodiment of consistency at a position that demands consistency but rarely sees it. But Munoz is also ahead of the rest because he was not just a great blocker but also a good athlete with excellent hands, catching seven passes during his Hall of Fame career.