By Mike Prisuta|
Thursday, October 25, 2007
L.C. Greenwood never
envisioned a 75th season celebration when he was drafted by the Steelers
out of Arkansas AM&N in the 10th round in 1969.
"I can remember we couldn't give away tickets,"
Greenwood said. "I mean, seriously, I tried to give somebody tickets and they
said, 'No, I don't want to go to the game.'"
Almost 40 years and five Super Bowl championships
later tickets are difficult to come by and the Steelers can't seem to stop
celebrating their championship heritage.
Their latest self-tribute took place Wednesday
afternoon at Heinz Field with the unveiling of the franchise's All-Time Team.
story continues below:
a defensive end from 1969-81, was one of 33 players selected through a
vote of Steelers fans.
Results of the fan balloting were not made
available by the Steelers.
"It's a heck of a turnaround over a number of
years," Greenwood said. "To see it evolve like this is just tremendously great."
Greenwood was one of 15 players who earned four
Super Bowl rings with the Steelers in the 1970s to be included on the All-Time
Team, comprised of 33 players in recognition of the Steelers' inaugural season,
The team includes 10 members of the Pro Football
Hall of Fame and 68 Super Bowl rings won with the Steelers.
Tight end Elbie Nickel (1947-57) was the most
historic of the bunch.
Four current Steelers -- guard Alan Faneca, nose
tackle Casey Hampton, strong safety Troy Polamalu and wide receiver Hines Ward
-- were recognized.
"It's very overwhelming," Ward said. "There were
a lot of great players that probably didn't make this team that helped
contribute in many ways, especially on the Super Bowl teams in the 1970s.
"To have some current players, it's just a
special feeling in our heart."
Mike Wagner, a safety on the four Super Bowl
teams of the 1970s, was one such player overlooked by the fans.
"I think there are some guys that got left out,"
Greenwood said, declining to name names. "I can always say somebody got left out
and then somebody's gonna say there's somebody on that shouldn't be on.
"It's a conversation piece."
Steelers president Art Rooney II acknowledged the
subjective nature of the fan balloting.
"Sam Davis (guard, 1967-79) and Bryan Hinkle
(linebacker, 1982-93) probably should be on it," Rooney II said.
"There will be more guys from this (current) team
(worthy of eventual consideration). (Quarterback) Ben (Roethlisberger) will give
Terry (Bradshaw) a run, hopefully, before it's all over. It'll be interesting."
Rooney's father Dan, the Steelers' chairman,
noted Hall-of-Fame back Bill Dudley (1942, 1945-46) was included on the
Steelers' Legends (pre-1970s) Team but left off the All-Time Team.
Another Hall-of-Fame running back, John Henry
Johnson (1960-65), made the Legends Team but not the All-Time squad.
"We're not doing it to try to show off or
anything like that," Dan Rooney said. "It's more from the standpoint of making
everybody feel great about it."
The Steelers' All-Time Team will be honored Nov.
4 at the David L. Lawrence Convention Center and at the Steelers' Nov. 5 game
"I think it really comes back to our fans and how
much they enjoy Steelers football," Rooney II said. "The biggest part of it was
to be able to bring back some memories."
The following is the team:
QB: Terry Bradshaw
RB: Franco Harris, Rocky Bleier, Jerome Bettis
TE: Bennie Cunningham, Elbie Nickel
WR: Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Hines Ward
OL: Larry Brown, Dermontti Dawson, Alan Faneca,
Tunch Ilkin, Jon Kolb, Mike Webster
PK: Gary Anderson
DL: Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Casey Hampton,
Ernie Stautner, Dwight White
LB: Jack Ham, Jack Lambert, Greg Lloyd, Joey
Porter, Andy Russell
DB: Mel Blount, Jack Butler, Carnell Lake, Troy
Polamalu, Donnie Shell, Rod Woodson
P: Bobby Walden
"We have had so many great players over the
years, including before we won Super Bowls," Dan Rooney said in a statement.
"The accomplishments of each of these players have played a key role in
contributing to the long-standing tradition of Steelers football."
a detailed breakdown of the players
selected to the all-time team:
Terry Bradshaw: Quarterback (1970-83)
Winning championships is what distinguishes the great NFL quarterbacks,
and that's why Terry Bradshaw was a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of
Fame inductee in 1989. The Steelers won the right to pick Bradshaw first
overall in the 1970 draft because they won a coin flip with the Chicago
Bears. Actually, the Bears lost because their representative called
heads and the coin came up tails. While calling his own plays, Bradshaw
quarterbacked the Steelers to eight division titles and four Super Bowl
championships; Bradshaw was voted the MVP of Super Bowls XIII and XIV,
NFL Player of the Year in 1978, and he won team MVP honors in
back-to-back seasons (1977-1978). In 19 career playoff games, Bradshaw
threw 30 touchdown passes, and his record as a starting quarterback in
conference championship games and Super Bowls was 8-2.
Jerome Bettis: Running Back (1996-05)
He might have been drafted into the NFL by the Los Angeles Rams, but
Jerome Bettis was born to star for the Steelers. He ran the football
with the type of power that energized the fans and his nimble feet
allowed him to last longer and be more productive than any previous back
his size. The wheels on The Bus were responsible for a lot of wins
during his 10 seasons with the Steelers after arriving via a draft day
trade in 1996. Bettis finished his Steelers' career with 10,571 rushing
yards and 78 touchdowns, both second in team history behind Franco
Harris. He also became the players' rallying point during the drive to
Super Bowl XL in 2005, and Bettis was able to announce his retirement in
his hometown while holding the Lombardi Trophy in his hands. He finished
his career with 13,662 rushing yards to rank fifth on the NFL's all-time
rushing list. A three-time team Steelers MVP, Bettis earned six trips to
the Pro Bowl.
Rocky Bleier: Running Back (1968, 1970-80)
Football often is compared to war by the overly-dramatic. Rocky Bleier
knows the difference. A 16th-round draft choice in 1968, Bleier also was
drafted by the U.S. Army in 1969 and was wounded in combat during the
Vietnam War. Bleier was awarded the Bronze Star and a Purple Heart, and
then he began the arduous rehabilitation process on his foot that would
enable him to return to professional football. Known primarily as a
blocker for Franco Harris, Bleier finished with 3,855 yards rushing,
including 1,036 in 1976. Bleier caught two touchdown passes in the
playoffs, including an acrobatic one in Super Bowl XIII.
Franco Harris: Running Back (1972-83)
"We didn't win too much until he got here. And then we didn't lose very
often after he did." That's what Steelers founder Art Rooney Sr. once
said about Franco Harris, and that is the ultimate testament to someone
who was the most productive running back in team history and one of the
best big-game backs in NFL history. Harris is the Steelers' all-time
leading rusher with 11,950 yards and their all-time leader in rushing
touchdowns (91). Despite his star status, Harris also was the kind of
player who was always hustling to the football, which put him in
position for the Immaculate Reception. Harris was named Super Bowl IX
MVP after rushing for a then-record 158 yards and a touchdown; in 19
playoff games, he rushed for 1,556 yards and 16 touchdowns to go along
with 51 catches for 504 yards. He was inducted into the Pro Football
Hall of Fame in 1990.
Bennie Cunningham: Tight End (1976-85)
When the NFL liberalized the rules in the late 1970s to benefit the
passing attack, Bennie Cunningham was in the right place at the right
time. Cunningham caught 202 passes for 2,879 yards with 20 touchdowns,
and he earned two Super Bowl rings during his Steelers career. His best
season was in 1981 when he finished with a career-high 41 receptions for
574 yards with three touchdowns.
Elbie Nickel: Tight End (1947-57)
It wasn't called tight end when he played it, but Elbie Nickel still
played tight end better than anybody in Steelers' history. Nickel,
drafted in the 15th round in 1947, finished his career with 329
receptions for 5,133 yards, both of which are fourth on the team's
all-time lists. He also hauled in 37 career touchdowns, which is the
fifth-highest total in team history. Nickel led the NFL in yards per
catch with a 24.3 average in 1949, but his best season was in 1952 when
he posted 55 receptions for 884 yards and nine touchdowns, all of which
were Steelers' records at the time.
John Stallworth: Wide Receiver (1974-87)
It was a wet day when a bunch of scouts showed up at Alabama A&M to get
a 40-yard dash time on John Stallworth. He ran poorly, but Steelers
scout Bill Nunn faked an illness so as to stay behind and get another
time for Stallworth, on a dry track. With all the other NFL teams having
only that slow time for Stallworth, the Steelers were able to pick him
in the fourth round of the 1974 draft. When he retired 14 seasons later,
Stallworth had 537 catches for 8,723 yards, 25 100-yard games and 63
receiving touchdowns to rank No. 1 in team history at the time in each
of those categories. He had 12 postseason touchdown catches and 17
consecutive postseason games with a reception. Stallworth set Super Bowl
records for career average-per-catch (24.4 yards) and for single-game
average (40.3), set in Super Bowl XIV. Stallworth was inducted into the
Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2002.
Lynn Swann: Wide Receiver (1974-82)
During the 1970s, professional football became a game of big plays, and
Lynn Swann was a perfect fit for that style. Swann was at his best in
big games, and during his career the Steelers were in 16 playoff games,
and in those Swann had 48 catches for 907 yards (18.9 average) and nine
touchdowns. His touchdown catch gave the Steelers the lead for good in
the 1974 AFC Championship Game; he was the MVP of Super Bowl X with four
catches for 161 yards and a touchdown; and he had seven catches for 154
yards and a touchdown in Super Bowl XIII. By the time his playing career
ended, his surname had become synonymous with acrobatic catches -- many
receivers who executed those were said to be "Swann-like." A 2001
inductee into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Swann finished his career
with 336 receptions and 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns.
Hines Ward: Wide Receiver (1998-Present)
He'll be the first to admit that he's not the biggest or the fastest
wide receiver in the NFL, but even his peers admit Hines Ward is the
toughest, most physical player at his position in the game today. A
third-round selection in 1998 after a career as a "slash" at the
University of Georgia, Ward saw the Steelers spend No. 1 picks on
receivers in both 1999 and 2000. But Ward made himself into the team's
top receiver, and as the 2007 season begins he is closing in on the few
team records he doesn't already hold. A four-time Pro Bowl selection,
Ward is the team's all-time leader with 648 catches, and he needs 718
yards and six receiving touchdowns to pass John Stallworth for the top
spots in those two categories. His 112 catches in 2002 is the team's
single-season record, and he was voted MVP of Super Bowl XL.
Larry Brown: Offensive Tackle (1971-84)
It almost seems to be a commentary on what Chuck Noll thought of both
positions. The move of Larry Brown from tight end to offensive tackle
showed what attributes Noll valued from the guys who played both
positions. He wanted tight ends who could block, and tackles who were
athletic. Brown played 14 seasons here, the first seven at tight end and
the last seven as a starting right tackle. Franco Harris ran for 1,000
yards in four of those seven seasons, and was 13 yards short in another.
The play of the Steelers tackles (Brown and Jon Kolb) vs. the Cowboys
defensive ends ("Too Tall" Jones and Harvey Martin) was a critical part
of Pittsburgh's win over Dallas in Super Bowl XIII.
Dermontti Dawson: Center (1988-00)
It was 1993, and the Steelers were worried about their 1992 third-round
draft pick. Joel Steed had been selected to be the anchor of the
defensive line as the nose tackle in the 3-4, but he was struggling. He
had troubles all through his rookie training camp, then throughout that
season. He was inactive for the playoff game in 1992, and his second
training camp wasn't getting off to a rousing start, either. Then the
Steelers traveled to Barcelona, Spain, for an American Bowl game against
the San Francisco 49ers. The trip included several days of combined
practices, and in those Joel Steed started to look like a player. By the
end of the week, he was handling 49ers veteran center Jesse Sapolu, and
that's when the Steelers figured out Steed's problem: He had been going
against Dermontti Dawson every day. After eight games at guard as a
rookie in 1988, Dawson won the starting center job during the following
training camp and played the position for 12 of his 13 years with the
Steelers. Dawson combined Mike Webster's power with an uncommon
athleticism for a center, and he was named to seven straight Pro Bowls
from 1992-1998. Dawson played in 171 consecutive games, until he missed
a combined 16 in1999-2000 with a severe hamstring injury.
Alan Faneca: Guard (1998-Present)
During the days leading up to the 1998 NFL Draft, Jimmy Johnson was
surveying the pool of talent. Then the Dolphins coach, Johnson had much
draft-day success when he built the Cowboys championship teams of the
early 1990s. "The guy most ready to play in the NFL," Johnson told a
reporter, "is that kid Faneca from LSU." The Steelers picked Alan Faneca
in the first round of the 1998 draft, and he is in the midst of a career
in which he ultimately will be judged one of the best offensive linemen
in franchise history. Faneca is a five-time All-Pro, and he has played
in six Pro Bowls, with five starts, in his first nine seasons. In 2003,
Faneca exhibited uncommon versatility by playing nine games at left
tackle when injuries ravaged the line.
Tunch Ilkin: Offensive Tackle (1980-92)
Tunch Ilkin always jokes that the title of the book chronicling his
career with the Pittsburgh Steelers would be: "Too Late for the Super
Bowls; Too Early for Free Agency." Drafted on the sixth round in 1980 as
a center from Indiana State, Ilkin became a starting tackle who played
both sides of the offensive line during his 13 years with the Steelers.
Ilkin played in consecutive Pro Bowls -- 1989 and 1990 -- and also was
an active member of the NFLPA when it negotiated the salary cap/free
agency system still in place today. Reggie White finished with 198
career NFL sacks, but he never got one against Tunch Ilkin.
Jon Kolb: Offensive Tackle (1969-81)
Professional football games of that era were won and lost on the line of
scrimmage, and when Chuck Noll was hired in 1969 he quickly realized the
Steelers were lacking there, on both sides of the ball. He addressed it
as soon as possible, which during the pre-free agency era meant the NFL
Draft. Noll picked a North Texas State defensive lineman named Joe
Greene on the first round and an Oklahoma State offensive lineman named
Jon Kolb in the third. Two pieces of the puzzle were in place. One of
the strongest players in the NFL during his playing days, Kolb started
177 games at left tackle over the course of his 13 years, including four
Super Bowls. Kolb never was voted to a Pro Bowl, but he never was
out-played in a big game either.
Mike Webster: Center (1974-88)
Steelers had just won the 1974 AFC Championship Game, and offensive line
coach Dan Radakovich was grading the film of a unit that contributed to
the team's 224 yards rushing. "Not a bad job, Ray," Radakovich told
starting center Ray Mansfield, "but don't forget I have that rookie,
Mike Webster, waiting in the wings." A guard during his first season
with the Steelers after being a fifth-round draft choice from Wisconsin
in 1974, Webster didn't have to wait in those wings too long -- the next
year he was alternating quarters with the veteran. Webster holds the
franchise records for seasons (15), games (220) and most consecutive
games played (177). A seven-time All-Pro who played in nine Pro Bowls,
Webster was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997. But
none of that happens without Dave Lechnir's dedication. Growing up on a
farm in Harshaw, near Tomahawk, Wisconsin, Webster's day began with
chores followed by an 18-mile bus ride to rural Rylander High School.
Dave Lechnir was the school's football coach, and when he tried to get
Webster to go out for football, the teenager told the coach that chores
and the school bus schedule made it impossible to participate in any
after-school program. Lechnir assured Webster and his father that he
would drive the teenager to and from school so he could do his chores
and stay late for practice. "If the coach hadn't been able to drive me,
I guess I'd still be working for my dad," Webster said upon retiring
from the NFL.
Joe Greene: Defensive Tackle (1969-81)
Only the truly great can change history, and that's what Joe Greene did.
When Chuck Noll first met the team he inherited in 1969 he told the
players that the goal was to win a Super Bowl championship but that most
of them weren't good enough to be a part of that. Then, the first player
Noll added to that room was Joe Greene. He'll be the first to say he's
getting way too much credit, but Joe Greene's legacy to the Steelers
transcends any statistics. Greene was all about the winning, and his
standing among his peers in the locker room guided them in that same
direction. In a 1972 game the injury-ravaged Steelers had to win to make
the playoffs, Greene had five sacks and blocked a short field goal
attempt by the Oilers; he recovered one fumble and forced another, and
those takeaways led to two field goals in a 9-3 win. In 1974 the
Steelers won their first championship, and Greene had nine sacks and an
interception during the season, and then another interception and a
fumble recovery in Super Bowl IX. He earned All-NFL honors five times
and was voted to 10 Pro Bowls. Greene was twice the league's Defensive
Player of the Year.
L.C. Greenwood: Defensive End (1969-81)
Jack Ham remembers it well, still. It was in 1976, when the Steelers
defense was so dominant that it forced rules changes, and the team had a
game in Kansas City. So dominant were the defensive linemen on his side
of the field -- Joe Greene at left tackle and L.C. Greenwood at left end
-- that he, as the left outside linebacker, went through most of the
entire first half without being touched. Picked in the 10th round by the
Steelers from Arkansas AM&N, Greenwood was too slight to play for many
teams, but Chuck Noll and line coach Dan Radakovich nurtured his
athleticism. Recognized for the gold high-top cleats he wore, Greenwood
was known as a big-game player. From 1973-75 he had 25.5 sacks; in Super
Bowl IX he batted down three passes; and in Super Bowl X he sacked Roger
Staubach three times. He is ranked second on the team's all-time sacks
list with 73.5.
Casey Hampton: Nose Tackle (2001-Present)
He is known throughout the NFL as a nose tackle who stops the opponent's
running attack, but Casey Hampton's most memorable stop came on a
different playing field. Lined up with the rest of the players and
coaches on risers in the East Room of the White House, Casey Hampton
stopped the President of the United States with his smile. Hampton
always claimed to know George W. Bush from their days working out
together at the University of Texas in the late 1990s. When the Steelers
were invited to Washington, D.C., to be recognized for winning Super
Bowl XL, Hampton proved it. "Hey, Hamp, how ya doin'," said Mr. Bush,
who stopped to shake hands on his walk to the podium. Hampton has
appeared in three Pro Bowls during a six-year career so far, and he was
voted co-MVP by his teammates during the 2005 championship season.
Ernie Stautner: Defensive Tackle (1950-63)
"That man ain't human. He's too strong to be human ... He's the toughest
guy in the league to play against because he keeps coming head first.
Swinging those forearms wears you down." That's the way Hall of Fame
offensive lineman Jim Parker once described Ernie Stautner. A nine-time
Pro Bowl selection, Stautner came to the Steelers as a second-round
draft choice from Boston College who had been told by the New York
Giants that he was too short to play professional football. But he
anchored Pittsburgh's defense for 14 seasons and was voted the NFL's
Best Lineman Award in 1957 because of his strength and toughness. "What
made him was his strength," said Dan Rooney. "This was a time players
didn't have strength, they didn't lift weights. I remember we were
playing the Giants at Forbes Field one time and it was a very close
game, and they were moving the ball. He sacked the quarterback three
times in a row." The Steelers retired his No. 70 jersey in 1964
following his retirement, and he remains the only Steelers player to
have received that honor. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of
Fame in 1969.
Dwight White: Defensive End (1971-80)
It will go down as one of the most courageous efforts on a football
field in NFL history. After arriving in New Orleans a week before Super
Bowl IX, Dwight White was diagnosed with severe pneumonia complicated by
pleurisy, a lung infection. White spent the week in a hospital being
pumped with antibiotics and losing 18 pounds, but he showed up on a wet,
46-degree day and played virtually the whole game. Seven of the Vikings'
first eight running plays attacked the right side of the Steelers
defense, and White made three tackles for a grand total of no yards
gained. The Vikings finished with 17 yards on 21 rushing plays, and
White scored the game's first points when he covered Fran Tarkenton in
the end zone for a safety. Nicknamed "Mad Dog" for his intensity, White
was voted to two Pro Bowls (after the 1973 and 1974 seasons), and his 46
sacks is seventh in team history. From 1972-75, White had 33.5 sacks and
he capped that era with three sacks against Dallas in Super Bowl X.
Jack Ham: Outside Linebacker (1971-82)
It was 1975, and the Steelers were having their way with the San Diego
Chargers in the regular season opener. Protecting a big lead in a game
they eventually would win, 37-0, the Steelers coaches had just told Jack
Ham and Andy Russell they were through for the rest of the day, and so
Ham had begun to tell Russell about the coal business he had gotten into
during the offseason. In the middle of the story, the Chargers returned
an interception to the 3-yard line, and with the idea of protecting the
shutout Ham was sent back onto the field. Wrote Russell, "The first play
the Chargers ran was a sweep to the right. Bad idea. Ham took their
giant tight end, threw him aside, speared the runner behind the line of
scrimmage causing him to fumble, which of course Jack recovered. As he
slowly walked off the field, he casually flipped the ball to the ref.
Returning to our position on the sideline, Jack turned to me smiling and
said, 'Where was I?'" Ham earned All-Pro or All-AFC honors in seven
consecutive seasons, played in eight straight Pro Bowls, was named the
Football News Defensive Player of the Year in 1975 and was inducted into
the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988. He also forever changed the way
outside linebacker was played in the NFL.
Jack Lambert: Middle Linebacker (1974-84)
When asked for the umpteenth time by the media about a hit on Browns
quarterback Brian Sipe that got him thrown out of a 1981 game, Jack
Lambert said, "Brian has a chance to go out of bounds and he decides not
to. He knows I'm going to hit him. And I do. History." Said teammate
Andy Russell, "Tough, raw-boned, intense -- that's the way he'll be
remembered, but I've seen a lot of guys like that come into the league.
No, Jack's a whole lot more. The range he has -- they put him into
coverage 30 yards downfield. They gave him assignments the Bears or the
Packers never would've dreamed of (for Dick Butkus and Ray Nitschke). He
brought a whole new concept to the position, and that's why, for me,
he's the greatest there ever has been. His first step is never wrong,
his techniques always have been perfect. His greatness has nothing to do
with his popular image." But what an image. After Lambert threw Cliff
Harris to the ground for taunting Roy Gerela after a missed field goal
in Super Bowl X, Chuck Noll said, "Jack Lambert is a defender of what is
right." Inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 after a very
productive NFL career, Lambert led the Steelers in tackles in every
season except his last one, which was ruined by the toe injury that
forced him to retire. He was a two-time NFL Defensive Player of the
Year, eight-time All-Pro and nine-time Pro Bowl selection. Lambert was
voted team MVP twice in his career.
Greg Lloyd: Outside Linebacker (1988-97)
Dick LeBeau has been involved in the National Football League for 47
years, 14 as a player and the last 33 as a coach. He has had two stints
as a defensive coordinator in both Cincinnati and Pittsburgh, and he was
the Bengals' head coach from 2000-02. When asked which player he has
coached over those 33 seasons that he'd pick to build a defense around,
LeBeau answered almost immediately: Greg Lloyd. What distinguished Lloyd
from so many others? "Greg had a no-nonsense approach," said LeBeau,
"that seemed to permeate the rest of the group." Lloyd played college
football at Fort Valley State, where he also majored in chemical
engineering, and the Steelers discovered him on a tape of the Sheridan
All-Star Game, which featured players from the predominantly black
colleges. Lloyd stood out because he made just about every tackle, all
over the field, and the Steelers made him their sixth-round draft pick
in 1987. Then, on his first play during his first minicamp, Lloyd
covered the back out of the backfield and made the interception. A
three-time All-Pro, Lloyd ranks sixth on the team's all-time sacks list
with 53.5, played in five Pro Bowls and was named team MVP twice.
Joey Porter: Outside Linebacker (1999-2006)
There are a lot of elements that must come together for a team to put
together a run to an NFL championship, and when the Steelers were doing
that in 2005, Joey Porter was invaluable. Not only did he post three
sacks in the three AFC playoff games, but Porter used his personality to
make sure his teammates were ready for whatever they might encounter. He
called the Indianapolis Colts "soft" before the AFC Divisional Playoff
game, and then he took on Seahawks tight end Jerramy Stevens during the
verbal run-up to Super Bowl XL. And it was Porter who orchestrated two
tributes to Jerome Bettis that week -- one with the Notre Dame replica
jerseys and the other by allowing him to take the field alone during
pregame introductions at Ford Field. Porter finished his eight seasons
in Pittsburgh with 60 career sacks, which ranks fourth on the team's
all-time list. He also had 10 interceptions and eight fumble recoveries,
which he turned into four touchdowns. Porter was named the team's co-MVP
in 2002 and earned three trips to the Pro Bowl.
Andy Russell: Outside Linebacker (1963, 1966-76)
Wrote Jack Ham, "Today, most players back into the Pro Bowl by playing
mediocre football on good teams. Andy played great football on a worse
than mediocre team. Why? Because Andy was always the consummate
professional. His personal pride and drive for excellence allowed him to
stand out on even the worst of football teams. It would have been easy
for him to give up or be sucked into the mediocrity that he saw all
around him, but he refused to do so. That attitude was clear to me from
my first day of training camp to Andy's last game with the Steelers."
From 1963-71, Russell played on a lot of Steelers teams that did a lot
of losing, but he also was part of the dramatic turnaround that ended
with back-to-back Super Bowl championships in 1974-75. Russell played in
168 consecutive games during his NFL career with the Steelers. A No. 16
draft pick from Missouri, Russell played in seven Pro Bowls and was
voted team MVP in 1971.
Mel Blount: Cornerback (1970-83)
Mel Blount was walking through the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium in
1982 when he happened upon a group of scouts recording the vertical jump
of the latest hot prospect. This time the prospect was Renaldo Nehemiah,
the world-record holder in the 110-meter high hurdles. There was a black
mark on the wall, and Blount asked what it was. When told that was
Nehemiah's mark for his vertical jump, Blount, in his street clothes,
promptly jumped higher and said, "That's the Steelers' mark." At the
time, Mel Blount was 31 years old. That's the level of athleticism
Blount, the Steelers' No. 3 pick in 1970, brought to cornerback, and he
also was so big, strong and fast that he helped force the NFL to change
its rules on pass defense after the 1977 season. Blount played 14
seasons and 200 games in Pittsburgh, and his 57 interceptions are tops
in team history. After being pulled from the 1974 AFC Championship Game
and stung by the move, Blount rebounded in 1975 to record 11
interceptions and be voted NFL Defensive Player of the Year. He played
in five Pro Bowls and was named an All-Pro four times.
Jack Butler: Defensive Back (1951-59)
It is said that defensive backs often choose between making a play on
the football or making a play on the receiver. Jack Butler did both.
Described by former Pittsburgh Press sports editor Pat Livingston as
"having the face of a choirboy and the heart of an arsonist," Butler
played nine seasons with the Steelers and recorded 52 interceptions in
103 games, and the guy who once studied to become a priest accomplished
that in a most uncharitable way. "The best pass defense is the respect
of the receivers," said Butler. "If they know they're going to get hit
as soon as they touch the ball, they're not so relaxed catching it."
When Butler's stellar career ended, only Hall of Famers Dick "Night
Train" Lane and Emlen Tunnell had more interceptions than him. Butler
never played high school football, and only tried out at St. Bonaventure
College as a lark. Father Dan Rooney, a priest at St. Bonaventure,
recommended Butler to his brother, who just happened to be Art Rooney
Sr., the founder of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Butler finished his career
with four consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl from 1956-1959.
Carnell Lake: Safety (1989-98)
Woodson had torn his ACL in the opener, and seven games into the 1995
season the Steelers were 3-4 and still hadn't found a capable
replacement. Coach Bill Cowher decided the last option was to move
safety Carnell Lake to cornerback, and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau
got on the telephone and informed Lake of the impending move. The next
day when LeBeau arrived at Three Rivers Stadium at 6 a.m., Lake was
already there waiting for the tutorial to begin. A linebacker in
college, Lake made the difficult transition to safety in the NFL, and
then as a professional, he twice made the even more difficult transition
to cornerback, and both times he did it at midseason. Lake made four
consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl, including both seasons when he
switched to cornerback -- 1995 and 1997. Without Lake playing as he did
in 1995, the Steelers never would have advanced to Super Bowl XXX. Also
in 1997, Lake became the first defensive back in franchise history to
lead the team in quarterback sacks, with six.
Troy Polamalu: Safety (2003-Present)
"If you don't know where Troy Polamalu is," said Patriots coach Bill
Belichick, "he'll kill you." The Houston Texans got a live example
during a 2005 game when Polamalu recorded three sacks, one of which came
when he walked up to the line, then turned his back to the line of
scrimmage in an apparent move to get back into coverage, only to pivot
at the snap of the ball and find a lane to quarterback David Carr. "I
mean, every time I looked up, it seemed like No. 43 was in my face,"
said Carr, who was sacked eight times that afternoon. The 16th overall
pick of the 2003 draft, Troy Polamalu and Ed Reed are the first two
players named whenever the subject is big-play safeties in the NFL. In
two separate meetings with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts in
2005, Polamalu had an interception in each game, even though the one in
the playoffs was ruled incomplete by referee Peter Morelli. In his four
NFL seasons, Polamalu has 10 interceptions, seven sacks and two
appearances in the Pro Bowl.
Donnie Shell: Safety (1974-87)
Earl Campbell was a 233-pound running back by trade, and inflicting pain
was part of his business. In 1978, Campbell would finish with 1,450
yards, a 4.8 average and 13 touchdowns, but on Dec. 3 with the division
title at stake, he met his match in Donnie Shell. In the first quarter,
Campbell was spinning out of a tackle trying to get extra yards, when
the man nicknamed "Torpedo" came flying up to the line of scrimmage and
delivered a blow that could be heard in the upper reaches of the
Astrodome. Campbell left the game with a broken rib, and the Steelers
beat the Oilers, 13-3, in a season that ended with the third Super Bowl
championship in team history. Shell was an undrafted rookie in 1974
because he played linebacker at South Carolina State, but through hard
work and dedication he made himself into an All-Pro who finished his
career with 51 interceptions, still the most in NFL history for a strong
safety. Shell was a five-time Pro Bowl player, who had at least one
interception in each of his 14 NFL seasons.
Rod Woodson: Cornerback (1987-96)
He had missed the entire 1995 regular season with a knee injury, and in
the 1996 opener the Steelers lost a game and four linebackers to injury
in Jacksonville. The defense was reeling, and division rival Baltimore
was due at Three Rivers Stadium the next Sunday. On the second offensive
play of the game, Ravens quarterback Vinny Testaverde tried to go right
at Rod Woodson. Big mistake. Woodson intercepted the pass and returned
it 43 yards for a touchdown to set a tone for a season that ended with
another division championship in Pittsburgh. One of only five active
players selected to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team in 1994, Woodson was
a six-time All-Pro cornerback during his career in Pittsburgh and was
named the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year in 1993. Woodson
intercepted 38 passes during his career here, and he set a team record
by returning five for touchdowns. Possessing the ideal blend of speed
and strength, Woodson was a world-class athlete who qualified for the
1984 Olympic trials in the 110-meter hurdles, and he also finished his
Steelers career as the team's all-time leader in punt and kickoff
returns. During a memorable matchup against Jerry Rice and the 49ers in
1993, Woodson intercepted Steve Young twice and blocked a 47-yard field
goal in the Steelers' 24-13 loss.
Gary Anderson: Kicker (1982-94)
The Dallas Cowboys had won 17 straight openers when the Steelers visited
there to start the 1982 season, and the game was being televised on
Monday Night Football to boot. Gary Anderson was a rookie who had been
cut by Buffalo and signed by the Steelers just days before that game,
and he made an immediate splash in the NFL. Anderson was 3-for-3 in
field goals that night, all in the second half, and the Steelers held on
for a 36-28 win. The Steelers' all-time leader in points, Anderson was
named to the NFL's All-Rookie team in 1982 and followed that by leading
the AFC in scoring and being named team MVP the following year. Anderson
connected on 309 field goals in 395 attempts (78.2 percent) and
416-of-420 PATs for a Steelers'-record 1,343 points. A three-time Pro
Bowl selection, Anderson owns the team's career records for points
(1,343), field goals (309), field goal attempts (395) and longest field
goal (55). In a 1989 Wild Card Game in Houston, Anderson's 50-yard field
goal in overtime was the difference in a 26-23 upset win for the
Bobby Walden: Punter (1968-77)
Cairo is the county seat of Grady County, Georgia, and its most famous
resident is Jackie Robinson, the man who integrated Major League
Baseball 60 years ago. Bobby Walden might not be that famous, but in
those parts he is known as "The Big Toe from Cairo." Walden still owns
the Steelers' all-time record for career punts with 716, and his
41.1-yard average puts him seventh on the team's all-time list. Walden
was the team's punter on the first two Super Bowl championship teams of