By Allyson Turner
Drafted in the fourth round by the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974, John
Stallworth would play 14 years -- his entire career -- with the club. Stallworth
won four Super Bowl rings, playing in Super Bowls IX, X, XIII and XIV. He played
in six AFC championship games and had 12 touchdowns and 17 consecutive
postseason games with at least one reception. He was an All-Pro in 1979 and
played in four Pro Bowls. He was voted MVP by his teammates twice: 1979 and
1984. Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert are the only other players who have
received that honor two times. Stallworth was named to the Steelers' All-Time
Team in 1982.
Stallworth graduated from Alabama A&M in 1974. He retired from pro
football in 1988. Currently Stallworth resides in Alabama and is president
of Madison Research Corporation.
Of the four Super Bowls and 17
playoff games that you played in, what moment or play stands out as your
A dream of any athlete is to play in a championship
game and come up with the winning hit or the winning basket. I was able to
do that in the Super Bowl XIV against the Rams, and scored the touchdown
that put us ahead. That moment sticks out.
With your team trailing against the Rams, what was the feeling on
I imagine from player to player it might have varied.
We couldn't muster a whole lot offensively because they were stuffing us a
whole lot with their running game. And they had three of our former
defensive coaches on their staff and they knew us really well. Because we
had won three, the law of averages [was] against us. We knew we had
additional shots to put it away. I don't think it was a negative; we knew
we had to come up with some big plays to make it happen.
A former teammate of yours said that when Bradshaw was young, it was
often chaotic in the huddle and there was a lot of indecisiveness, a
result of not studying and not knowing the offense. What was it like when
Terry took charge when he needed to. I don't recall
ever thinking he was indecisive. Terry was fortunate to have a veteran
group of folks around him. Guys like Mike Webster, a running back like
Franco Harris. The unfortunate part for Terry was we all had suggestions.
Suggestions about what we ought to be doing based on what we perceived on
the defense. Terry was open to our suggestions. There was a lot of times
back then plays were called on the sidelines but Terry was the last guy to
call his own plays. He handled that wonderfully well.
|Hall of Fame
coach Chuck Noll:|
When a guy like John comes up and you compare
his numbers to numbers today, it's not quite right. Pass protection
was at a premium, offensive linemen had to keep their hands in,
defensive linemen had an edge, and we had to run the football a whole
lot to make the opponent think run. John was a very capable deep
receiver and he was one of those guys when the game was big, he was
better. He always responded to a challenge. He was great in the big
games and I really hope he gets into the Hall of Fame. He deserves it!
When you've worked with somebody as long as we did, you go
through ups and downs together. It's an emotional time when they
retire. It's something that stays with you for life. John is a very
special person as you may have discovered. John was very much a team
man and you need that to be successful.
How much did training with the Steelers secondary help you? Did you
find it an advantage to practice with that incredible defense?
big advantage for me was having to work against Mel Blount. I believe he
was one of the top defensive backs to ever play the game. He was very
physical at 6-4, 215 pounds, and talented. He could run as fast as any
receiver at that time. I got a chance to work against a guy of that
caliber. It made me whistle on Sundays. Mel definitely made Sundays a lot
easier and my development a lot quicker. The defense was so dominating at
times in practices that it sort of stymied a lot of what we were trying to
do. The offense would say, 'Just hold back. We're trying to get this
After being apart of the great teams of the '70s how difficult was
it for you personally to be on the Steelers as they declined in the '80's?
Early on, we were having good drafts. When I came in with Lambert, Swann,
Donnie Shell, and a number of guys that had great careers -- at least two
in the Hall -- I always thought it would continue. If Joe Greene decides
to retire, we'll draft another. When Terry retires, we'll draft another
quarterback and he'll turn out to be another Terry. As the guys starting
to trickle away for age or injury, I realized very quickly that you don't
replace a Joe Greene or a Terry Bradshaw, a Lynn Swann, a Mel Blount very
easily. They were rare individuals. I realized quickly a different
mentality when guys came in and it didn't quite mesh up to my expectations
of what we ought to be thinking.
I remember when I caught my 500th catch. It was the strike-shortened
season and I came back to play when the strike was settled. I caught the
500th catch and I looked around and the guys that were coming to greet me
I didn't know. They weren't the guys that were with me when I caught all
the others. It wasn't as exciting as it would've been if Swanny or
Bradshaw or any of the guys that were my teammates earlier had been there.
Was that the low point in your career?
That was definitely
it, and it was difficult. Just the overall caliber players on that team,
and although they were not there, it just wasn't the same.
Once again, you are one of the finalists for the Pro Football Hall
of Fame. How important is it for you to be inducted?
callous about the whole process. Initially, you get high and emotional and
after the process is over you settle down. I try not to ride that roller
coaster anymore. It is an honor to make it this far. It puts you in a
small group that makes it this far but at this point, it's like coming in
second in the Super Bowl -- the visit was nice, but no one ever remembers
that. I would like it very much and it would be a perfect culmination. I
would like to be able to look back at the hurting and everything you go
through on the field and say it was all worth it. Right now, I don't dwell
on it. People say again it's just a great honor to be even nominated. I
respect that. But to me, the great honor will be to get in and to among
those outstanding players.
What was the hardest hit you ever took and who was it from?
don't know who he was, but he was a defensive back for Cincinnati. It was
a Monday night game and this guy was coming towards me. He came around and
reached out and socked me. I realized I had a glass chin at that moment. I
remember falling and it took me a long time to get to the ground. George
Atkinson with the Raiders came across the middle, and I got a good blow in
the head, but nothing knocked me out except for that one hit in the chin.
I'm glad no one else knew about it.
Which defensive back gave you the most trouble?
when he started and ended his career with the Raiders. Ken Riley in
Cincinnati I thought was an excellent player as well as Hanford Dixon.
|Hall of Fame
cornerback Mike Haynes:|
It was definitely work covering him.
You had better bring your lunch. He was such a great athlete and no
matter who the quarterback was, if they threw the ball up there, there
was an 80 percent chance that he would catch the ball. He was fast and
smart and he used his body well, and of course, he had great hands. I
hope he gets into the Hall of Fame. John accomplished a lot in his
playing days and deserves to get in.
Bengal defensive back Ken Riley:|
He was tough and an excellent
receiver. John was the receiver I usually faced and we had some
excellent battles. They used to say he wasn't fast but he always
caught the ball. He was a receiver that was very much underrated,
although he got some notoriety, I believe he deserved much more. You
had to definitely have your stuff together when you played him. He was
a big receiver that would try to lull you to sleep so he can run by
you. He had that long stride with deceptive speed. You really had to
have your techniques together when you were covering him. In
man-to-man, if you weren't on your p's and q's, he'd beat you. It's no
secret they won the Super Bowls and he was one of the reasons why, and
I'm sure Bradshaw would attest to that.
Brown defensive back Hanford Dixon:|
John was an excellent
player, and I was always the type of defensive back that was very
physical and very verbal, trying to take away the opponent's game. One
thing about John Stallworth, he was a very cool cat. No matter what I
said or did to him, he never let me know that I got to him. And we had
some classic battles.