Steeler Nation has lost their Emperor.
Chuck Noll passed away last night at age 82. Coach Noll was head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers for 23 years, winning four Super Bowls over that span – a feat which remains unequaled by any other coach in NFL history. Inducted into the Hall of Fame back in 1993, he was one of the chief architects of one the greatest turnarounds in sports history, taking the Steelers from perennial losers to being the most dominant dynasty of the modern era. More than just a football coach, Chuck Noll was revered as a teacher. A cultured man – he once guest conduced the Pittsburgh Symphony – Coach Noll has been credited by scores of former players for shaping them both as football players and as men.
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Pittsburgh Steelers all-time great L.C. Greenwood was laid to rest yesterday at the Pentecostal Temple Church of God in Christ in East Liberty. Mr. Greenwood passed away two Sundays ago at age 67 following complications from back surgery. It is often said the measure of a man is not who he respects but if he is respected by others. By that standard, L.C. Greenwood lived a life well spent.
A who’s who of teammates from the 1970′s Steel Dynasty teams showed up to pay to their final respects. Fellow members of the Steel Curtain Mel Blount and Mean Joe Greene were joined by Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney and current President Art Rooney II. For Mean Joe, this occasion must’ve been particularly bittersweet as he is now the sole surviving member of what is undoubtedly the best defensive line in football history. Ernie “Fats” Holmes died in a car accident back in 2008 with Dwight White passing a few months later, ironically also from back surgery complications.
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Yesterday could arguably be considered the worst day in Pittsburgh Steelers history. First, news came down that one of the members of the storied Steel Curtain, L.C. Greenwood, had passed away at 67. Shortly thereafter, the Black and Gold blew a golden opportunity to send the game to overtime, falling to the Minnesota Vikings 34-27. The Steelers are now 0-4 for the first time in 45 years, the year before Mr. Greenwood was drafted by a rookie head coach named Chuck Noll.
Mike Tomlin is no Chuck Noll.
In fact, the only way he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the Emperor is to point out it’s become apparent our current Emperor has no clothes. No answers, either, for a season that has tragically spiraled out of control. Every week brings some fresh hell to Steeler Nation. It’s amazing how this team constantly finds new ways to lose.
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The Baltimore Ravens are Super Bowl Champions. Pardon me while I empty out my vomit bucket.
Okay, where were we? Oh, right. The unthinkable has happened. The Baltimore Ravens won Super Bowl XLVII. If Steeler Nation thought that team of thugs and loudmouths were insufferable before, we’re never going to hear the end of it now.
To add insult to injury, Joe Flacco was named Super Bowl MVP. For those scoring at home, Tyler Palko’s back-up now has more SB MVPs than Ben Roethlisberger. Oh it was well deserved as Bert played the game of his life. I just hope everybody is prepared when Flacco is ranked equal to or above Ben on those “Best Quarterbacks in the NFL” lists we’re inundated with every season.
Then again, they are basically tied with one championship apiece. Technically, Ben has two but Antwaan Randle El accomplished more with one pass than Ben did during the rest of the Seattle game. And Flacco is only now reaching his prime while Ben’s skills are in decline.
Yesterday’s win capped off perhaps the luckiest run by any team in recent memory. Going into the final month of the season, the Ratbirds were in full free fall when Charlie Batch engineered a win for the ages. People forget that Baltimore backed into clinching their division as with decent quarterbacking and decent coaching, the Steelers could have overtaken them. Baltimore had an easy first round playoff game against the overmatched Colts then should have lost to the Broncos if not for a blown coverage that led to the game tying TD followed by yet another choke job by Pey-Pey in OT. Sure every championship run requires a little luck (Ben making The Tackle on Roman Harper) but the Ravens seemingly had a rabbit’s foot up their ass all through this post-season.
That luck held up through the final whistle of last night’s game. Flacco underthrows his receiver by three yards but Jacoby Jones is so wide open he has time to come back (I wonder if Mike Wallace ever thought about trying that?) for what will go down as a 55 yard TD bomb. The Niners fall asleep on the second half kick-off and gift Baltimore a 108 yard return TD. After a power outage which I’m sure Roger Goodell is already planning on fining James Harrison for, San Fran staged an epic comeback which fell short when Michael Crabtree got mugged on 4th and goal but the refs kept their hankies in their pockets.
Anyway, the Ravens are your 2012 NFL champions. I promised silver linings so here are two. First, since San Francisco lost, your Pittsburgh Steelers are still the only NFL franchise with six Lombardi Trophies. And second, last night was the final time we’ll ever have to see Ray Lewis in an NFL uniform. If karma is a really a thing that exists, hopefully one day we will see him in a bright orange jump suit as karmic justice for the murder he already got away with (and kudos to Phil Simms for having the balls to mention that during the telecast instead of just repeating the company line).
Final lining? Um, the Pittsburgh Pirates report to Spring Training in 10 days.
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Super Bowl XLVII has finally been set. And for fans of the Pittsburgh Steelers, you couldn’t pick a worse match-up if you tried. Ordinarily we can find at least one team with which to align our rooting interests. When the Baltimore Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers for the championship in two weeks, the only satisfying outcome would be an asteroid annihilating the Superdome.
The Niners are probably the lesser of two evils. They’ve never done anything directly to the Steelers. They do, however, possess five Lombardi Trophies. Should they win, the Black and Gold would no longer sit alone atop the NFL hierarchy as the only franchise with six championships. And considering the Niners have a fairly young roster while the Steelers are old and in decline, they’d be a whole lot better bet to climb the “Stairway to Seven” before we do.
(As an side, isn’t it crazy that out of 47 Super Bowls, the Niners and Steelers have combined to appear in 13, over a full quarter of them, yet have never faced each other? Damn you, Tim McKyer!)
On the other side, we have the Baltimore Ravens. I don’t have to bother explaining why Steeler fans would rather have their pubic hair plucked out by a pair of rusty pliers than see the Ratbirds win the Super Bowl. It’s bad enough we’ll have to spend the next two weeks hearing what a great guy murdering thug Ray Lewis is, are we really ready for Joe Flacco to be considered an elite quarterback? Even worse, if he plays even remotely decent the pain will continue well into next season as talking heads immediately start ranking him ahead of Ben Roethlisberger despite 90% of his offense being checkdowns to tight ends and Ray Rice.
Can Steeler Nation live in a world where Tyler Palko‘s back-up is considered one of the NFL’s best?
The cherry on top of this shit sandwich is both teams are coached by a Harbaugh. The Niners’ Harbaugh si clearly the bigger asshole what with his childish theatrics after every minor setback although choosing between them is kinda like choosing between the best venereal disease. There are no winners here. We all lose.
Pray for the asteroid.
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Sorry for being overly negative although it’s hard not to be since for the first time in a very long time, the Pittsburgh Steelers are playing an utterly meaningless football game. The last time the Steelers entered the last week of the season with absolutely nothing to play for was the final game of the Bill Cowher era. Actually, there was something to play for that weekend.
The Steelers had been eliminated from playoff contention the week prior but the Cincinnati Bengals needed a win to get in. When asked what would motivate his team to play with nothing on the line, Cowher famously said “Misery loves company.” And his team responded by sending their long-time coach out a winner (and dumping the Bungles from the playoff race) with a clutch TD by Santonio Holmes in overtime.
While this week’s opponent, the Cleveland Browns, aren’t playing for anything either, I have a hard time imagining Mike Tomlin motivating his players in a similar fashion. After all, Fraud Tomlin couldn’t get these guys to play hard when the playoffs were on the line, how’s he gonna get them fired up for a glorified exhibition game?
How bad has it gotten? Local talk shows are taking call after call from members of Steeler Nation who actually WANT the Steelers to lose so they improve their draft position. I can’t say that’s a bad idea. Never forget the 2007 draft where Darrelle Revis went with the 14th pick and while we took Lawrence Timmons one pick later. Timmons has finally realized his potential this season although I don’t think anybody would be crazy enough to argue they’d rather have him over Revis Island. So who knows, perhaps a loss on Sunday is the difference between drafting a shutdown corner or a chronically underachieving linebacker.
Good grief, we’re talking about draft position and hoping for losses. Yes, it has come to this.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs BROWNS OFFENSE
The Browns offense will finish the year near the bottom of the league in points per game and total yards. Rookie QB Brandon Weedon has shown flashes of being a competent signal caller but enters the game having thrown more INTs (17) than TDs (14). Of course, it’s not all Weedon’s fault. Other than fellow rookie RB Trent Richardson, who was on track for 1,000+ rushing and 400+ receiving yards before he got banged up, the Browns don’t have much in the way of offensive weapons. Whoever takes over in the front office will definitely be looking to upgrade the skill positions this off-season.
EDIT: And of course late news out of Cleveland is both Weedon and Richardson are nursing injuries and won’t be active on Sunday. Evidently the Browns want to ensure they’re in position to take the next Revis so they’re endeavoring to field the WORST TEAM EVER. Even back-up Colt McCoy is sitting out because his testicles haven’t descended or some such nonsense. Which means all you loyal season ticket holders will get to see the NFL debut of rookie QB Thad Lewis. THAD LEWIS! SMELL THE EXCITEMENT!
Which brings us to the Browns’ sole motivation this weekend, rescuing coach Pat Shurmur’s job. Shurmur’s only been in Cleveland two years (although Cleveland years are like dog years, one feels like seven) but with a new owner used to winning – he was a minority owner of the Steelers – Shurmur’s wretched 9-22 mark may do him in. Knowing the Browns, they’ll probably fire Shurmur only to hire another retread like Norv Turner although we’ll
worry laugh about that when the time comes. For now Shurmur is their coach and he may very well need a win this Sunday to have any hope of keeping his job.
For the Steelers, this may be the last hurrah for some familiar faces. Casey Hampton took a pay cut to come back one more year and although the team doesn’t really have a heir apparent waiting in the wings – unless you count that drunken imbecile Alameda Ta’amu – he may not be back next season. Then there’s James Harrison. Although our old pal Hennessy will be heartbroken to hear this, there is real talk that Harrison and his $9 million salary will not be back in 2013. I think that would be a mistake since Deebo has shown he can still play at a very high level when he’s reasonably healthy but remember this is the same team that cut Greg Lloyd and Joey Porter when they still had a little gas left in the tank.
It’s the Steeler Way.
Despite a season filled with injuries to key players and lacking in game-changing plays, the Steelers D will almost certainly finish the year ranked first overall for the third time in the past six years. Dick LeBeau has been telling his guys that he intends to come back next season so barring another Bruce Arians fiasco from Art II, our D should still be pretty good next season no matter who he has to coach.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs BROWNS DEFENSE
The only upside to having one more game left in the season is you only have one more game to watch the Steelers’ excruciatingly pitiful excuse for an offense. The defense certainly struggled the first month or so of the season but when the story of 2012 is written our inept offense is going to bear the brunt of the criticism for things going so horrible wrong. And deservedly so.
Todd Haley was brought in to take them to the next level. Instead, everything has gone backwards. Ben Roethlisberger regressed. The Young Money crew regressed. The running game regressed. I don’t know if Boss Todd will be back next year – my money, or rather the money inherited by the Deuce, says yes – but let’s hope things improve next year.
Contrasted with the last appearance in the Black and Gold of some veterans on D, this may be the last time we see some young players on offense in our colors.
Mike Wallace (EDIT: Wallace has a sore hammy and is sitting out. Wow, this really is a glorified exhibition game. Do you guys really expect me to watch this?) and Rashard Mendenhall are undoubtedly playing their last home games in Pittsburgh. Wallace simply wants too much money and while I think he’s a very skilled receiver, he’s not the kind of difference maker worth throwing a huge contract at to keep around. Mendy, well, I don’t think Tomlin likes him and as time has gone on the feeling has become mutual. I think he’s a perfect example of a guy who needs a change in scenery to get their career back on track.
Where that leaves the Steelers, however, is anybody’s guess. If Haley truly wants the Steelers to run the ball more often and effectively than his predecessor, the team probably needs to invest in a top flight back. Neither Jonathan Dwyer nor Isaac Redman have looked like they should be considered featured backs. Meanwhile, we once thought the Steelers receiving corps was an embarrassment of riches but subtracting Wallace and with Manny Sanders spectacular flame-out, we’re left with Antonio Brown and… Jerricho Cotchery?
The Steelers aren’t going to make any off-season decisions based on one game. Mendy can gallop for 250 yards or Wallace can catch 200 yards worth of passes and I’m sure it won’t affect what the team does with them this off-season. What we do know is tough decisions have to be made so we don’t find ourselves in this exact same situation next year. And what is certain is the team that takes the field next September will look quite a bit different than the one we see on Sunday.
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“Suck for Luck” was a popular theme last season. While Andrew Luck is enjoying a pretty good rookie season, his accomplishments have thus far been eclipsed by the quarterback taken one spot after him. Robert Griffin III has won the exact same number of games as Luck yet he’s quickly become one of the most hyped players in the league. The Four Letter, always at the forefront of insanity, is already asking if he’s a viable MVP candidate.
As if there weren’t already enough reasons to avoid ESPN.
This Sunday, RGIII will be facing the Pittsburgh Steelers. We here in the Burgh know a little something about dual threat quarterbacks. We had arguably the best one ever. His name was Kordell Stewart.
Every couple years, the NFL finds a new “ultimate weapon” that will “redefine the QB position.” And usually they have a few great seasons, win some games while piling up the fantasy stats, then the league catches up to them and they plummet back to earth. And they never ever win the big one.
People like to argue over what constitutes a dual threat QB. Some people like to list old timers like Fran Tarkenton or even our own Terry Bradshaw (seriously, look up some of TB’s old rushing totals). That’s patently ridiculous as they were classic drop back QBs who used their feet as a last resort, not as a featured part of their offensive repertoire. Others point to guys like John Elway and Steve Young, who at some point led their respective teams in rushing and did manage to win Super Bowls. Again, that’s revisionist history. Both Elway and Young could run but it was never a part of their game plan. They were both prototypical passers who used their legs as a complement and safety valve.
Kordell Stewart was the first real hybrid threat. By hybrid I mean a QB whose offensive game plan was expressly tailored to utilize his running ability as much as his passing. For those too young to remember the Steelers of the mid 90s, Slash was the kind of weapon which gave D-coordinators absolute fits. There were games where it literally seemed like the other team had no idea how to stop him. Nobody had ever seen a guy do the things which Kordell did. The dude rushed for an 80 yard TD, caught a 71 yard TD and threw a 90 yard TD over a five year period.
And that’s why I’m an unapologetic Stewart fanboy and always will be.
Slash represented the first real attempt by the NFL to change the perception of what a QB can be. The standard thinking, which exists to this day, is a college offense won’t work in the pros. Way way back in the day, pro teams ran things like the wishbone or Wing-T and in the 90s there was a brief flirtation with the run and shoot. Still, no team runs the option (because the belief is your QB will eventually get killed) nor do they run the run and shoot’s less insane cousin, the pistol/spread (exclusively that is).
What invariably happens is the NFL takes a great athletic QBs and eventually tries to shoehorn them into a pro set offense. Slash had great success as a multi-faceted weapon but eventually Bill Cowher and the Steelers decided they could only win with a classic pocket passer so they tried to rein him in. And without the running dimension, Slash quickly became just an ordinary average NFL QB.
And this happens over and over every few years. When Michael Vick entered the league, he soon became the new ultimate weapon. His passing skills were never near as good as Stewart’s but the dual threat led him to some early success. Since getting out of the clink, the Eagles have made him more and more of a pocket passer and, just like Slash, his sudden plummet to mediocrity is due to the fact that’s not his strength.
Vince Young was supposed to be the next Vick, Slash 3.0 if you will. A combination of Jeff Fisher trying to rein him in almost from the start and his own stupidity when it came to reading defenses led to a totally unmemorable NFL career. Jeanette’s own Terrelle Pryor is currently languishing on the Raiders despite Carson Palmer clearly being on the downhill slide because I don’t think they know what to do with him. His passing skills were rudimentary by college standards. And as I said, teams aren’t willing to try something new like going to a full-time spread.
Which brings us to last season. In 2011, the Broncos made the playoffs with a hybrid QB because they ditched conventional thinking and played to his strengths. Tim Tebow led his team to the second round by basically running the option. Of course Elway couldn’t wait to go back to a pro set with Peyton Manning because the NFL doesn’t believe you can win any other way.
Which brings us back to RGIII. He’s putting up some monster numbers this season. His rushing yardage alone is more than all the Steelers running backs COMBINED. He’s also completing a whopping 70% of his passes. But the whispers are already starting. When he was concussed a few weeks back, the talking heads couldn’t wait to say “he needs to learn” which was code for “You can’t keep running, you’re a QB.”
Now maybe RGIII will have a career similar to a Randall Cunningham or Donavan McNabb, athletic QBs who successfully transitioned to pocket passers. More likely, he’s having a huge season because the Redskins are letting him be himself. They’re turning him loose and nobody knows what to do. But as soon as something happens, be it a bad season or a serious injury, NFLThink will kick in and they’ll try to make him into a regular QB. When that happens, he’ll be just another quarterback and everybody will wonder what happened to RGIII?
We’ll know here in Pittsburgh. Just ask Kordell Stewart.
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Short week this week as the Pittsburgh Steelers head down south to face the Tennessee Titans on Thursday Night Football. For once the Steelers’ schedule actually breaks in their favor. Short week games are never fun but at least they’re matched up against a bad team that’s reeling from two straight losses. And then you get a nice ten day break before facing the Cincinnati Bengals in the first real make-or-break game of the season.
The Steelers haven’t had the best luck on the NFL Network. They’ve faced the Browns on Thursday night two years in a row, first suffering a shocking loss then seeing Ben Roethlisberger suffer a season-altering injury. The Steelers aren’t a lock against bad teams, either. The Raiders suck yet we still lost to them a few weeks ago.
Of course, every situation is different. The Browns act like playing the Steelers is their Super Bowl so no matter the records or talent level, they always play tough. And as I recounted in my preview, Oakland has always been a house of horrors for the Black and Gold. Tennessee? Well, there was the Lendale White/Terrible Towel incident back in 2008 but the Steelers have beaten the crap out of them both times they’ve met since then.
STEELERS DEFENSE vs TITANS OFFENSE
One step forward, two steps back. James Harrison stepped forward last weekend, Troy Polamalu and LaMarr Woodley stepped back. All the way back to the trainers room. With the short week and the prospect of getting extra rest in advance of the Bengals game, neither Woodley nor Polamalu are going to play. In Mike Tomlin‘s weekly lie-fest/press conference, he said Woodley’s injury is less severe than Troy’s, describing his hamstring strain as “mild.”
Which of course in Tomlinspeak probably means he tore it from the bone.
In the meantime, let’s hope Lawrence Timmons can give us a repeat of his dominating performance against the Eagles. I’m not a Jaworski who watches 285 hours of tape but from what I’ve heard, Timmons looked good because instead of assigning him set responsibilities (which he always abandons anyway), Dick LeBeau let him rove all over the field ala Troy. Timmons is a great athlete and it appears he has a good nose for the ball so perhaps they’ll turn him loose from here on out. Clearly asking him to be a disciplined play-the-system LB ala James Farrior was not working.
The Titans offense has been plain awful this year. The biggest culprit being former star RB Chris Johnson. The Steelers famously snapped his streak of 12 straight 100 yard games back in 2010 and in many ways he’s never been the same. He would have a Pro Bowl year that year but he held out the next and after getting his big contract has never approached his previous level. This year he’s rushed for only 200 yards in 5 games and hasn’t scored a single TD.
The Titans placed a lot of faith in first round pick (8th overall) QB Jake Locker expecting he’d make some leaps in his second year. Locker separated his shoulder a couple weeks back so our old buddy Matt Hasselbeck will start in his place. Hasselbeck was a capable game manager for the Seahawks team we beat in Super Bowl XL and did manage to lead the Titans to a 9-7 record last season. Of course, they played in a terrible division with Jacksonville trying exile themselves out to LA and the Colts who were busy Sucking For Luck. Hasselbeck is a wily vet but he’s at the point in his career where he needs help and when your best receiver is another old friend, ex-Steeler Nate Washington, that’s not enough.
STEELERS OFFENSE vs TITANS DEFENSE
Big Ben needs 300 yards to pass Terry Bradshaw as the Steelers all-time career passing leader. Unfortunately, I don’t think TB will be sending Ben any congratulatory notes in the mail when he does. Their relationship is still reportedly icy and I don’t expect it to thaw any time soon. It’s hard to compare eras so I’m not going to get into any “Who’s the better QB” debate except to say I hope some day these two guys are able to make peace with each other.
Big Ben should have a good shot at the record against a piss poor Titans D currently ranked in the bottom 5 in both rush and pass D. The Steelers scored one offensive TD against Philly and if they don’t do much better this week it’ll be a massive disappointment. Christian F’n Ponder dropped 30 on them last Sunday. Two time Super Bowl Champ Ben Roethlisberger and his Young Money receivers had damn well better do the same.
It’ll help if the receivers actually catch the ball this week. So many plays were left on the field against Philly. Mike Wallace in particular needs to step it up after his stellar 2 catch effort. Instead of begging for flags every time he’s jostled aggressively, how about trying to get open? Even Antonio Brown, who was the best offensive player not named Rashard Mendenhall, had a costly drop that would’ve went for 6.
Speaking of Rashard, his return was about as effective a comeback as you could’ve hoped for. The final numbers weren’t spectacular but 5.8 YPC was a nice change from what we’ve seen. Plus he probably would’ve had close to a 100 yards if not for the 15 holding penalties against Willie Colon. I’d like to see them clean that up this week, especially against a fairly lousy run defense.
The Steelers are 2-2 on the season. 2-0 at home, 0-2 on the road. The chances of that trend continuing all year are slim. At some point the Black and Gold will have to venture into enemy territory and come away with a win. Considering some expect Music City to look a lot like the Steel City come kickoff time, this is a good time to pick up a road win. And if they can get their offense in gear while fixing the penalty situation in the process, all the better.
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NFL Films co-founder and president Steve Sabol passed away yesterday at the age of 69. While Myron Cope was indisputably the voice of the Pittsburgh Steelers, late NFL Films narrator John Facenda provided the background vocals. For those of us too young to have experienced the Steel Dynasty of the 70s, our knowledge and appreciation of those teams is firmly rooted in the specials that NFL Films devoted to them. It can easily be argued that the work of Steve Sabol and his crew did as much as anybody to establish what we now call Steeler Nation.
They also gave the Cowboys their obnoxious “America’s Team” moniker but we’ll let that one slide.
As I’ve mentioned several times, I was born in the late 70s. I was too young to watch the Steel Dynasty and by the time I started watching football in the mid 80s, the Steelers pretty much stunk. Then one day my mom and I went to the video store and there in their bargain bin was a bunch of vhs tapes from NFL Films. I bought one about Terry Bradshaw (“Greatest Sports Legends,” natch) and another entitled “The NFL’s Best Ever Teams.” Thanks to the magic of youtube, I actually found the Steelers segment from that tape, which I posted above.
I watched that Best Teams tape dozens of times but I watched the Steelers segment probably closer to a hundred. I wore that bit of tape out to the point I still remember there was a bit of distortion and rollback at the part where TB comically tries to block an Oiler on John Stallworth‘s reverse. You youngsters don’t know how lucky have it with your dvds and blu rays. Good grief, I’m turning into my father.
Anyway, Steve Sabol was the man responsible for that and many many other programs devoted either whole or in part to our beloved Steelers. And don’t think for one moment those programs didn’t play a major role in spreading the gospel that is the Black and Gold. I have a complete collection of NFL Films Year in Reviews for every Steelers Super Bowl team (you can get the first five in the must own Pittsburgh Steelers: The Complete History dvd collection but have to buy Road To Super Bowl XLIII separately) and rewatch them before every season or just when I feel like getting psyched up for a game. They’re a fantastic source for great memories or to simply learn a little about the history of your favorite team.
In conclusion, thank you, Steve. Thank you for the countless hours of knowledge and entertainment your work provided us. Thank you for being the preeminent chronicler of the game we follow and the team we love. You will truly be missed. Good-bye and God Bless.
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As the NFL kicks off the a brand new season, this past weekend was all about saying good-bye. Good-bye to former members of the Pittsburgh Steelers who, in the immortal words of coach Chuck Noll, are moving on to seek their life’s work. And also good-bye to two former Steelers and one Pittsburgh native who earned pro football’s highest honor, enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. In both cases, it was a busy weekend for Steeler Nation to bid old heroes a fond farewell.
On Friday, the Steelers held a “Friday Night Lights” evening practice as a sort of thank you to the horde of faithful who make the pilgrimage up to Latrobe for training camp. Fans were treated to a quarterback skills competition where Byron Leftwich evidently impressed with his ability to hit a garbage can at twenty yards and an impromptu heavyweight boxing match broke out between Mike Adams and Cam Hayward. There was also a pregame ceremony with four former Steelers officially retiring as members of the Black and Gold. The photo above shows (from left to right) Joey Porter, Willie Parker, Marvel Smith, and Aaron Smith bidding farewell to the fans.
Some cute chick who does video work for Steelers.com later conducted a short sit-down interview with all four which you can watch by clicking here.
On Saturday, Steeler Nation descended upon Canton, Ohio in what is probably going to be a yearly trip as many of the great Steelers of the Aughts become eligible for enshrinement in the Hall of Fame. I’ve been to the HOF a couple times and if you’re a football fan you really owe it to yourself to make the trip at least once in your lifetime. It’s a tremendous facility full of great exhibits, many of them paying tribute to either the Steelers or the rich history of football in Western Pennsylvania. If nothing else, the HOF busts room is a must-see because you literally can’t take three steps without running across a former Steeler.
Speaking of busts, did anybody else notice how amazingly lifelike the busts were this year? It used to be sorta hit or miss (Franco, for example, looked creepily like Shia LaBouf). Guess the NFL has finally started to employ some of that laser scanning technology they use to make action figures look exactly like movie actors. Whatever they’ve done, those likenesses looked amazingly spot-on.
Anyway, the first Steeler to the podium wasn’t a recent retiree but rather veteran’s selection Jack Butler. Butler, who I wrote about extensively on my old site after being contacted by his son, finally achieved the honor his family wanted so badly for him. A defensive back for some wretched Steelers teams from 1951-59, Butler nonetheless retired with the second most career interceptions (52) in an era when teams barely passed more than dozen times per game. His legacy endured, however, as he was named to the Steelers All-Time team, 50th Anniversary team and 75th Anniversary Legends squad.
Butler’s family definitely won the night by wearing those damnable Bumblebee throwbacks with Butler’s name and number on the back. Once again, I can’t embed the video so if you want to catch a snippet of his excellent speech, click here.
Then we had the man who continued the Steelers long tradition of excellence at center, Dermontti Dawson. Dirt, as he was fondly called by teammates and fans, was a seven time Pro Bowler and member of the NFL’s All-90s team. He, along with Rod Woodson, were the two players who bridged the twilight of the Noll era to the unparalleled success of the Cowher years. I caught Dermontti’s speech live and he gave a very touching tribute to the legendary Mike Webster (who was still here in 1988, moving Dirt to guard his rookie season) but NFL.com decided to cut that bit from the highlights for some unknown reason. You can watch what they kept by clicking here.
Finally, the night’s most memorable speech came from Curtis Martin. Martin never played for the Steelers but he grew up in Pittsburgh and played his college ball at Pitt. Martin’s speech, particularly his asides about not liking to play football and especially not wanting to play hurt, finally explained some things for those who remember his injury plagued and, frankly, badly underachieving tenure with the Panthers. But Martin’s words went well beyond football, talking for the first time in pretty harrowing detail about how he grew up watching his mother being abused by his father and some of the incidents he escaped while running the streets with less-than-desirable friends. His story is truly one of rising from nothing to make good for you and your family and I’d encourage everybody to give it a listen by clicking here.