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One for the Thumb

One for the Thumb: The New Steelers Reader

RANDY ROBERTS
DAVID WELKY
Copyright Date: 2006
https://doi.org/10.2307/j.ctt155jmwj
Pages: 384
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt155jmwj
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  • Book Info
    One for the Thumb
    Book Description:

    On February 5, 2006, the Pittsburgh Steelers joined the ranks of the elite teams in National Football League history, celebrating their fifth Super Bowl victory. From an unspectacular 7-5 start, to completing the greatest playoff run ever, to the fairy tale ending of Jerome Bettis's Hall of Fame career and the vindication of Bill Cowher's coaching tenure, the 2005 season was not only one for the thumb, but "truly one for the ages."

    One for the Thumbis a collection of the best writing about the fabled franchise by local and national sportswriters, and former players. It covers the team's history from Art Rooney Sr.'s purchase of the NFL franchise in 1933 for $2,500 to their Super Bowl XL victory. From their frustrating early days as the Pirates, Steagles, and Card-Pitts, through their four Super Bowl wins in the 1970s, to the fateful day in 2004 when they selected Ben Roethlisberger as the eleventh overall pick in the draft, One for the Thumb captures the essence of the team whose identity is forever linked with the spirit of the hardworking, blue-collar city it represents.

    From immortals Bobby Layne, Ernie Stautner, and John Henry Johnson, to Chuck Noll, Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, Rocky Bleier, and Neil O'Donnell, to current greats Troy Polamalu, Jerome Bettis, Ben Roethlisberger, and Bill Cowher,One for the Thumbis the definitive anthology of the Pittsburgh Steelers--a must-read for all fans of the team and the game of football.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-8079-7
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-14)

    There was simply no way that William Penn, the founding father of Pennsylvania, and Art Rooney, the founding father of the Pittsburgh Steelers, would have seen eye to eye. Penn believed strongly that selfdenial, temperance, and moderation were the proper routes to godliness. Opposed to “frivolous” pleasures, from balls, masques, and plays to cockfights, bullbaits, and gambling, he asserted that all such activities “excite people to rudeness, cruelty, looseness, and irreligion.” And the worst were the gamesters, the “most idle and useless people in any government.” To nudge the residents of his Holy Experiment along the path toward righteousness, Penn...

  2. FROM PIRATES TO STEAGLES

    • “WHAT I’M TELLING YOU IS THAT WE’VE TRIED”
      (pp. 17-29)
      Myron Cope

      I grew up in what was then the First Ward, but we never called it that. We called it The Ward. All it was ever known as was The Ward. In fact, when I get a taxicab to come to the office, I’ll tell the driver, “Well, go down through The Ward.” And the old guys, the old cabdrivers, still know where The Ward was.

      It was heavily populated. Made up of Irish, mostly. On Saturday nights, when the people congregated, they would speak Gaelic. You would hear pretty much as much Gaelic as you would English, which is unusual...

    • ROONEY’S RIDE
      (pp. 30-32)
      John Lardner

      This is an age of machines in the horse-racing world, of overnight parimutuel laws, of jerry-built tracks and daily doubles and dusty stretches and one quick coat of paint—which makes it easy to understand why the old-fashioned gambler points his nose toward the green hills of Saratoga every year, when August comes around.

      They take your money just as fast in those mellow surroundings as anywhere else—perhaps faster. Your agent, known up there in the north country as Ace-Deuce Lardner, has paid out money, rather than vice versa, for the privilege of advertising the place where Gates and...

    • MICHIGAN ALL-AMERICAN GOES OVER WITH A BANG
      (pp. 34-35)
      Chester L. Smith

      Forbes Field was just beginning to recover from watching Carl Hubbell of the Giants throw strikes at the Pirates with a baseball when up popped a chunky little guy who could do the same thing with a football.

      Both the gridiron Pirates and Harry Newman, the All-America quarterback at Michigan last year, made their professional bow here last night. Newman was in the uniform of the New York Giants, and he completely stole the show. At the finish he had done everything with the ball but swallow it.

      The score was New York 23, Pittsburgh 2, to which the erstwhile...

    • PIRATES RALLY TO DEFEAT CARDS, 14-13
      (pp. 36-39)
      Jack Sell

      The man of the hour in Pittsburgh gridiron circles this morning, the fair-haired boy whose name is on everyone’s lips, is a gent who never trod a college campus, never cut a lab period or a quiz.

      The very latest hero of the pigskin world hereabouts is none other than Christian Kelsch, but to thousands of sandlot football fans throughout the Tri-State district, the burly Northsider is just plain Mose.

      Twice last night the Pittsburgh Pirates, local National pro league entry, fought their way from behind to score a pair of touchdowns and overcome a 13 point lead. Coach Jap...

    • NOT A CARDBOARD HERO
      (pp. 40-43)
      Mickey Herskowitz

      To an adoring public he was known as Johnny Blood, the grandest, most romantic name ever invented in the entire Technicolored world of sport.

      We discovered him the other night in the bar of the Stardust Hotel, a handsome man with steel gray hair and piercing blue eyes, a figure slightly larger than life. He was celebrating his second marriage, at the age of 62, which indicates right there that Johnny Blood has lost none of his competitive fires.

      Now, if you ask us what we happened to be doing in Las Vegas, the city that never sleeps, we will...

    • JOHNNY BLOOD: BEFORE HELL-RAISING CAME INTO VOGUE, HIS “UNFETTERED” STYLE WAS NFL LEGEND
      (pp. 43-46)
      Dan Daly

      Sometimes it seems as if pro football has no past, as if the National Football League didn’t really exist until the Baltimore Colts, the New York Giants and national television came together in the 1958 championship to produce a sudden-death classic that got everybody’s attention. The death last Thursday of pro football pioneer Johnny Blood is a case in point.

      Blood should need no introduction to football fans. He’s a charter member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The five original members of theBaseballHall of Fame—Cobb, Wagner, Ruth, Matthewson, Johnson—are identifiable by their last names...

    • ROONEY GIVES UP THE STEELERS
      (pp. 48-49)
      Harry Keck

      Art Rooney’s decision to sell the Pittsburgh Steelers’ football franchise in the National Professional Football League was not unexpected.

      After eight years of trying, you can’t blame the guy for giving up when he finds he can’t make any money and, indeed, is lucky not to lose a considerable amount.

      As Art himself says, it isn’t the fault of the local fans or due to a lack of newspaper and radio support that his original Pirates and then his Steelers failed to click. There was only one reason for their lack of appeal at the box office, and that was...

    • ROONEY SELLS PRO FOOTBALL CLUB TO BOSTON PROMOTER
      (pp. 49-51)
      Staff Reporter

      Pittsburgh Steelers, local representatives in the National Professional Football League, today were sold by Owner Arthur J. Rooney to Alexis Thompson, wealthy young Boston promoter.

      The sale, rumored yesterday as Chicago Bears were humiliating Washington Redskins in the league playoff game in Washington, D.C., was consummated there this morning and ratified this afternoon at an executive meeting of the league.

      Rooney, while severing his connection with the local club, which meant the passing here of league football, which has been in existence since 1933, will remain in pro football, having made a connection as part-owner with Bert Bell Philadelphia Eagles....

    • THOMPSON WISE CHOOSING TO OPERATE HERE
      (pp. 51-52)
      Chester L. Smith

      Because Art Rooney had been approached frequently by Pittsburgh interests wishing to buy the Steelers and had a stock answer in the negative, the passing of the franchise to a Boston combine headed by Alexis Thompson caught nearly everyone unaware. On Sunday night, before the National League meeting in Washington, Thompson’s name was heard frequently but not in its present connection. He was, according to the lobby whisperers, to be granted an additional franchise in Boston, with no change here. Rooney’s appearance with his coach, Walter Kiesling (who carries a 1941 contract in his pocket), quieted any suspicion that the...

    • THOMPSON TO KEEP PROS HERE; SAY SALE PRICE IS $160,000
      (pp. 52-54)
      Claire Burcky

      A new owner and a new coach for the Pittsburgh Steelers; a new coowner and a new co-coach of the Philadelphia Eagles, a division of Steeler and Eagle players, some Steelers becoming Eagles and some Eagles becoming Steelers, are the main complications Pittsburgh pro football fans are expected to try to straighten out today.

      The new owner of the Pittsburgh pro eleven is Alexis Thompson, persistent and wealthy young New York sportsman who hounded Arthur J. Rooney, local promoter, throughout last season with an offer to buy the Pittsburgh franchise in the National Football League, a Rooney possession the past...

    • PHILADELPHIA-PITTSBURGH FRANCHISE SWITCH
      (pp. 55-55)
      Staff Reporter

      Art Rooney and Bert Bell think they have made a pretty good deal for themselves in moving their football club from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh for next fall. They said so jointly as Bell stopped over in Pittsburgh last night on his way back to his home in Philadelphia from the NFL meeting in Chicago. He said: “We have the pick of the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh clubs. Twenty-two good players. For the first time we’ll have seasoned players backing up seasoned players at all positions, and we’ll be able to put up a battle against rich teams like the Bears and...

    • STEELERS WIND UP BEST SEASON AGAINST PACKER ELEVEN
      (pp. 56-57)
      Cecil G. Muldoon

      With victory still as cherished and as novel to them as a new toy to a youngster, the ebullient Pittsburgh Steelers are no less than an even bet to close out their National League season with a victory over Green Bay this afternoon at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds Stadium.

      However, if Packer End Don Hutson’s cartilage separation has not healed sufficiently to permit him to face the Iron Men, then the Steelers aggregation will take the field a decided favorite.

      Even though the contest means nothing in the league standings, inasmuch as each team has clinched second place in its...

    • WHEN THE STEAGLES ROAMED ON GRIDIRON
      (pp. 57-62)
      Tom Infield

      Only a world war ever produced a football team as odd as the Phil-Pitt Steagles.

      It was 1943, the middle of World War II. Most healthy young men were in the military, many off somewhere in Italy or the Pacific. The National Football League was struggling to survive a severe manpower shortage. Good prospects were draft material, all right, but not for the NFL.

      President Franklin D. Roosevelt, a fan of the New York Yankees, had declared that professional baseball should continue, war or no war. The national pastime, he said, was essential to morale on the home front. Americans,...

  3. PRE-RENAISSANCE STEELERS

    • “REF, HE’S HOLDING!”
      (pp. 65-69)
      Stuart Leuthner

      It’s probably hard for people to believe today, but there wasn’t much interest in professional football except in a few specific areas. In those days a lot of people weren’t exposed to the game. The Steelers used to train at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, New York, which is south of Buffalo. I had an old Army buddy who lived in Buffalo, and the first year we played an exhibition game in Buffalo I went to see him. We hadn’t seen each other since the end of the war, and he wanted to celebrate by having a drink. I saiid,...

    • ERNIE STAUTNER RAPS BOOING FANS
      (pp. 70-72)
      Pat Livingston

      An embittered Ernie Stautner, charging he has wasted his career playing football before empty stands, has characterized Pittsburgh as a “lousy” sports town.

      Irked by the booing of his teammate and pal, Bobby Layne, in last Sunday’s 30-27 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, Stautner exploded:

      “I’m not happy playing in Pittsburgh, I never have been happy here, and I wouldn’t have been here in the first place if I had any choice about it,” said Stautner. “This is a lousy sports town and if Art Rooney had any sense he’d get out of it.”

      Stautner, a veteran of 12...

    • SENIOR CITIZEN OF THE PITTSBURGH STEELERS
      (pp. 72-74)
      Shirley Povich

      The only National Football League player born in Germany’s Black Forest is now the senior citizen of the Pittsburgh Steelers’ active list. This aborted Prussian type is Ernie Stautner who fled Bavaria at the age of four with his emigrating parents and has been playing defensive tackle for the Steelers for the last 14 years.

      That is a long time in the primitive give-and-take that goes on among pro league linemen and there is a dented nose and a couple of warped knees to testify it has not all been pleasant. Nobody who can pre-date Stautner is still active in...

    • HARD TO NAME AN EQUAL FOR LAYNE
      (pp. 75-77)
      Bob Collins

      They still do it because people expect it. But the decisions prior to kickoff are made before the teams take the field.

      The National Football League, with a nice touch of theater, uses the pre-game coin flip to honor giants from its past. The ceremony has been handled by George Halas, Mrs. Vince Lombardi, Art Rooney and Red Grange.

      And last Sunday before hard-playing, hard-living Joe Montana led San Francisco to victory in Super Bowl XVI, the best man for the occasion was there to start the show. There are many who claim Bobby Layne was the best quarterback who...

    • KISS THE GUY OR TACKLE HIM?
      (pp. 78-83)
      Myron Cope

      John Henry Johnson is a large and aggressive professional fullback, who tends to break things when he runs. What does John Henry break? A cheek here, a skull there, a jawbone somewhere else. By the grudging admission of opposing linemen, John Henry Johnson is the most rugged all-around fullback in the whole rugged National Football League.

      Linemen point out something further, often as they make a tackle. Pro football isn’t a one-way street, and he who plays rough gets roughed himself, sometimes inordinately. The game is no place for a passivist nor, despite face masks, is it an area where...

    • THE SAD END OF BIG DADDY LIPSCOMB
      (pp. 84-95)
      Edward Linn

      John Henry, as any folk singer worthy of his union card can tell you, was a legendary Negro giant who hammered himself into the grave, gloriously, because he was unwilling to live in a world where the machine took the place of nature’s muscle and sweat.

      Eugene (Big Daddy) Lipscomb was a fun-loving Negro giant who really lived. He was so great and so colorful a football player that he had become almost legendary himself before he died, ingloriously, on May 10, 1963, at the age of 32. According to official records he died of acute heroin poisoning, accidentally, but...

    • THE STEELERS: PRO FOOTBALL’S GASHOUSE GANG
      (pp. 96-100)
      Myron Cope

      Contrary to general belief it was not Y. A. Tittle’s passing arm that hoisted the New York Giants to the Eastern Division title of the National Football League in 1963. There is sound reason to believe that the Eastern race was, in fact, decided by a Pittsburgh quarterback’s impetuous decision to go on the wagon.

      That is precisely what Ed Brown did. On the final day of the 1963 season the Steelers played the Giants in New York, winner-take-themoney. The Giants led the standings by percentage points, but the Steelers, who earlier in the season had humiliated them, 31-0, needed...

    • REFLECTIONS ON THE PRE-RENAISSANCE STEELERS
      (pp. 101-115)
      Frank Lambert

      What I knew about the Steelers as a team I had learned primarily from the press. In its inaugural season in the NFL, Pittsburgh had finished last in the Eastern Division with a 3-6-2 record, trailing teams that sounded like they belonged in major league baseball: the New York Giants, Brooklyn Dodgers, and Boston Braves. The Steelers fared little better in recent history, managing winning records in only four of the last fifteen seasons ending in 1964. Firmly established at or near the bottom of their division, the team had never won a division or league championship. In the season...

    • PITTSBURGH
      (pp. 116-124)
      Rocky Bleier

      Two minutes into downtown Pittsburgh, I was rudely introduced to the fact that none of the streets run parallel. God’s three rivers made the land a triangle, so man constructed the streets the same confusing way. And left me hopelessly lost in search of the Steelers’ offices.

      Finally, I found them, parked across Sixth Avenue, and checked into the Roosevelt Hotel. Next morning, I met the coaches, took a physical, weighed in at a beefy 205 pounds, and agreed to arrive at training camp in the evening. I walked across the street, and lo and behold, there in the parking...

    • A BREAK FOR THE 49ERS
      (pp. 125-126)
      Prescott Sullivan

      The San Francisco 49ers are in Pittsburgh, Pa., this weekend for a National Football League confrontation with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

      It is well for Coach Dick Nolan and his men that we aren’t back there with them. Our presence couldn’t help and it might prove harmful to their cause.

      It’s like this: Where today’s game is concerned, we have a potentially dangerous attitude. That is to say, we are taking the Steelers lightly. Very lightly. Try as we might, we just can’t think of them as anything other than soft touches.

      You might call it over-confidence. And you know what...

    • HEIGHTS OF MEDIOCRITY
      (pp. 126-127)
      Al Abrams

      In Philadelphia, we are told, some sports fans are so crude they boo nuns and passing funerals.

      In Pittsburgh, our equally disgusted athletic supporters boo losers.

      If, by chance or arrangement, all these boo birds would merge, they could fill the Pitt Stadium to its 57,331 capacity next Sunday.

      Why next Sunday?

      That’s the day Pennsylvania’s Pro Football Futility Championship will be played when the Steelers (0-6) meet the Eagles (0-6).

      If the schedule makers contrived to go all out they couldn’t have come up with a heights of mediocrity pairing such as this.

      On a clear day yesterday afternoon...

    • THE BATTLE OF GLOOMSDAY
      (pp. 127-129)
      Roy McHugh

      Above the stadium’s rim, on Herron Hill, a grimy layer of snow covered the graveyard. It was one of those bad Sundays, late fall at its worst, rain pelting down on the 25,000 plastic-encased lunatics and the umbrellas that sprouted like mushrooms on a hillside.

      The officials made their first mistake before the game started. They had the teams all lined up for the kickoff when here came the Sto-Rox high school band, marching onto the field in beautiful array, marching under the goal post to the 10, the 15, the 20, the majorettes lifting their knees. About to kick...

    • ART ROONEY: HE’S A WINNER WHO ALWAYS BACKS A LOSER
      (pp. 130-133)
      Bob Broeg

      The Pittsburgh Steelers, perennial also-rans in pro football, probably won’t be back in St. Louis for some seasons after 1969 because, like the Cleveland Browns and Baltimore Colts, they’re transferring next year to the American Conference of the amalgamated league.

      If the luck of the inter-conference scheduling doesn’t bring the Steelers to St. Louis for considerable time, sure, a guy will miss Andy Russell’s linebacking, Bruce Van Dyke’s blocking, Roy Jefferson’s passcatching and Dick Hoak’s deftness with the halfback running pass.

      Mainly, though, he’ll miss Art Rooney, the extraordinary person who owns the team that will be at Busch Memorial...

    • CHUCK NOLL
      (pp. 134-144)
      Andy Russell

      The Steelers hired Chuck Noll in early 1969 after the team had had a series of disastrous losing seasons from 1964 through 1968. Despite feeling an allegiance to Bill Austin, his predecessor, who had been good to me, letting me make mistakes, allowing me to learn the game, I was still excited about having a new coach. Maybe he could diagnose what was wrong with us and turn us into winners.

      We had read that Noll was extremely bright. He had trained under some of the great coaches in the business, Paul Brown in Cleveland, Sid Gillman in San Diego...

  4. REASONS FOR HOPE

    • FOOTBALL’S POVERTY POCKET NO MORE
      (pp. 147-149)
      Bob Ortman

      For years this was the poverty pocket of pro football. You never asked who won or lost if the Steelers played the game. They spent so much time in the league basement, they acquired the pasty look of cavedwelling grubs.

      An optimist was identified as a Steeler coach who took a long-term lease on a house. Most of them never even bothered to unpack. Art Rooney had more coaches than Mickey had wives.

      So when he sent out a call for another one last year, it sounded like a warning to hide, but Chuck Noll thought it was opportunity knocking...

    • FASCINATION IN FRUSTRATION
      (pp. 149-151)
      Joe Stein

      Rooting for the Pittsburgh Steelers is akin to writing a thesis on the strong points of the Italian army. You state your objective and then fall back and wait for the laughter to subside. Still, I must plead guilty. To the Steelers, that is, while acknowledging that the Italians have nicer uniforms.

      Yes, I unabashedly admit the Steelers are my favorite professional football team, if you want to use the term professional loosely. I became indoctrinated with the Steelers’ losing spirit as a child in Pittsburgh and it stuck. Perhaps it’s because I’m loyal to my old hometown or because...

    • NO ANCIENT HISTORY, PLEASE
      (pp. 152-154)
      Pat Livingston

      As a sportswriter who has been covering losers for more years than I care to recall, it raises the hair on the back of my neck to be reminded that the Steelers haven’t won a championship in 39 years.

      It is particularly hackling this year, tarring the best personnel the Steelers have ever had with the failures and weaknesses of their predecessors. The architects of the Steelers’ ignoble past are gone, many of them before the oldest veteran on the team, John Brown, was even born.

      It strikes me as being eminently unfair to attribute to the 1971 Steelers—class...

    • FANS (HIC) TOAST VICTORY BY BROWNS
      (pp. 155-158)
      Phil Musick

      Mostly, Red drinks beer, but like a good Browns’ fan, he will improvise when necessary. “If you can pour it, I can drink it, “ he boasts. Red’s biggest bag is the Browns and yesterday he was numbered among the 4500 or so Cleveland fans who came to town to watch the Steelers calmly absorb another full measure of humility.

      Between sips, Red admitted that the 12 cases of beer that traveled with him and 39 buddies had not held out as well as expected. Calling on the reserves—a plastic flask of bourbon—Red watched a little slice of...

    • STAND UP AND CHEER
      (pp. 158-160)
      Phil Musick

      You don’t root. It’s part of the job; like you being in Atlanta and your suitcase being in Toledo. It’s unprofessional to root. Under the influence of a little booze, most of us talk with pride about how when 50,000 people are tearing at their clothes and otherwise going out of their minds, we’ve had the mental presence to note that while the fullback was running 99 yards for the game-winning touchdown, the center was holding the other guys’ middle linebacker by the seat of the pants with both hands.

      No, you don’t root. Last week a reporter who covers...

    • A GOOD ROAR
      (pp. 161-168)
      Terry Bradshaw

      I arrived in Pittsburgh as a rookie so naive about life that I wanted to walk up to people on the street and lick their faces like a big puppy dog. I was scared to death they would discover that I was only little old Terry Bradshaw from Shreveport, Louisiana, who didn’t know a zone defense from a zip code.

      A flip of a coin had decided my fate this time and not the bounce of a football. Like the Steelers, the Chicago Bears had won only one game that season, and, ironically, that was 38-7 against—do you believe...

    • HOW FORT DUQUESNE REPELLED RAIDERS
      (pp. 169-171)
      Red Smith

      In the raucous streets, Frenchy’s Foreign Legion honked at Bradshaw’s Brigade, Gerela’s Gorillas hailed Ham’s Hussars, and foot soldiers in Franco’s Italian Army waved red, white and green flags. Back in the bowels of Three Rivers Stadium, Frenchy Fuqua’s muttonchop whiskers twitched rapturously. Art Rooney’s cigar was limp. The first postseason football game in Pittsburgh history was over and not since Braddock was ambushed at Fort Duquesne had the town known a day like this.

      Forty years ago little Arthur Rooney, 135-pound playing coach of the Majestic Radios, the Hope Harveys and the James P. Rooneys, paid $2,500 for a...

    • MADDEN: RAIDERS WERE ROBBED “TATUM DIDN’T HIT BALL”
      (pp. 171-172)
      Tom LaMarre

      Coach John Madden is positive Jack Tatum didn’t touch the ball on Pittsburgh’s freaky 60-yard pass play that killed the Oakland Raiders’ season two days ago.

      If he didn’t, it should have been ruled an incomplete pass for bouncing off Frenchy Fuqua right to Franco Harris, who ran the last 35 yards past the stunned Oakland defenders. It meant a 13-7 Pittsburgh victory in the final five seconds.

      But Madden was most disillusioned by how the call was made.

      Apparently, the National Football League officials in the pressbox established a precedent by making the decision from the television instant replay....

    • FOOTBALL WON’T BE SAME IF PITTSBURGH GETS IN SUPER BOWL
      (pp. 173-175)
      Jim Murray

      If the Pittsburgh Steelers get in the Super Bowl, the world of football couldn’t be more shocked if Harvard made it, contact lenses and all.

      This is not a team, it’s the football version of the old Flatbush Follies. It’s a Warner Bros. frolic (pigskin parade) starring the Ritz Bros., the Meglin Kiddies, F. Hugh Herbert and Jack Oakie. Someday we’re going to find out it’s just a set for “The Road to the Super Bowl” starring Hope and Crosby and Dorothy Lamour.

      No other team would get into the playoff on a pass that ricochetted off two colliding pass...

    • MOOSIE AND THE OLD RANGER
      (pp. 176-186)
      Roy Blount Jr.

      Mansfield and Van Dyke were indeed humorous company, but they didn’t see football as any kind of joke. “Well, Bruce and I laughed our ass off about this,” Ray said, when I asked them for a funny game story. “We were playing the Baltimore Colts. We were backed up to the 1-foot line, it’s cold, we were losing bad, we wanted to get the game over. They’re booing us, throwing snowballs at us, at home. Guys were ducking snowballs in the huddle. Well, in those days we had girls called the Steelerettes doing dances and shit behind the end zone....

  5. DYNASTY

    • JOE GREENE
      (pp. 189-198)
      Andy Russell

      In my opinion, Joe Greene was unquestionably the NFL’s best player in the seventies. No player had a greater impact or did more for his team. But when he came to the Steelers in 1969, as our number-one draft choice from a small school, North Texas State, we veterans, having seen many highly touted draft choices come and go, were skeptical but hopeful he’d be the savior we needed. We’d wait and see.

      Joe was supposed to be an impact player, a franchise player, someone who could single-handedly change the course of a game. His first unique move was to...

    • CORNERSTONE OF A DYNASTY: MEAN JOE GREENE, FOOTBALL MACHINE
      (pp. 198-206)
      Terry Bradshaw

      The Pittsburgh Steelers of the ’70s were a rare collection of men. We had great pride, reveled in the “nasty” image, and never failed to remind our opponents that we were tough guys from Steeltown. Once we got a taste of the pie, we wanted it all. It’s difficult to stay on top, as NFL teams discovered in the ’80s. But the Steelers’ hunger pangs were boundless and that’s why we won four championships in six short years. Like the Los Angeles Lakers of the ’80s, Green Bay packers of the ’60s and New York Giants of the ’50s—teams...

    • SUPER STEELERS: ALL OVER FOR OAKLAND BEFORE TERRY’S RAID
      (pp. 207-209)
      James David

      It was all over, really, before the Raiders and the Steelers took to the field.

      The din that was set up during the introduction of Oakland’s defensive unit reached and pierced the sky, seemingly, through which the sun poured, spottily, down upon the field of play, was fierce. But not enough.

      That Franco Harris stutter-stepped, danced, darted and rambled for 111 yards, and Rocky Bleier struck up the middle and swung around the ends of an additional 98 yards, was devastating; that Joe Greene inspired the defense to rise to every occasion and sparked Jack Ham and J. T. Thomas...

    • IT’S SUPER!!! STEELERS BOWL OVER VIKINGS
      (pp. 210-213)
      Vito Stellino

      Light a cigar for Art Rooney. Open a bottle of fine wine for Chuck Noll. Pour a drink for Johnny Blood and Bobby Layne. Tell Leo Durocher that nice guys don’t always finish last.

      And sing no more sad songs for the Steelers. Never again will they be known as pro football’s loveable losers. The Steelers finally won the championship of Pete Rozelle’s universe yesterday for the first time in their 42 years of existence.

      Before a television audience of 75 million people and a chilled crowd of 80,997 at dilapidated Tulane Stadium—including a large contingent of enthusiastic Steeler...

    • SUPER BOWL FANS CONTRAST IN STYLE
      (pp. 214-217)
      Phil Musick

      As everyone not residing in a cave in the Mojave Desert must realize by now, Super Bowl XIII is a matter of matchups. The big one, of course, is Pittsburgh vs. Dallas. The cities and the fans, not the football teams.

      Even the combatants acknowledge the differences: Grit vs. gaudy, Perrier water vs. Carstairs-and-a-draft, kolbassi vs. escargot. “Pitts-burgh,” laughs Joe Greene, is “brick and cobblestones, Dallas is neon and monogrammed shirts.”

      So Super Bowl XIII has come down to basics… a difference in style. Steeler fans here are betting 10 bucks and fretting over the point spread; Cowboys fans are...

    • THEY WERE JUST TOO MUCH
      (pp. 218-224)
      Paul Zimmerman

      It was an emotional Super Bowl and easily the best of the XIV played so far. It was the way Super Bowls are supposed to be played, but haven’t been. The score changed hands six times before it ended Pittsburgh 31, Los Angeles 19, but only the guys who laid the 11 points with the bookies read it as a 12-point Steeler win. The Rams made it that close. They stayed in it because of a sustained intensity that brought them great honor, because of an unexpectedly brilliant performance by young Quarterback Vince Ferragamo, and because of a tackle-to-tackle ferocity...

    • WINNERS MAKE PLAYS: JACK LAMBERT
      (pp. 225-228)
      Sam Rutigliano

      Jack Lambert was the quarterback of the Steeler defense. He was the hub in the wheel with ten spokes revolving around him and one of the very best ever to play linebacker. Jack was a second-round draft choice from Kent State who will join his teammate, Joe Greene, in the Hall of Fame. We had many confrontations with Jack because we played the Steelers twice each year. I got to know Jack pretty well when I coached him in the Pro Bowl in 1981.

      When you sit down and talk with him man-to-man, he’s very different from Jack Lambert the...

    • THE ASCENT OF AN ENIGMA
      (pp. 229-241)
      Roy Blount Jr.

      Franco Harris, who once worried that the National Football League would blackball him, has now run with the league’s football more times that anyone else, and has won its humanitarian award. One of the many people he has shown humanitarianism toward is himself. Which has something to do with the fact that he is frowned upon by some people, and a great deal to do with his being able to carry the ball so many times.

      Harris has enormous presence. This is partly because he is enormous, partly because he has the face of a sheikh or a Moorish prince...

    • RATING MY PEERS: LYNN SWANN
      (pp. 242-243)
      Jack Tatum

      I realize that some people might think I overlooked Lynn Swann for personal reasons. After all, he did write some nasty letters to Pete Rozelle in my behalf and has sounded off to the press about my tackling style. But Lynn Swann has not been overlooked. I believe that Lynn is truly a superb athlete. He is graceful, has quickness and speed, and he can catch the ball like few, if any, other receivers can. Lynn Swann could be the best if it were not for his one major weakness. There have been several times when I sincerely believe that...

    • CHAMPAGNE, ROSES, AND DONUTS
      (pp. 243-256)
      Frank Deford

      Well, it certainly is a Barnum & Bailey world, and wouldn’t you just know it, it turns out that the last romantic left on the face of the earth is working for a living in Pittsburgh, P-A. Or, the punch line for the movie version:Hey, I’ve got a great idea—Lynn Swann. That’s something of an in joke you’ll understand better as we go along. But for the present: Lynn Swann wears his own poetry inscribed in gold about his neck; he sends six dozen yellow roses when he falls in love and buys donuts for his teammates; he prefers...

  6. TRANSITIONS

    • REMEMBERING “THE CHIEF”
      (pp. 259-260)
      Editorial

      There are a lot of things to be said for Art Rooney, founder and owner of the Steelers, who died this morning at the age of 87:

      Mostly, he was a local institution—”The Chief” who established the Steelers franchise here in 1933, who stuck with it through many lean and lamentable years, and who finally saw the team emerge as the powerhouse of the NFL in the 1970s, winning four Super Bowl trophies.

      He was the father figure of an entire region. Rich but unassuming, he was a workingman’s millionaire.

      Known throughout the country, he held to his roots...

    • GREENE MOURNS… WITH A CIGAR
      (pp. 260-263)
      Bill Utterback

      Joe Greene clutched a cigar as warm memories and bitter news clutched at his throat and tugged at his tear ducts. Moments earlier, Greene had learned of the death of Steelers owner Art Rooney Sr.

      Greene, a Steelers Hall of Famer and assistant coach, sat rigid on his bed in a dormitory room at St. Vincent College. He stared straight ahead, quietly projecting 20 years of personal memories on a blank cement wall, oblivious to the voice on the television reporting Rooney’s death.

      Other coaches huddled in a meeting room, but Greene needed to be alone with his memories and...

    • MR. ROONEY: THE ONLY LEGEND I EVER KNEW
      (pp. 264-268)
      Terry Bradshaw

      Maybe it was the warmth of Art Rooney that made so many people think they knew him better than anyone else did. He was special to so many of us, and he is unquestionably one of my all-time favorite people. When I was drafted by the Steelers, most of the talk when I got to Pittsburgh was about The Old Man. I didn’t know who The Old Man was, except that he smoked big, long cigars, and they said he owned the team. I remember bumping into him one day my rookie season, back when he was a mere pup...

    • THE SPIRIT OF PLACE
      (pp. 269-284)
      Sam Toperoff

      Most professional sports franchises have the local loyalties of a multinational corporation. They will move wherever the veins run deepest and the residual checks have the most zeroes. There are, however, some notable exceptions, teams and places that are so bound together by bonds of history, identity, and mystique that tearing them apart is as improbable as improbable gets. (“Impossible” is just not applicable where human greed is concerned.) Pittsburgh and its Steelers have formed such a bond, and it’s a pretty intense affair.

      If you want to learn about the “Stillers” (as the team is known in local dialect),...

    • ROCK AND ROLL, SEX AND DRUGS
      (pp. 285-288)
      Steve Courson

      I can probably say with some surety that offensive linemen were—and are—more likely to use steroids to enhance (football) performance than players at other positions. The reasons are simple: Your job relies more on physical strength than any other. Your basic purpose is to push someone in a direction that he doesn’t want to go. And when these reluctant someones are 270, 280, even 300 pounds of speed and muscle, you’ve got a real occupational hazard.

      Technique may keep you around for awhile. Knowledge of tactics is essential. Certainly quickness is an asset. But you cannot last in...

    • NOLL MAY HAVE CHECKED OUT EARLIER THAN HE WANTED TO
      (pp. 290-292)
      Ron Cook

      Every sportscast in America led with the news last night.“Chuck Noll, the only man to win four Super Bowls, retired today as coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers after 23 seasons.”

      Some showed red-eyed Steelers President Dan Rooney, reading from a piece of yellow legal paper, thanking Noll for being a great coach and better person. “The best compliment that I know is what my wife said a long time ago. ‘If anything happens to us, I would like Chuck Noll to raise my kids.’”

      Others showed the typically stoic Noll, sitting in the front of the same room where...

    • HERE WE GO, STILLERS: COWHER WINS HIS FIRST
      (pp. 293-295)
      Ron Cook

      You knew it was going to be big, the day R Stillers introduced a new coach for the first time in 23 years. But this was ridiculous. There wasn’t so much commotion when Pittsburgh said hello to a new mayor a few years ago.

      Do we have priorities or what?

      You should have seen the chaos yesterday when Dan Rooney led the procession up the hall at team headquarters for the big press conference. Beside him were The Chosen One, Bill Cowher, and The Chosen One’s wife, Kaye. Around them, on all sides, every step of the way, were the...

    • NO STEEL CURTAIN CALL
      (pp. 296-303)
      Ed Bouchette

      It had been building all season—for several, really—but after the Steelers crunched the Cincinnati Bengals, 21-9, on November 29 to forge a 9-3 record, the time was ripe for them to get out the spade, dig a six-foot hole, and bury the 1970s in it.

      Pittsburgh football fans had lived in the ’70s for more than a dozen years. They compared each Steelers team to the four-time Super Bowl champs, sized up each player against Hall of Famers who erected that dynasty.

      Everywhere the contemporary player turned, the 1970s smacked him in the face. Few active Steelers received...

    • SUPER BOWL XXX
      (pp. 304-313)
      Neil O’Donnell

      Finally we had made it to the Super Bowl, which was going to be played for the first time in Tempe, Arizona. Dallas had made it back to the Super Bowl for the third time in four years by beating Green Bay in the NFC Championship Game. The press wrote about the Steelers and Cowboys resuming their Super Bowl rivalry, but the players really didn’t get into that, because Super Bowl X and Super Bowl XIII had been played back in the seventies and the game had changed so much since then. The media was playing up how both teams...

    • SEE SLASH RUN, SEE SLASH THROW, SEE SLASH CATCH
      (pp. 314-322)
      Rob Ruck

      It’s been a summer of incredible highs and one devastating low for Kordell Stewart, arguably the most exciting player in pro football today. After a season in which the young Steeler emerged as the prototype for a new kind of offensive player and an August in which he smiled, smirked or scowled on the covers of a dozen magazines, Kordell went home to Louisiana to bury his sister, Falisha, only days before the regular season began.

      It’s not the first time that Kordell has lost a family member before her time. But the NFL, which did not stop play when...

    • LET’S NOT FORGET THE GREAT TIMES AT THREE RIVERS
      (pp. 324-325)
      Bob Smizik

      They put shovel to earth on the North Side the other day, which means it’s only a matter of time before they put wrecking ball to concrete.

      They’re building a new football stadium in town, to be ready for the 2001 season of the Steelers and Pitt, and the politicians and business leaders got together the other day to pat each other on the back and sing the praises of the new building.

      While that celebration, which lasted into the night, went on, in other parts of the region grown men living so far in the past they can’t see...

    • BLAST FROM THE PAST
      (pp. 326-330)
      Robert Dvorchak

      The place had never been harder to get to or harder to leave. The Steeler Nation assembled from the far reaches of the empire on a dreary, drizzly, December day to bid a glowing farewell—one for the place where dreams were made and another to the heroes, past and present, who made those dreams come true.

      The game summary will show that Richard Huntley scored the final touchdown in the 31st and last season of the concrete bowl, but Franco Harris crossed the goal line last, recreating the Immaculate Reception with Frenchy Fuqua. Terry Bradshaw, unable to attend, took...

  7. ONE FOR THE THUMB

    • THE BIG PICTURE: HOME OPENER ALMOST NORMAL
      (pp. 333-335)
      Chuck Finder

      At game’s start, at a time to celebrate Heinz Field’s regular-season debut, the radio broadcasters were watching television. They were concerned. They were confused. They were feeling a grocery list of emotions, the last being festive.

      “It was, like, kind of weird,” Tunch Ilkin said. “We could see that we started the bombing. We’re having a football game here, and we’re having a war there. We were wondering, ‘Are they going to start the game?’”

      The games went on. President Bush—last seen around a Sunday afternoon kickoff a month earlier handling the coin toss—interrupted the first 10 minutes...

    • SIGNAL OF CHANGE: STEELERS MAKE QB TOP PICK FOR FIRST TIME IN 24 YEARS
      (pp. 336-340)
      Ed Bouchette

      The Steelers made a large down payment on the future and placed the destiny of Tommy Maddox in question when they broke a 24-year silence and drafted a quarterback in the first round yesterday.

      Ben Roethlisberger, a 6-foot-5, 240-pounder with immense stature and talent, became the first quarterback drafted by the Steelers in the first round in 24 years and only the fourth in 50 years. By taking Roethlisberger from Miami of Ohio with the 11th overall choice, he became the highest quarterback draft pick by the Steelers since they selected Terry Bradshaw No. 1 overall in 1970.

      Cornerback Ricardo...

    • THE MANE MAN
      (pp. 341-344)
      Nunyo Demasio

      His hair wrapped in a white towel, turban-style, Troy Polamalu sits in the Pittsburgh Steelers’ locker room after a spirited practice, quietly watching an impromptu competition among teammates. Spurred by trash talking, several players—some shirtless and barefoot, with baggy, gray sweatpants—are trying to touch the 12-foot ceiling. Polamalu smiles slightly as 6’3" linebacker Joey Porter takes a running start and grazes the ceiling after whiffing on his first attempt. When 6’1" receiver Nate Washington crouches and then swats the tiles to emphatically end the contest, Polamalu grins. Despite a vertical leap that has been measured at more the...

    • ENOUGH TO SILENCE HIS ONE OF A KIND VOICE
      (pp. 345-348)
      Bob Smizik

      As befitting so momentous an occasion, eight television cameras lined the back of the Steelers’ media room, almost going wall to wall. In front of them, 30 or so men and women, armed with notebooks, pens and tape recorders, stood poised to chronicle what they had been all but promised was a major news event.

      The making of this monster media scene began about 18 hours earlier when the Steelers quietly sent out word they would have an announcement of serious import the next morning.

      Literally within minutes, speculation within the media was out of control. Included among the more...

    • WHEW! STEELERS HANG ON FOR VICTORY
      (pp. 349-352)
      Ed Bouchette

      Move over Immaculate Reception, you have some company.

      The Steelers head to Denver for the AFC championship Sunday after their most improbable ending to a playoff game since Franco Harris ran into history in 1972.

      They survived the Indianapolis Colts, 21-18, yesterday because quarterback Ben Roethlisberger made a game-saving tackle and Mike Vanderjagt, the most accurate field-goal kicker in NFL history, missed badly from 46 yards with 17 seconds left.

      “I don’t need too many more of those feelings,” receiver Hines Ward said, “but it’s good to come out on the right side. You thought the game was over, your...

    • SUPER BOWL XL: ONE FOR THE AGES
      (pp. 353-356)
      Robert Dvorchak

      Some will call it one for the thumb, but it was truly one for the ages.

      No team had ever won three playoff games on the road and then won a Super Bowl, but the Steelers last night completed a magical ride with a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks, igniting celebrations throughout the far-flung Steeler Nation.

      Their Super Bowl triumph was the team’s first in 26 years and the fifth in franchise history, putting the Steelers in company with Dallas and San Francisco with five Super Bowl wins.

      “We were proud of the team of the ’70s, but we have...

    • BETTIS DRIVES OFF IN STYLE
      (pp. 357-359)
      Greg Garber

      He pulled himself up onto the interview podium with a slight grimace, but as he sank into the director’s chair, his beaming smile quickly returned.

      Jerome Bettis gulped bottled water, and the sweat glistened on his round, expressive face. He was talking fast and a good octave higher than his normal register.

      “I’m still in a place,” he said, shaking his head. “This is amazing.”

      The record will show that Bettis carried the football only 14 times for 43 yards in Sunday’s Super Bowl XL. Despite the best efforts of the Pittsburgh Steelers, he did not score a touchdown. It...

    • WARD A PERFECT SYMBOL OF SELFLESS STEELERS
      (pp. 359-361)
      Len Pasquarelli

      Next to future Pro Football Hall of Fame tailback Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Hines Ward is inarguably the player who is most often cited as personifying what it means to be a Pittsburgh Steeler.

      And so it was only fitting that, on an evening in which the retiring Bettis was finally able to hoist the Vince Lombardi Trophy as confetti rained down on him, Ward was chosen as the Most Valuable Player in Super Bowl XL. Fitting because Ward, an eight-year veteran, has played for one franchise, one owner and one head coach his entire career, and figures to retire...

    • STABILITY KEY TO STEELERS’ SUCCESS
      (pp. 362-366)
      Len Pasquarelli

      Given his status as the seventh-wealthiest man in the world, with a personal net fortune exceeding $21 billion and, according to Seattle center Robbie Tobeck, “richer than some countries,” Seahawks owner Paul Allen could literally buy up almost the entire NFL, based on the current valuations of the other 31 franchises.

      Apprised of that fact, and asked how it compared to his view of Pittsburgh owner Dan Rooney, Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward didn’t blink.

      “Oh, I doubt that matters to Mr. Rooney,” said Ward, a Steelers employee for the past eight seasons. “This team is more than enough for...