Sports: The Steelers, The 70’s

The 1970’s were by far the best decade in Steeler history. There would be a couple of decades that would approach the success of the 70’s but none would really come close. They won 4 Super Bowls and made the playoffs the last 8 years of the decade. The odd thing about the decade was probably their best team, the 1976 team, did not make the Super Bowl, let alone win it.

Record For The Decade: 99 Wins 44 Losses and 1 Tie.

Best Year: 1978 14-2 Won Super Bowl

Worst Year: 1970 5-9

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Loss: Chuck Noll took over in 1969 and built the team almost totally on draft choices. Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Frank Lewis, Franco Harris and J. T. Thomas were the number 1 picks from 69 to 73. They picked up Mel Blount in the 3rd round, in 1970 and Mike Wagner in the 11th round, in 1971. Then came the draft of 1974. It is considered the best draft of all time. The Steelers picked up Lynn Swan, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster in the first 5 rounds. That year they picked up Randy Grossman and Donnie Shell as undrafted free agents. The Steelers had many on the field leaders during this decade, but the true leader of this team was Chuck Noll. Noll would not tolerate anything but total dedication to the cause of winning championships. The Steelers made the playoffs in 72 and 73, but Noll was not satisfied. The 74 team saw 14 rookies on the 48 man roster. Terry Bradshaw did not start the first 6 games. Bradshaw was giving Noll such fits that he even started Terry Hanratty in the 10th game against Cleveland. Hanratty threw more interceptions than completions but somehow the Steelers still managed to win. After that Bradshaw started every game, something finally clicked, and the rest is history.

Significant Games: They won 4 Super Bowls and in 72 there was the immaculate reception, but I feel there were 3 significant games for the Steelers during this decade, with 2 of them being defeats. The first one came in 1972. The Steelers started the season 2-2 but then reeled off 5 wins a row thanks to that great defense and the running of Franco Harris. The five teams they defeated were not considered any kind of elite teams. This led into a showdown with the mighty Cleveland Browns who were also 7-2 and had won the division 3 out of the last 4 years. The Steelers trailed at one time in the game 20-3, but stormed back to take the lead 24-23, capped by a 75-yard touchdown run by Franco Harris. They lost on a late field goal, 26-24 but this game showed that this team had arrived. The Steelers trounced the Browns two weeks later in Pittsburgh, 30-0, and went on to win their first division title in history. The next significant game was the 1974 AFC Championship. The Oakland Raiders had just defeated the Miami Dolphins in a great semifinal game, that ended the Dolphins hopes of becoming the first team to win 3 Super Bowls in a row. The Steelers had to go out to Oakland, and it was considered a foregone conclusion, that the Raiders would win to go on to the Super Bowl. This was the week that Noll told his team that the best damn team in football is sitting right in front of me in Pittsburgh. Even though they trailed 10-3 going into the 4 quarter the Steelers looked like the dominant team from the beginning and scored 21 points in the 4th quarter to win going away, 24-13, to seal their first trip to the Super Bowl. Oakland was involved in the last significant game when they met the Steelers for the third consecutive year in the 1976 AFC Championship Game. Unfortunately for the Steelers both Franco Harris and Rocky Blier were injured, and the Steelers were never in the game and lost 24-7. You never know what might have been, but it was the Steelers best chance to win 3 Super Bowls in a row.

The Decades Best Player: This is the one decade that you really cannot pick a best player. There is no question that the core to this team during those years was Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Jack Lambert, and Joe Greene. The proof of this is the fact that during the next decade they tried to replace them, and never could. More on all of that when we get to the 80’s. They were all Hall of Famers, but more importantly they were the heart and soul of the greatest teams in Steeler history. The Steelers had other Hall of Famers and major contributors to their success, but it was those 4 players who epitomized what it meant to be a Pittsburgh Steeler, each in his own way, Bradshaw with his perseverance, Harris with his consistency, Lambert with his ferocity, and Greene with his dominate presence. They were indeed the players that led the glory years.

The Steelers went from their worst decade to their most successful decade. The Steelers were great in every phase of the game, but like any great run you always have to have a little good fortune on your side. All that good fortune disappeared as they headed into the 80’s.

Sports: The Steelers Through The Decades, The 60’s

The Steelers are having a rough season that could best be called mediocre. Listening to personalities on the radio, many are calling them one of the worst Steeler teams of all time. It’s time to look at some Steeler history beginning in the 60’s when pro football started to make its climb to being the most popular sport in America. This is not going to be in depth look at each decade of Steeler history but more like the Morning Report of the Pirates. A look at what they did, why they did it, what were the most significant happenings on and off the field in each decade. We begin with the 60’s that did indeed have some of the worst teams in Steeler history.

Record For The Decade: 46 Wins 85 Losses 7 ties

Best Year: Their best year record wise was 1962, when they went 9-5, but the closest they came to the NFL Championship Game was 63 when their record was 7-4-3. If they had beaten the New York Giants in the last game of the season they would have won the division.

Worst Year: The worst year was 69 when they went 1-13, which was Chuck Noll’s first year of being the head coach. They won their season opener, thanks to a lucky deflected pass in the waning moments of the game for a winning touchdown, or they could have gone 0-14. “““““““`

Why They Lost More Than They Won: The decade started out with Buddy Parker being the head coach and his philosophy was to get veterans and forego draft picks. This worked for a while, but Parker was not near as sharp in evaluating veterans as Geoge Allen, and this philosophy finally caught up with the Steelers. When Noll took over the Steelers in 69, they were just starting to get their full complement of draft picks. Even the few draft picks they had turned out to be huge busts, including the biggest of all time, when they drafted Ohio State fullback Bob Ferguson in the first round. He gained 209 yards rushing for his entire NFL career. Najee Harris doesn’t look too bad, now. Another huge blunder was when the Steelers traded Buddy Dial to the Dallas Cowboys for the rights to Scott Appleton a lineman out of Texas. He signed with the Houston Oilers of the rival American Football League and even though Dial never put up huge numbers for the Cowboys, it was just the idea, they traded Buddy Dial for nothing. Finally, the 60’s were famous for quarterbacks slipping through the Steeler’s fingers. Beginning in the late 50’s the Steelers had these quarterbacks in their camp and one time, Len Dawson, Johnny Unitas, Earl Morrall, Jack Kemp, and Bill Nelson. All these quarterbacks led their teams to some kind of division title or championship.

Significant games: As bad as things were for the Steelers, they did have their moments. Their best game of the decade was the 23-7 drubbing they gave the Cleveland Browns on a Satuday night in Cleveland. The Browns went on to win the NFL Championship that year, but on that night the Steelers were the dominant team, with John Henry Johnson leading the way gaining 200 yards on the ground, scoring 3 touchdowns, on runs of 33, 45 and 5 yards. To this day, it was one of the most glorious nights in Steeler history. Then there was the strange 1963 season where the Steelers had 3 tie games, 2 with the Philadelphia Eagles to stand at 7-3-3 going into the last week of the season. In those days tie games were considered to be no game at all. Even though this was not changed for years, I always felt that this season was the reason they changed tie games to being a .5 loss and a .5 win. The New York Giants stood at 10-3 going into the last game against the Steelers. If the Steelers would have won the game, they would have been 8-3 and the Giants 10-4. The Steelers would have had a higher winning percentage .727 to .714 and would have been the division winner. But alas, it was not to be, as the Giants dominated the game and won easily 33-17. To say the decade went downhill from there would be an understatement. The Steelers never came close to having a winning season the rest of the decade.

The Decades Best Player: This is an easy one as John Henry Johnson played 5 full seasons for the Steelers from 1960-64. He led the team in rushing 4 of those 5 years gaining over a thousand yards twice. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987 which took way too long to happen.

The Steelers were a hard nose group even when they were having horrible seasons. Nobody ever came out of a Steeler game without some severe bumps and bruises. No team ever looked forward to playing the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 60’s. At the end of the decade the Steelers hired Chuck Noll to be their head coach. It would lead to their greatest decade ever.

Sport: Heisman Trophy Winner, Why Can’t He Play Pro Football

The Heisman Trophy winner will be announced tomorrow evening. As I do sometimes when I do a meditation blog, let’s define the Heisman Trophy. The Heisman Trophy is awarded annually to the most outstanding player in college football. Winners epitomize great ability combined with diligence, perseverance, and hard work. It is presented by the Heisman Trophy Trust in early December before the postseason bowl games. You would think that the most outstanding player in college football would have at least a very good pro football career. Instead, the majority of Heisman winners have mediocre or no career at all. Granted, there are some unforeseen circumstances, with the greatest being injury, that can affect a player’s career. Since 1970 there have been 52 Heisman winners. Taking away the 6 most recent winners, because it is too soon to evaluate their careers, that leaves 46 winners that went on to the pros. Charlie Ward went on to have a basketball career, and did not play pro football, which leaves 45 winners who tried to have pro careers. Of that group, 6 went on to have Hall of Fame careers. Tony Dorsett, Marcus Allen, Tim Brown, Barry Sanders, Earl Campbell, and Charles Woodson. There were 12 Hall of Famers who went on to have excellent careers and may yet get into the Hall of Fame. That leaves 27 who had mediocre or no careers in the NFL, well over half, 59% to be exact. Some were related to injury, others, in my view, to a lack of opportunity, and in most cases, simply did not have the talent to play in the pros.

The award has always had an offensive bias. There has been only on defensive player win the award, Charles Woodson, and he became a Hall of Famer. You would have thought that this might have told the voters something, but it did not. The definition of the award certainly makes no distinction that the award is for offensive players only. It simply states that it is for the best college football player of that season. Over the years there is no question that there have been some defensive players that should have won. On the offensive side of the ball the award is prejudiced for quarterbacks and running backs. Forty eight of the fifty two winners have been running backs or quarterbacks. Again, I feel that there have been offensive linemen that should have won the award. More or less, this can be explained by the fact that this is an award voted on by sportswriters. Even though this is a different sport, just recently it was shown just how incompetent they are, when Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame unanimously by committee. The writers did not even come close to electing him to the Hall. It is always amazing how a group of people know so little about what they write about. This year all the finalists are quarterbacks. Because of the aforementioned prejudice, the Heisman Trophy, may be the most insignificant award in all of sports. At the very least it needs to be redefined.

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