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.

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