Sports: The Steelers, 2010’s

This was the decade where the Steelers continued to have regular season success but had 6 frustrating playoff failures during this decade. The decade started out fine with the Steelers making it to the Super Bowl, but losing to the Green Bay Packers, in a game that was made close by the Packer receivers’ failure to catch the football. The Steelers were in the same position they were, 2 Super Bowls before, with a chance at a game winning drive late in the 4th quarter, but this time they turned the ball over on downs. Green Bay then ran out the clock to win the game. The Steelers would only get to one Conference Championship game in 5 more playoff tries. Those playoff losses could be attributed to star players not playing, and to some surprise performances from their opponents.

Record For The Decade: 102 Wins 57 Losses 1 Tie

Best Year: 2017 13-3 2010 12-4 Lost Super Bowl.

Worst Year: Three years at 8-8 2012, 2013, and 2019

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Lost: The Decade was built around 3 offensive players who when they were well, were 3 of the best players in franchise history. Ben Roethlisberger, Le’Veon Bell, and Antonio Brown. Bell played from 2013 to 2017 and in 3 of those years he had around 2000 yards from scrimmage in rushing and receiving. One year he was only able to play 6 games due to suspension and then injury, and his rookie season he put up a little over 1200 yards from the line of scrimmage. Antonio Brown was even more spectacular. For 6 straight seasons Brown caught over 100 passes and gained at least 1200 yards per season with his top year being 2014 when he gained 1698 yards. Ben played for all 10 years, and we know that he is going to the Hall of Fame. The defense had its ups and downs during the decade and also had some bad playoff games. Overall, the defense contributed mightily to the success of the decade.

Significant Games: I always thought the most significant game of the decade was the opening round loss to the Denver Broncos in the 2011 season. We were a wild card team because we had lost the tie breaker to the Baltimore Ravens. The Broncos were 8-8 but that was good enough to win the weak Western Division. We had the no. 1 defense in scoring and total yards in the NFL. We were also no.1 against the pass. This was the game that Tim Tebow decided to have his greatest game, by far, in his NFL career. The next week against New England he would go back to being his mediocre self. He would only start 2 more games for Denver after that playoff loss. On that day against the Steelers, he accounted for 366 yards and 3 TD’s. Denver won 29-23 in overtime and that seemed to set the tone for rest of the Steelers’ playoff runs for the rest of the decade, even continuing into this decade. Tebow had never accounted for 300 yards and 3 TDs in a game before, and he would never do it again. Bell and Brown would only play in 3 full playoff games together winning 2 and losing the 45-42 debacle to the Jacksonville Jaguars where the Steelers played their worst quarter and a half of football in history until the 1st quarter of the 2020 Wild Card game against the Cleveland Browns where they fell behind 28-0.

The Decades Best Player: Ben Roethlisberger was the constant glue that held the team together through thick and thin. According to Pro Football Reference he is the Steelers all-time best player. I could give some argument for that, but certainly for this decade he was by far the best. No question that Bell and Brown had some great stretches during the decade but for various reasons they flamed out quickly and became non-factors for a lot of the decade.

The final full decade that the Steelers’ played football was the decade of playoff frustration. The Steelers have played 3 seasons in the 2020’s and that frustration is continuing. The last 2 years the Steelers have been in the throes of mediocrity. They are having in my view, the most important draft since the early 70’s. They are going to have 3 of the first 51 picks, no. 17, 32, and 51. If the Steelers are going to get out of this rut of playing close to .500 ball but not much better, then these picks better have an immediate impact. I know that is a tall order and a lower pick can always surprise, but if the Steelers are going to get to the next level and finally make a playoff run this needs to happen.

Sport: The NFL Final Four, Finally

We have finally made it to Championship weekend in the NFL. On the NFC side, the Philadelphia Eagles are hosting the San Franscisco 49ers, and in the AFC, the Cincinnati Bengals are traveling to face the Kansas City Chiefs. Despite the NFL’s claim to parody, 3 of the 4 teams were in last year’s title games with Philadelphia the only newcomer. Yes, that salary cap sure keeps things competitive. Don’t you just love sports socialism. Just to get the perfunctory predictions out of the way, I think it will be the Bengals vs. the Eagles in Super Bowl. I considered the conference Championship games to be the last real football games of the season. The Super Bowl to me, is and always will be, a circus that sometimes affects the outcome of the game. I look at the true champions being crowned this week and whoever wins in that sideshow as a bonus victory. What other championship game in any sport is there, where people watch for the commercials and the halftime show, which is about twice as long as the normal halftime. The game almost becomes the most insignificant part of the day. I am not going to go through any type of analysis of the two games coming up or why I think the Bengals and Eagles will win. Today I am going to write about some interesting facts about the participants, which may give a little insight as to why the outcomes will be what they will be.

This will be Andy Reid’s 10th Conference Championship as a head coach. He has lost 6 of the previous Championship games with 4 of those being home games. Many people consider Reid an offensive genius. However, in 2 of those losses his team failed to score more than 10 points. In the last Super Bowl he coached, the Chiefs could only muster 9 points. To be able to take a team to 10 Conference Championship games is quite an accomplishment. For whatever reason it seems very difficult for Reid’s teams to get over the final hump. Nine Conference Championship games and one Super Bowl championship. Doesn’t seem like Reid is one to learn from his mistakes. Will this be his 7th Championship game loss or will he get over the hump this weekend with some new strategy. Thank God he won that one Super Bowl, or we would have an example of big game failures second to none.

What is it with this Joe Burrows guy? He is the epitome of consistency that is downright freaky. In his first full season, 2021, he completed 70.4% of his passes for 4611 yards, 34 TD’s and 14 INT’s. This past season he completed 68.3% of his passes for 4475 yards, 35TD’s and 12 INT’s. In 6 playoff games over the last 2 years, he has completed 68.1% of his passes for 1556 yards, 8 TD’s and 2 INT’s. In those 6 playoff games he has never thrown less that 32 passes and never more than 38. He has completed between 22 and 28 passes in all 6 games and in 3 of those games he completed 23 passes. Going into this Championship Game do you think he will do all right?

On the NFC side of things, we have 2 quarterbacks who are similar, in that for the NFL they are short, 6’1, have played against each other before, in the Big 12, and have had a lot of negative things said about their ability until this recent surge of success. To me, Jalen Hurts has proven that he is a top of the line NFL quarterback. Even though not tall he is a dynamic player who is a dual running and passing threat. This may seem like a small thing, but I like the way he gets ready to receive the ball from 7 yards behind the line of scrimmage. He is in a crouched position with one foot in front of the other. It just looks like he is ready to move and do some positive things to create some offense. On the other hand, Brock Purdy has started 7 games, and 6 of those were against mediocre to bad football teams. Last week against Dallas, some of his inexperienced showed, and if it wasn’t for a spectacular catch by the tight end and Dak Prescott being Dak Prescott in the playoffs, the 49ers could have easily lost at home to the Cowboys. Brock Purdy has two of the most dynamic players in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey and Deebo Samuel at his disposal. It will be interesting to see if Purdy can have a good game on the big stage, on the road.

I always look forward to Championship weekend in the NFL. Will I be surprised if both my picks lose on Sunday? No, I won’t be. Football is the only sport where one game decides the title. If that were true in the other 3 professional sports, there would be a completely different list of League Champions. Let’s face it, in one game anything can happen, and the NFL wants you to completely forget about that when it comes to Championship games. In my view the 3 quarterbacks and the Chiefs head coach will make this one, of the more memorable Championship weekends.

Sports: The Steelers, The 2000’s

Since 1960, this decade was the 2nd most successful for the franchise. The Steelers won 2 Super Bowls and had only one losing season. The Bill Cowher era came to an end in 2006 and Mike Tomlin took over in 2007. The Super Bowl winning season of 2008 was the most exciting season in Steeler history. There were more big plays in that season than all the other seasons combined. The 2008 group was not the best Steeler team of all time by a long shot. In fact, they may not have been as good as the team that lost the Super Bowl in 95, but they were the most entertaining of all the Super Bowl winning teams. They had a great defense that only gave up 223 points to lead the league. Only the 2001 defense and the defenses of the 70’s gave up fewer points. They also gave up the fewest yards that year. This was the decade that the Steelers solidified themselves as one of the premier franchises in all of sports.

Record For The Decade: 103 Wins 56 Losses 1 Tie

Best Year: 2004 15-1 2008 12-4 Won Super Bowl

Worst Year: 2003 6-10

Why The Steelers Won More Than They Lost: They found a franchise quarterback in Ben Roethlisberger. They had one of their better defensive stretches during this time. They again hired a great coach in Mike Tomlin. They picked up one of the all time great safeties in Troy Polamalu, who became the heart and soul of those great defenses of the 2000’s. The other defensive stalwart on those teams was James Harrison. To this day he has what could be considered the greatest play in Super Bowl history. There weren’t as many Hall of Famers during this decade but the Steelers had many great players that included, Hines Ward, Jerome Bettis, Aaron Smith, Ike Taylor, Joey Porter and Willie Parker, to name just a few.

Significant Games. There was one significant game in each of the two Super Bowl winning years. The first was a 38-31 loss to the Cincinnati Bengels and the game was not as close as the score indicated. This was the Steelers 3rd loss in a row to send their record to 7-5. After the game many of the Bengal players were talking that this was the end of the line for the Steelers, they had no chance of making the playoffs and the Bengals would be dominating the division for the next few years. From that point on, the Steelers won their last 4 games and snuck in as the 6th seed. They beat the Bengals in the opening round and then upset the Indianapolis Colts, who had soundly beaten the Steelers in the regular season. Three weeks later Super Bowl win number 5 would be theirs. In 2008 the Steelers started the season 2-0 but the second win was an ugly 10-6 win over the hapless Cleveland Browns. Then the next week they laid an even bigger egg in Philadelphia losing 15-6 with the offense only gaining a total of 180 yards and Big Ben was sacked 9 times. The next week the Steelers came home to face the Baltimore Ravens on Monday Night Football. The Steelers were behind 13-3 at halftime and looked just as bad as they had for the whole game in Philadelphia. The Monday Night broadcast crew was wondering what Mike Tomlin was going to do and it was going to be a difficult week for the Steelers upcoming. The third quarter did not start any better and the booth was still talking about how much trouble the Steelers were in and the coaching staff had their work cut out for them. Then with 5 minutes to go in the third quarter the Steelers offense moved the ball, got another 15 yards on an unnecessary roughness penalty on the Ravens. Three plays later Ben threw over the middle short to Santonio Holmes, he broke a tackle and scampered 30 yards into the endzone to make the score 13-10. The first play after the kickoff James Harrison stripped the ball from Joe Flacco on a 9 yard sack, and Lamar Woodley pick up the ball and scored a touchdown, to take the lead 17-13. In the span of 13 seconds the Steelers scored 2 touchdowns and went on to win the game in overtime 23-20. The announcers didn’t have any more to say about the Steelers problems. They went on to win Super Bowl number 6 when the defense came up with the play of the year, a 100 yard interception return for a touchdown to end the first half. It was, indeed, the year of the big play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Decades Best Player: This was another easy choice as Troy Polamalu was the dominant player of the decade. He started playing for the Steelers in 2003 and was the standout defensive player. During those 7 years he had 20 interceptions and made spectacular play after spectacular play. He would have great years going into the other decade, as he was the defensive player of the year in 2010. Without him there would be no Super Bowl victories.

The next and last full decade of Steeler football would be best summed up as a decade of frustration. The Steelers would make the playoffs 6 of those 10 years but would lose every year, and many times in bizarre fashion. There would be no more Super Bowls for the franchise quarterback.

Pirates Morning Report: Mid-January

The last time I wrote about the Pirates in late November there have been two big stories. Bryan Reynolds asked to be traded and the Pirates signed Andrew McCutchen to a one year deal to bring him back to Pittsburgh. The Pirates continued to unload dead wood during this time. The sent Bryce Wilson with his -1.1 WAR and Zach Thompson with his -0.3 WAR, both packing. They got money and a pop machine for Wilson. They picked up a minor league outfielder and 4000 yards of bandage materials for Thompson. They got rid of Diego Castillo and his -0.9 WAR for a minor league pitcher and 49 rosin bags. None of these moves were very surprising. I thought they might try both pitchers in the bullpen but the fact that they are gone is fine with me.

Signing Andrew McCutchen was a great PR move, and the fans seem to love it. Many cynics out there feel this move is going to precede the trading of Reynolds and was done to appease the fans. Many in baseball feel that McCutchen will do little to enhance the Pirates ability to win games. I find it interesting that there were reports that McCutchen was offered similar and even better deals, but took the Pirates offer because it included the opportunity for more playing time. I think coming back to Pittsburgh might give McCutchen a performance boost in all phases of the game. Even if he just performs as he did last year, he would be an average major league hitter, and this is something that the Pirates desperately need. They had only 3 players last year that were above average hitters. I think he still has a lot to offer and if he can stay healthy, he should contribute to a Pirate winning season. He looks in great shape and other than a freak knee injury in 2019 he has played in at least 130 games every year. There is no question he is an outfield upgrade.

It was not a shocker when Bryan Reynolds made public that he wanted to be traded. His name has been part of trade rumors for well over a year now. I have no emotional feeling over a Bryan Reynolds trade. They either trade him, or they don’t, and hopefully they get a return that would have an immediate impact on the club. I stated that if that is what it takes to get him out of centerfield then I am all for it. I felt that the Pirates would not have a winning season with him in centerfield. Since watching the Top Ten Centerfielders Now, on MLB Network, I have changed my mind. On the 6 human ballots and the infamous MLB The Shredder, Reynolds ranked anywhere from third to seventh as one of the best centerfielders in the game. It was brought up on the show how bad his defensive metrics were for 2022 but it was also mentioned that he was about an average fielder in 2021. It looks like the Pirates are not going to get a real centerfielder anyway, so I think the Pirates will do fine with Reynolds in center. Maybe he was just trying to help the Pirates lose games in 2022 like they wanted to. There is no reason to believe that he cannot make a comeback on the fielding side of the ball. Therefore, I no longer think that getting Reynolds out of centerfield is a prerequisite for the Pirates to have a winning season and contend for the division title.

With spring training to begin in earnest in about a month, the Pirates continue to make moves that are improving the ballclub. Although there have been some in the local media that have been putting out some positive vibes on the upcoming Pirate season, I have not seen anyone in the national media saying the Pirates may be a surprise or contending team in 2023. Most feel the moves that the Cubs have made are making them the main threat to the St. Louis Cardinals. Yes, there are lots of unknowns out there when talking about the Pirates, but I still feel that if they can avoid major injury and arm trouble that they will win 80 some games and make a run at the playoffs. However, I feel there is a minimum performance level, of at least winning 75 games. If this group cannot come up with at least this many wins in 2023 then this rebuild is in major trouble.

Sports: The Steelers, The 90’s

The 90’s saw the Chuck Noll era end and the Bill Cowher era begin. Like Noll, Cowher was one of the youngest ever be to be hired as a head coach, but that is where any similarity between him and Chuck Noll ended. Compared to the stoic Noll, Cowher was a rah-rah coach and had many interactions with the players during the game. In a nutshell Bill Cowher was more style than substance, but the thing that saved his career was that he had immediate regular season success. He was coach of the year in his first year in 92, as the Steelers went 11-5 and won the division. The Steelers were in the playoffs the first 6 years that Cowher was the coach. He found running backs in Barry Foster and Bam Morris, even though their success was short lived due to injuries for Foster and off the field problems for Morris, they reestablished the Steelers as a powerful running team. Then the Steelers were able to acquire Jerome Bettis from the St. Louis Rams in 1996 and they finally had their Franco Harris running back. In fact, Cowher’s coaching career would have had an idyllic start if not for one thing, complete and utter playoff failure. They made the playoffs 6 straight years and had a record of 5-6. They lost 3 home playoff games. In Noll’s 23 years the Steelers lost 1 home playoff game. Even their Super Bowl loss was strange. They completely outplayed the Dallas Cowboys, but Neil O’ Donnell threw 2 of the most inexplicable interceptions in Super Bowl history, which sealed a 27-17 victory for the Cowboys. The decade ended with 2 consecutive losing seasons and the Cowher era was beginning to crumble, but the Rooney’s stuck with Cowher. It resulted in the 2nd greatest decade in Steeler history.

Record For The Decade: 93 Wins 67 Losses

Best Year: 1994 12-4 1995 11-5 Lost Super Bowl.

Worst Year: 1999 6-10

Why The Steelers Won More Games Than They Loss: The change to Bill Cowher as the coach seemed to energize the team and the results were immediate. The defense came alive under Cowher and had some of their best years in franchise history. They were able to establish their running game and control football games.

Significant Games: The opening game of the 1996 season seemed to sum up the Bill Cowher years in Pittsburgh. Neil O Donnell was gone for free agency and the starting quarterback job was a battle between Jim Miller, a quarterback who had been plagued with various injuries early in his career and Mike Tomczak, who had some decent years with the Chicago Bears. It was announced that Jim Miller had won the starting job and would be the starting QB against the Jacksonville Jaquars on opening day. The game was in Jacksonville. Jacksonville was only in their 2nd year of existence. The game was a disaster for the Steelers. Jim Miller did not have a good game, but he did not throw any interceptions. Late in the 3rd quarter he was replaced by Tomczak and never really played again. He threw about 10 passes the rest of the year. Tomczak did alright but never really impressed, but Miller never got another chance the rest of the season. This is why I call the Cowher years in Pittsburgh weird. Despite his success he seemed to have his judgement clouded by emotional issues on the team. He always gave you the impression that he wanted the players to be his buddies and if he felt a player crossed him, he would never let him back in the inner circle of the team. I felt this game and the rest of season really summed up the Bill Cowher era.

The Decades Best Player: This was an easy one as Rod Woodson played on the Steelers from 90 to 96. He was one of the best defensive backs in the history of the NFL and his play helped bring the defense back in Pittsburgh. He played the position with such grace and style he was a pleasure to watch through the mid 90’s.

This decade ended on a down note as the Steelers had their worst year under Cowher at 5-11. The team seemed headed for a downward spiral and the earlier playoff frustrations seem to be magnified as it looked like the Steelers might not make the playoffs for a while. The turnaround would be much quicker than anybody expected. Then in 2004, the Steelers would get their 2nd franchise quarterback, and all would be well.

Sports: The Steelers, The 80’s

The 80’s could be called the letdown decade for the Steelers. If the Steelers of the 70’s had not set such a high standard, the decade would have been considered not all that bad. The Steelers did win more games than they lost and made the playoffs 4 out of the 10 years. Many people consider this decade as the best coaching job that Chuck Noll did, because the talent was not anywhere close to the teams of the 70’s. The 80’s could be summed up by the fact that the Steelers never could replace the core that made the team great, even though they tried like hell. Even when they were successful tragedy would befall the team and the player. They drafted Gabe Rivera in the first round in 1983. He was the heir apparent to Joe Greene, and he seemed that he was going to dominate the defensive line just like Mean Joe. After the 7th game of the season, he crashed his Datsun 280 ZX into another vehicle, which left him a quadriplegic. Terry Bradshaw who continued to excel at quarterback in the early 80’s, injured his elbow in 82, played in pain, then had what you could call unsuccessful elbow surgery, would play one half of football in 83 and his career was over. The Steelers could never come close to replacing him in the 80’s even though they used a no1 pick to try. More surprising, they never came close to replacing Franco Harris. They used two 1st round picks, one in 82, the other in 89 but both picks basically turned out to be busts. The decade had many ups and downs but would end up being a decade of mediocrity.

Record For The Decade: 77 Wins 75 Losses

Best Year: 1983 10-6 1984 9-7 Loss AFC Championship Game.

Worst Year: 1988 5-11

Why The Steelers Won More, Barely, Than They Loss: Simply, it was Chuck Noll. The talent was never top notch but somehow Noll made every team during that decade competitive. For whatever reason, the Steelers lost their ability to evaluate talent. The draft instead of rebuilding the Steelers, became one disaster after another. Of their 10 number 1 picks, only one, Rod Woodson would go on and have a great career. The only other thing the Steelers could think, was what might have been with Gabe Rivera.

Significant Games: There were two games that stand out in the 80’s and they occurred in 1989. The 1989 season started out worse than anybody could have possibly imagined. The Cleveland Browns opened the season at Three Rivers Stadium and put on a 51-0 pasting on the Black and Gold. The Steeler offense only netted 53 yards for the game. The next week they went to Cincinnati and got blown out again 41-10. For week 3, the Minnesota Vikings came to town, and many expected blow out number 3. Noll rallied the troops, and the Steelers took a 21-14 lead into the half, shut out the Vikings the rest of the way for a 27-14 shocking victory, that started the Steelers on their way to a 9-7 record, that got them a Wild Card berth in the playoffs. They went from getting outscored 91-10 in the first 2 games to a Wild Card game with their hated rivals the Houston Oilers. There was no love lost between Jerry Glanville and Chuck Noll. The Oilers had beaten the Steelers twice in 89 and were favored to do so again in the Wild Card game in the Houston Astrodome. It was a game the Oilers pretty much dominated, but until the 4 quarter could not get the ball in the endzone and trailed the Steelers 16-9. Then Houston was able to put two drives together, which resulted in touchdowns to take a 23-16 lead with about 5 minutes to go in the game. The Steeler offense somehow mounted a long drive and scored the tying touchdown with about 50 seconds to go in the game. The Steelers could not move the ball in the overtime and after a bad punt Houston took over on the Steeler 48 only needing a field goal to win the game. On the very first play of the drive Lorenzo White fumbled the ball and Rod Woodson recovered. The Steelers moved the ball to the Houston 33 and Gary Anderson kicked the winning 50 yard field goal. Next to his Super Bowl wins, this had to be one of Chuck Noll’s most satisfying wins. It was even more so because this loss cost Glanville his job.

The Decades Best Player: This was not the most talented of Steeler teams but there were two players who stood out, Mike Merriweather and Louis Lipps. Merriweather lost some of his luster when he got into a contract dispute with the team after the 1987 season and eventually went to Minnesota. He was Pro Bowler for 3 years with the Steelers. Louis Lipps was a deep threat extraordinaire. In 8 seasons he averaged almost 17 yards per catch and was the 1984 Rookie of the Year. He returned three punts for touchdowns during his first two seasons.

The decade ended with a bang but there was no momentum to be found when the Steelers headed into the 90’s. Noll would retire after the 91 season and a new regime would begin. The 90’s for better or worse, would bring a whole new vibe to the Pittsburgh Steelers.

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.

Sports: College Football, Meaningless Championship Weekend.

This is conference championship weekend, with the 5 major conferences having their championship games Friday and Saturday. Instead of this being an exciting weekend, and a first step to a possible National Championship, there are only 2 teams, that the games have any kind of significant meaning. Southern California and Texas Christian must win, or they most likely will fall out of the final four. If Michigan or Georgia would lose this weekend, they most likely would stay in the top 4. Georgia for sure and Michigan most likely, unless unexpectedly they would really embarrass themselves. There are five teams, even if they win, will have no chance of getting into the playoffs. Those are Purdue, North Carolina, LSU, Kansas St. and Utah. Then you have the strange case of Clemson. The committee decided to make them the worst ranked 2 loss team. Even if they beat North Carolina decisively, it would be shocking to see them jump 6 places to get into the playoffs. Because college football puts no value on winning a conference championship, there are only 2 out of 10 teams that have a chance of making the playoffs. The playoffs are going to expand, but even that is up in the air on exactly when. Somehow, they came up with the number 12. They are going to “allow in” the top 6 ranked conference champions. There are 10 Division 1-A college football conferences. To use this year as an example, it would still be very unlikely for Utah, Purdue or North Caroline to get in if they somehow pull off the upset. All the 12-team format does is give more power to the committee. If a team is playing in a conference championship game and becomes team 5 through 12, it would mean they would play 17 games to become National Champion. So much for college football players playing too many games. Welcome to the NFL.

I have always advocated an 8-team format. To me it is simple, the 5 conference champions are in, and then the committee picks 3 at large births. Now that the powers to be have said that they want 12 teams, it would be quite easy to go to 16 teams without any extra games. In fact, the most any team would have to play is 16. To use this year as an example, we would have the 5 conference Championship games. Now take the next 6 highest ranked teams that are not in conference finals. In this case, you have Ohio State, Alabama, Tennessee, Penn St., Washington, and Florida St. They could play this week or the next week, with Ohio St. playing Florida St., Alabama playing Washington, and Tennessee playing Penn St. You would have 16 teams with the chance at the National Title. After those games you have 8 teams left and the playoffs could go on right on schedule and the committee would have been done this past weekend. In order to get better teams in the conference championship games, conferences could be much more liberal in changing the division make up every one or two years. You could also have more conference regular season games by eliminating the sisters of the poor games. You know those games, Ohio St vs Akron, or Alabama vs. Chattanooga. I always felt that championships should be settled on the field. This is an easy way to do this, and there would be more continuity to the college football season. I know this will never happen, but it does not keep me from wishing it would. It is time for a Division 1-A football conference championship to mean something.

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