The day after Chuck Noll retired a journalist for the Pittsburgh Press, whose name escapes me (it was probably Gene Collier), most eloquently summed up Steelers Nation’s collective reaction to the Steelers 0-2 by a margin of 92-10 start:
…the once unthinkable question was on everybody’s mind, and it was no longer ‘will Dan Rooney fire Chuck Noll,’ but ‘How long will he wait?’*
The vultures were out in full force.
The Steelers reacted to loss of Brian Hinkle by seeking to resign linebacker Darin Jordan, a veteran of the 1988 season whom they’d waived prior to opening day.
The San Francisco 49ers beat them to the punch, signing Jordan before the Steelers. According to Pro Football Reference, in 1988 Darrin Jordan started two games, played in 15, had one interception, but recorded ZERO tackles.
Bob Smizik, then writing for the Pittsburgh Press lambasted the move, sharing with readers that the Steeler’s explained their attempt to resign Jordan this way:
When you ask them why they wanted to bring back Jordan, they’ll look you in the eye and answer with a straight face and tell you it’s because “he knows the system.” *
The system? Smizik asked, explaining to readers that the same “system” had failed to produce more sacks for the Steelers than their opponents for well over a season. He concluded his article, imploring Jordan not to share any of his insight on “the system” with the rest of the NFL.
The national media got into the act too, with ESPN’s NFL Gameday sending the late Pete Axthelm to Pittsburgh to chronicle the Steelers woes. Axthelm’s pice was objective, but there was no doubting the tone.
In an on camera video with Chuck Noll, Pete Axthelm pointedly asked Chuck Noll:
“Has the game of football passed Chuck Noll by?”
Noll, stoic as ever, responded:
When they ask you questions like that, there’re the same as questions like ‘why don’t you throw to the tight end?’ ‘Why don’t you use the shot gun?’ What they’re really asking is, ‘why don’t you win?’*
On the heels of back to back humiliations at the hands of the Bengals and Browns many in Steelers Nation were asking that very same question. And with the then Super Bowl favorite Minnesota Vikings coming to Three Rivers Stadium in week 3, most expected to have the occasion to keep asking that question for quite some time.
*These quotes are from memory, and are cetainly not exact. All apologies for any errors.
Check back tomorrow recap of the 1989 Steelers game against the Vikings, or click here to read the entire 1989 Steelers tribute.