John Henry Johnson 1929-2011

Former Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame Running back John Henry Johnson has passed away. Johnson, who played for the Steelers, Lions, Oilers and San Francisco 49ers died yesterday at his home in Tracy, California at age 81.

Johnson played for the Steelers from 1960 to 1965 under coaches Ray Parker and Mike Nixon.

Although Johnson’s tenure with the Steelers was “short” he retired as the franchise’s all time leading rusher, and his record stood until broken by Franco Harris during the Steelers 1976 season.

Since that time rushers such as Merril Hoge, Frank Pollard, Tim Worley, Earnest Jackson, Tim Hoak, Barry Foster, Erric Pegram, and Rockey Blier have come and gone, but John Henry Johnson still holds the number four spot in the franchise’s record book.

Johnson was elected to the NFL Hall of Fame in 1987, sharing the stage with Steelers great Mean Joe Greene.

More About John Henry Johnson and What He Meant to the Steelers

John Henry Johnson came “before my time.” For years he was little more than a name in the team’s media guide. However, that has changed recently due in large part to the efforts of Ed Gleason, aka “Mary Rose” from Behind the Steel Curtain.

Gleason wrote about John Henry Johnson in a very moving father’s day piece written a few years back, which you can read here. He also wrote extensively about Johnson’s role in one of the pre-Chuck Noll Steelers few bright moments of glory, their 1964 upset of the Cleveland Browns.

Gleason counts the Browns game as one of the Steelers greatest non-Super Bowl victories, and if you have not read that piece yet, you should do so now.

From Black to Gold, also written by Gleason, contains even more information on John Henry Johnson.

Suffice to say, Steel Curtain Rising wishes John Henry Johnson’s survivors the very best and offers our deepest condolences.

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