Ed Bouchette’s Dawn of a New Steel Age, an Iconic Tale of the Birth of Cowher Power

What is it like to witness the end of one era and the beginning of another? Every journalist  dreams of the opportunity.  Fate afforded the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ed Bouchette the chance to do just that in 1992 when Pittsburgh Steelers transitioned from Chuck Noll to Bill Cowher.

  • Except there was a “catch.”

The devastating 1992 pressman and drivers’ strike that shut down the Pittsburgh Press and Post-Gazette left Ed Bouchette without a paper to print his stories. Fortunately, the Post-Gazette kept Ed Bouchette employed as part of their skeleton staff, and Sagamore Publishing approached him about chronicling both the end of Chuck Noll’s tenure and the beginning of Bill Cowher’s.

  • The result was Dawn of a New Steel Age, a 214 page volume published in 1993.
Dawn of a New Steel Age, Ed Bouchette, Bill Cowher

Bill Cowher on the cover of Ed Bouchett’s Dawn of a New Steel Age.

In a market awash with books on the Pittsburgh Steelers, you’ll find some that are excellent (think Their Life’s Work and/or His Life’s Work), some that are good (think The Ones that Hit the Hardest), others that are average (think the Greatest 50 Plays in Pittsburgh Steelers Football History) and some that are downright awful (think Jack Lambert: Tough As Steel.)

  • Then there are the iconic books, ones that serve as a touchstone for their respective generations.

Think Roy Blount’s Three Bricks Shy of a Load. Truthfully, people don’t discuss Dawn of a New Steel Age in such reverential tones as they do with Three Bricks.  Perhaps they should, because Bouchette’s book really is that good.

Dawn Deftly Weaves Steelers Present with Steelers Past

I remember reading Steelers Digest’s profile of Dawn in 1993, but in those pre-Amazon days getting a copy outside of Pittsburgh was hard. However, I spied a copy at Station Square just before the Steeler ’96 home game against the Bengals, and it has served as a reference book ever since.

Bouchette divides his book neatly into 20 chapters, seamlessly weaving a tale where each chapter tells an independent story that contributes its unique elements to a unified narrative.

One critique of journalistic prose is that it too often sacrifices historical context for immediacy In contrast, too many history books offer dry recitations of fact that fail to convey a sense of present, or the flavor of the moments they’re recounting.

  • Bouchette’s Dawn of a New Steel  Age does the opposite.

A reader who picks up the book today can follow the progression of the 1992 Steelers and gain what it was like to experience the birth of Cowher Power as it happened, while understanding just how those moments fit into the context of Steelers history.

Bill Cowher, 1992 Steelers

Bill Cowher in 1992. Photo Credit: thisisopus.com

That’s a more difficult feat that it may seem. Jim O’Brien’s books on the Steelers deliver excellent insights, yet they often read like collections of individual stories that don’t from a central narrative.

  • Read today, Bouchette’s approach provides a refreshing contrast to our Twitterized communication landscape.

Another writer charged with telling the same tale could have easy fallen back on “The game passed Noll by and Bill Cowher offered a breath of fresh air.” But Bouchette doesn’t do that, and because of that the Dawn of a New Steel Age succeeds in making  unique contributions to Steelers history.

Chuck Noll, Mark Malone

Chuck Noll and Mark Malone.

Why DID the Steelers slip into mediocrity in the 1980s? Poor drafting is the answer, but Dawn of a New Steel Age delivers insights into WHY the Steelers drafting slipped so badly. Art Rooney Jr. touched on this a bit in his book Ruanaidh, as did Michael MacCambridge and Gary Pomerantz.

  • Bouchette arrived sooner, however, and in many ways still tells a more complete story than those who follow.

For his own part, Bouchette isn’t ready to describe that part of the book as “ground breaking,” but upon re-reading this chapter he asserts, “I will say that maybe some of Noll’s best coaching jobs were during the strike of 1987 and the 1989 season.”

While a Dawn of a New Steel Age offers the appropriate deference to what Noll accomplished with limited talent in the 1980’s, one thing stands out: the implicit criticisms made of Noll that many of Bouchette’s subjects offer.

And that’s another strength of the book. The breadth and depth Bouchette’s interviews are unparalleled.  Bouchette managed to talk to  the ball boys to lesser known Rooney brothers and everyone in between.

When asked if he would get similar access should he try to write a similar book today, Bouchette explains explaining, ‘No, I would not get nearly the access. We all had open access to all the assistant coaches and could sit down with them in their offices and chat. Same with guys like Tom Donahoe. Dan Rooney always was great.”

Bouchette continues, “Today, I might be limited to the players and a few interviews with Art Rooney and Mike Tomlin, perhaps Kevin Colbert.”

Bill Cowher Arrives in Pittsburgh

As the title suggests, Dawn of a New Steel Age doesn’t focus on the 80’s, but rather on the birth of the Cowher-era. And the insights Bouchette delivers on the 1992 Steelers are just as rich as his reflections on the 80’s. To that end, Bouchette devotes full chapters to the 1992’s key actors:  Rod Woodson, Greg Lloyd, Hardy Nickerson, Neil O’Donnell, and Barry Foster.

Bill Cowher, Dan Rooney, 1992 Steelers

Bill Cowher & Dan Rooney, January 1992. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

  • Bouchette also offers one of the first profiles of Art Rooney II.

Art Rooney II is now of course the face of the Rooney family, a role he’s occupied since Dan Rooney left to serve as ambassador to Ireland in 2009. But in 1992 Art Rooney II had only recently assumed the title of Vice President of the Steelers and still maintained an active law practice.

Bouchette also had the presence of mind to foreshadow the 2008 Steelers ownership restructuring. As he explains, “I also wanted to look into the crystal ball to see what might become of the Steelers franchise because Dan Rooney and I had talked about it previously.”

Even in the early 1990’s, the Rooney brothers “… did not want to see ownership splinter among all their kids and grandkids.” To that end, Bouchette got Pat Rooney on the record predicting, “’Art’s going to have to buy out the partners,’ and I wrote that sources said Dan is preparing to do just that. So, I would say I came damn close to predicting what would happen 15 years later.”

Bill Cowher, Perhaps as Steelers Nation has Never Seen Him

Bill Cowher is of course the protagonist in a Dawn of a New Steel Age. And Cowher’s presence and influence on the momentous events of the Steelers 1992 season are evident on every page of Bouchette’s book.

  • Bouchette quotes Cowher liberally, and fans who remember the rest of the 90’s or the 00’s will find a more affable Cowher in the pages of Dawn.
Bill Cowher, Three Rivers Stadium

Bill Cowher at Three Rivers Stadium. Photo Credit: NFL via WTAE.com

When asked if 1992 represented a sort of honeymoon between the press and Bill Cowher, Bouchette agrees, detailing, “… The newspaper strike helped, as Cowher so often points out. We had our moments, especially in 1993. Bill was an interesting coach to cover. He had a range of emotions and did not hide them.”

In his autobiography Dan Rooney observed hiring a new coach almost forces a franchise to start from zero.  He would know. Dan Rooney watched in agony has as Art Rooney Sr. cycled through 11 head coaches while failing to win a playoff game in 4 decades.

  • Dan followed by winning 6 Super Bowls with 3 coaches in 4 decades.

The 1992 Pittsburgh Steelers surprised the NFL. Many pre-season publications ranked them in the mid-20’s in an era when the league only had 28 teams. Bouchette was surprised however, submitting that “The Steelers of 1990 and 1991 were not terrible and I believe we all recognized the disconnect between the coaching staff and players during that period.”

  • Bill Cowher may not have reset the franchise to zero, but he did author a new era for Steelers football.

A Dawn of a New Steel Age captures that process in real time. Bill Cowher’s arrival spurred changes from top to bottom in the Steelers organization, including their approach to the draft, the way they practiced, even how players conditioned. Bouchette documents it all.

When asked what a Steelers fan can gain by reading Dawn of a New Steel Age in 2018, Bouchette suggests “A perspective because it is now a history book. I thought I detailed pretty well the end of Noll’s coaching career and why it came to an end, the start of Cowher’s career as a head coach, the culture of the Steelers and how they were to survive into the future.”

  • That’s an accurate self-assessment, but perhaps one that does not go quite far enough.

After the 1992 Steelers upset road win over the Kansas City Chiefs, Steelers Digest editor Bob Labriola declared, “Something special is happening to this team and this city.” He was right. 1992 was a special time to be a Steelers fan.

Dawn of a New Steel Age is a special book because its pages capture and preserve the energy that awoke Steelers Nation in 1992 for all who read it.

Editor’s note, as of this posting, copies of Dawn of a New Steel Age appear to be available on Amazon.

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Review of Jim Wexell’s Men of Steel – Jack Lambert Liked It and So Will Serious Steelers Fans

Who are former Pittsburgh Steelers Bill Dudley, Elbie Nickel, John Reger and Myron Pottios and what they mean to the franchise’s legacy? Unless you’re in your mid-60’s or older, you’ve probably never heard of them, let alone considered their importance.

After you read Jim Wexell’s Men of Steel, an 187 page volume published in 2006 and reissued in 2011, you’ll know more about 36 men who wore the Black and Gold before during and after the Super Bowl era and what’s more, Wexell’s work will make you care about their contribution to the Steelers legacy.

  • At first glance, Jim Wexell’s lean, simple structure to Men of Steel might appear to be a drawback, but in truth it is one of the book’s greatest strengths.

Each of the 36 Steelers Wexell profiles gets between four and five pages to tell their story, including first hand interviews, highlights from the player’s career and an update on each player’s “Life’s Work.”

Jim Wexell, Jim Wexell Men of Steel

Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger on the cover of the 2011 edition of Jim Wexell’s Men of Steel

Wexell effectively employs this spare approach to lend a rich relevance to the stories of familiar players to players from yesterday that even the most diehard Steelers fans will struggle to recognize.

The average “educated Steelers fan” might be vaguely familiar with the Steelers role in effectively ending the career of Y.A. Title, but most probably don’t know that the man who sacked Tuttle on that fateful play was John Baker, a man who went on to serve as sheriff of Wake County, North Carolina for the better part of two decades.

Devoting so much space to pre-Noll era Steelers might seem counter-intuitive from a commercial stand point, but Wexell explains, “I wanted to get the same amount of Steelers from each era, with the stipulation that I have to talk to them.”

Expanding on this goal, Wexell details, “I heard that Steelers fans wanted more of the stars, but I just assumed they had access to the internet. I’ve always wanted to know about some of the older players.” Wexell learned and shared stories.

And on that front, Wexell delivers, benefitting on guidance from the Steelers legendary PR man Joe Gordon, who for example, pointed him in the direction of Johnny Lattner, the only Heisman Trophy winner to sign with the Steelers.

Jim Wexell weaves each tale by starting with a key fact or action taken by the player, establishing its significance to the narrative and then providing the reader with a firsthand account from the player. After that, Wexell navigates seamlessly through the player’s college, pro and post-football careers.

  • Each chapter ends with the player moving on just as the reader turns the page to begin the next in medias res narrative a new player.

A book browser who might pick up Men of Steel, scan its table of contents, and see that Wexell takes 16 chapters to get to the beginning of the Super Steelers era could easily put the book down thinking there’s nothing interesting in there for fans focused on rooting for Mike Tomlin to bring home Lombardi Number Seven.

  • They’d be making a grave error however.

Wexell combines crisp, succinct sentences with detailed, game-specific research to deliver compelling stories about men who blazed the trails that opened the way for the NFL and the Steelers to become the icons we adore today.

Wexell matches his economy of words with copious research, as he relates, “There’s really my art. I love research. I love sitting in libraries and poring through microfiche.”

Men of Steel Narrative Galvanized by Super Bowl Era and 80’s Stories

The majority of Wexell’s Men of Steel is devoted to telling the stories of the Steelers from the Chuck Noll era onward. Steelers fans will see names that they know, starting with Joe Greene and ending with stories on Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger.

Wexell secured an exclusive interview with the Steelers signal caller prior to Super Bowl XLV and also documents a pre-draft nugget linking Roethlisberger to Steelers scout Mark Gorscak (the need for greater insight into the Steelers draft evaluation process has long been a pet cause of this site.)

Along the way, Wexell scores a rare interview with Jack Lambert. When prodded about how he got the reclusive Steelers legend to speak, Wexell shares that he’d tried, and failed to get an interview for his first book, Tales from Behind the Steel Curtain and for Men of Steel:

[For] , Men of Steel, I made the cursory call. He didn’t answer. I left a message, again, figuring he wouldn’t call back. But he did. “I don’t usually return calls to people like you,” he said with a pause. “But I thought your first book was the best Steelers book ever written. How can I help you?”

Jack Lambert, Jack Lambert Sports Illustrated Cover

Photo Credit: Tony Tomsic, Sports Illustrated

Lambert not only answered Wexell’s questions, but was surprised that the author only wanted to speak with him for 45 minutes and confesses, “To this day I’m kicking myself for not having more philosophical questions for a guy who obviously wanted to talk about pure football.”

Still, Wexell got enough to impress one of the most popular Pittsburgh Steelers of all time, as after sending him a copy, Jack Lambert wrote Wexell back:

It’s New Years Eve and I’m sitting down in the basement with my friends, a Michelob bottle and a pack of Tareytons. A long overdue thank you for sending me “Men of Steel.” … I just finished it and enjoyed catching up on some of my old teammates.

Aside from Lambert, Wexell also had the foresight to include stories on then yet-to-be Hall of Famers Rod Woodson, Dermontti Dawson and Kevin Greene.

But that’s essentially a function of the fact that we already know so much about those men. You’re not surprised when you enjoy reading Merril Hoge’s reflections on how special the 1989 Steelers playoff run is the way you unexpectedly crave more after learning of John Reger’s role in the 1955 MNF season opening win over the Chicago Cardinals at Forbes Field.

  • And, to be clear, Wexell succeeds in providing fresh insights on modern-era Steelers.

For transparency’s sake, its important to note that Men of Steel is not a perfect work and does contain a few factual errors. But just as a quarterback can throw an interception but still play a great game, these mistakes don’t keep Men of Steel from being a great book.

When asked what Steelers fans in 2018 can expect to gain by reading Men of Steel, Wexell concedes that he hasn’t given the question much thought, but then offers, “I love writing biographies because that’s where I learn the most.”

This reviewer concurs. Jim Wexell’s love for his subject matter is apparent on every page of the book, and so are the lessons he’s learned from those Men of Steel.

As of this posting, limited copies of Jim Wexell’s Men of Steel remain available on Amazon.com.

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Steelers Summer Reading Poll: Michael MacCambridge Finds Lots of Love; Jim O’Brien? Not So Much

As the Steelers approach the mid-point in their 2017 preseason campaign, its time to check in on the results of our Steelers Summer Reading Poll.

We launched the poll back in June, with the aim of serving a precursor to a series of full-length book reviews a good chunk of the books mentioned in the poll. The idea was to fill the Dead Zone in Steelers coverage with in depth discussion of some of the better books written about the franchise we all love.

Alas, the individual book reviews never came, but you can read capsule profiles of most of the books listed in our poll.

Chucky Noll biography, Art Rooney Sr. Biography, Steelers books, Steelers summer reading

Biographies of Chucky Noll and Art Rooney Sr. bookend our Steelers Summe Reading Poll

A quick look at the results thus far reveals two observations – There’s a lot of love for Michael MacCambridge’s authorized biography of Chuck Noll; not so much for the work of Jim O’Brien.

Since first posting the poll, yours truly has had a chance to read MacCambridge’s His Life’s Work cover-to-cover, and this is one book that has truly earned every word of praise that has been heaped upon it. Was there ever a football coach less interested in promoting himself than Chuck Noll? Probably not. That didn’t make MacCambridge easy, but he tackled it with the effectiveness of Joe Greene participating in his first training camp Oklahoma Drill at St. Vincent’s.

While we’re at it, let’s add in a good word for Jim O’Brien. It’s true that his books aren’t as well known, and perhaps come across as collections of individual essays or profiles, but O’Brien clearly understand the Pittsburgh Steelers organization and culture, and he conveys that in his writing. And his books contain valuable insights into Rod Woodson’s departure from the team, Dan Rooney’s relationship with Al Davis, and much, much more.

Their Life’s Work, Gary Pomerantz is also finding a lot of love, not unsurprisingly, as are the books authored by Dan Rooney and Art Rooney Jr., as is Three Bricks Shy of a Load, which was a write in entry.

Myron Cope’s Double Yoi, Jim Wexell’s Steeler Nation, and Steelers Take Aways, another write in, are showing respectably, but after that pickings get pretty slim.

To that end, we’ll had add a quick clarification. Our recap of Jim Wexell’s Men of Steel read like this:

Men of Steel by Jim Wexell contains capsule profiles of Pittsburgh Steelers from the Mike Tomlin era all the way back to portraits of men who played for the likes of Jock Sutherland and Walt Kiesling. While the book’s overall quality does take a hit due to some surprising factual errors, its individual portraits form veritable mosaic that depicts franchise as a whole.

Men of Steel by Jim WexellWhen Jim Wexell read this, he inquired as to what the errors were, which led to some back and forth with the author. While I’ll stand by my initial assessment of the book, I will also emphasize that the book’s strength’s certainly outweigh any weaknesses, as any book that pieces together a cohesive narrative encompassing the likes of Lynn Chandnois, Jack Butler, Dick Hoak, Jack Lambert (yes, Wexell scored a rare interview with Lambert), Dwayne Woodruff, Bubby Brister, Kevin Greene, Hines Ward and Ben Roethlisberger (among others) would.

Which isn’t to say that these are the only books worth investing the time to read. From Dawn of a New Steel Age, to the Ones that Hit the Hardest, to the other books mention, there’s something their for Steelers fans of any era to enjoy.

So take time out and vote for your favorites and do it quickly as we’ll be closing the poll before the sun sets on the summer, hopefully making way for a fall and winter that sees the Steel Curtain Rise once again!

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From Black to Gold: A Pittsburgh Steelers Transformation

From Black to Gold

The title feigns simplicity. At a glance one quickly concludes that Tim Gleason’s 260 page volume simply covers everything Steelers, from Black to Gold.

But From Black to Gold tells a more profound story, lending its title deeper significance.

Perhaps it’s appropriate then that I read the book on a trip to Uruguay that included a day in Piriapolis, the city founded by Francisco Piria the New World’s most famous Alchemist.

Why you ask?

  • Because medieval Alchemists sought to turn lead into gold.

While Gleason never mentions Alchemy, he might as well have, because one of the most remarkable transformations in sports history – the metamorphosis of the Pittsburgh Steelers from a 40 year perennial loser into North America’s most prestigious professional sports franchise is From Black to Gold’s tale.

He Knows Enough to Write a Book…

How often do we hear, “So-and-So knows enough to write a book…”? Perhaps no one ever told Gleason that, but he separated himself from the pack by having the guts to go out and self-publish his own book on the Pittsburgh Steelers.

I first found Gleason’s work, under the pseudonym of Mary Rose, on Behind the Steel Curtain, one of the net’s best, if not simply the best fan-based Steelers sites (full disclosure, I am an occasional contributor to BTSC.)

Mary Rose first caught my attention with a retelling of the Rocky Blier story that was at once fresh and engaging. Since then he’s told and retold many stories of Steelers Nation in prose that always captivates.

If you seek an example look no futher than his article on the Immaculate Reception. All of us know the story, but the hair on everyone’s neck will stand straight up by the time you’re done with Gleason’s rendition.

The quality of Gleason’s writing in From Black to Gold is perhaps a smidge bit below the standard he sets for himself at Behind the Steel Curtain, but he did not alter his style explaining, “I only know how to write one way, so whatever and wherever I write, it’s pretty much the same style,” although he does concede that “There is a difference in the way you write based upon the subject matter.”

All of which simply means that prose of From Black to Gold is good or very good, and it is certainly well above the watered-down mushy middle schoolesque writing that plagues too many sports books.

Pittsburgh’s Story. The Steelers Story. Our Story.

The Pittsburgh Steelers count themselves as one of the NFL’s most storied franchises, anchored by a wide-spread and fiercely loyal fan base. Steelers Nation faces no shortage of reading material. A simple search for “Steelers Books” on Amazon.com brings back 468 results.

  • Storytellers have spun and re-spun the yarns that comprise the Steelers 79 years countless times.

Gleason follows in step, telling stories of World War II’s Stegals, Johnny Unitas getting cut, Jack Lambert’s confrontation with Chuck Noll over a short-lived health-food kick one summer at St. Vincents, and the all-important inclusion of Bill Nunn Sr. into the Steelers scouting department.

  • What then, sets From Black to Gold apart?

From Black to Gold stands apart from other Steelers literature because Tim Gleason narrates it with his own voice.

The first rule they teach in Journalism 101 is “Never Make Yourself Part of the Story.” Tim Gleason breaks this rule with relish throughout From Black to Gold.

Into each of the Steelers well-trod stories, Gleason weaves tales from his life, and that of his family. Don’t be fooled. Not all of these anecdotes end happily. In fact, one of the Steelers greatest moments, perhaps the franchise’s pivotal play, happened just two weeks after his family suffered a terrible tragedy.

But if you’re reading this, you’ll understand how that lends Gleason’s narrative both depth and authenticity. The Steelers hold great importance for all of us, and key moments in Steelers history not only remind us of our Beloved Black and Gold’s glories or failures but also serve as touchstones for remembering personal aspects of our lives that happened to coincide with events on the gridiron.

For example, Gleason shares how watching the late John Henry Johnson upset the mighty 1964 Cleveland Browns served as a key bonding moment between him and his father.

A generation later, he tells of how his daughter Mary Rose grew into a natural affinity for the Steelers, and he relives how watching the Steelers shocking upset of the Colts in the 2005 playoffs served as an important bonding moment between him and his daughter.

Such stories bring back my own memories, such as my 79 year old Argentine father-in-law staying up late in solidarity to watch Super Bowl XL, his first American football game. As nice as that was, it paled to the richness of enjoying the glory of Super Bowl XLIII in Buenos Aires with my Argentine wife. Likewise, the back injury my wife suffered while in Brazil during Super Bowl XLV left me with no need to be reminded that “it was just a football game.”

Fresh Insights Gleamed from Old Stories

From Black to Gold goes beyond simply repackaging the Steelers experience from Gleason’s view point. Very few will fail to learn something new while reading it.

Do you know why players like Len Dawson and Earle (Greasy) Neal get listed (in lower case letters) as part of the Steelers Hall of Fame contingent while Bobby Layne of Detroit Lions glory joins Joe GreeneJohn Stallworth et. al. in all upper case letters?

For decades I’d seen this in Steelers Media guides, and figured that some over zealous Steelers PR guy pulled a fast one by in claiming Layne was one of their own. Alas I was wrong, and I learned why reading Gleason’s book.

People under 40, such me, likely grew up needing to be convinced that the Steelers were atrocious during their first 4 decades. Could things have been different? Gleason convincingly making the case for a baker’s dozen of could have, would have, should have been history changers in a poignant chapter titled “If Only They Had Stayed.”

Everyone knows the story of Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel, and how proceeds of it sales benefit a home for the developmentally disabled in Western Pennsylvania. All of us have our superstitions about both how to use this talisman for greatest effect, as well as excusing it in the face of inconvenient truths.

But do you know why opposing players might really want to think twice about abusing the Terrible Towel? Gleason spins a yarn of players who’ve abused the golden towel at their own peril – the record is so consistent that it’s hard to write these off as mere coincidence.

Believe it or not, men whose names were not Noll, Cowher or Tomlin did once coach the Steelers. Gleason goes to the trouble of rating the seven of them who lasted more than a season – the only such rating I know of in existence.

Gleason devotes a chapter to stories on how he acquired a memorabilia/autograph collection that would be the envy of any Steelers fan. He’s got two Steelers helmets, one Black, one Gold, adorned by autographs of everyone from a member of the Steelers first squad in 1933 to players who started in Super Bowl XLV.

A Personal Primer on the Pittsburgh Steelers

From Black to Gold exemplifies the fact that you can tell a complete and compelling story in just a few words. Gleason begins his tale by recounting his meeting with Ray Kemp, the first African American NFL player and a member of the inaugural 1933 Pittsburgh Pirates squad, and then Gleason takes the reader through to the end of the first decade of the 21st century.

If Gleason’s book is complete, it is not all-inclusive. It contains very little on the Steelers of the ‘80’s, a period about which I was hoping to learn more.

Likewise material from the 1990’s is surprisingly thin, especially when one considers this was a decade where Pittsburgh returned to contender status. This represents a deliberate decision by Gleason as he explains “but I didn’t want to give equal time just to give equal time. There really was no correlation between the team being good and the amount of ink I used.”

Those who cut their teeth as Steelers fans during the Cowher-power inspired renaissance of the 1990’s will likely quibble that Gleason did not rank the Alfred Papunu AFC Championship loss more prominently on his list of playoff heart breaks.

While Gleason empathizes to some degree, he reminds us that the ’95 49ers team won the Super Bowl that year explaining: “For some reason, knowing that San Francisco would be the next opponent, that loss didn’t hurt as much as some others.”

While From Black to Gold is many ways a first-person story told by Gleason, he meticously researched the book admitting “My memory gets distorted with time. It was amazing how many things were a bit different than what I remembered.”

Beyond his own research, Gleason shares that he sent a manuscript to be vetted by the man he calls Mr. Steeler aka Dick Hoak, and was impressed that the only error Hoak found in 80,000 words was the fact it was in Palm Springs, and not in San Diego, that Frank Sinatra enjoyed his induction into Franco’s Italian Army.

A number of good Steelers history books have hit the market over the past few years. Dan Rooney’s self-titled autobiography and Art Rooney Jr. Ruanaidh provide an excellent inside view. The Ones Who Hit the Hardest by Chad Millman and Shawn Coyne tells many of same Steelers stories from the ground up.

From Black to Gold covers much of the same ground, but does in a way that allows it to serve as an almost personalized primer on Pittsburgh Steelers history, making it must read for every serious Steelers fan.

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