Steelers 2017 Draft Needs @ Wide Receiver – Moderate High

My quickly things change. A year ago, even when taking Maratvis Bryant’s latest suspension into account, the Pittsburgh Steelers depth chart looked to be flush at wide receiver.

As fate would have it, Ben Roethlisberger spent the majority of the season having his number 5 and number 6 wide receivers playing for his number 2 and number 3 receivers. While the Steelers have made some free agent moves to shore up their wide receiving corps those having done much to impact the priority status of wide receiver in the impending 2017 NFL Draft.

Steelers 2017 draft needs wide receiver, Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant

Antonio Brown and Martavis Bryant high five in 2015. Photo Credit: Phelan M. Ebenhack, AP Photo via New Pittsburgh Courier

Steelers Depth Chart @ Wide Receiver Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – the Starter

The subheading you see is no misprint, because as it stands the Steelers only have one proven starter at wide receiver and his name is Antonio Brown.

  • Next time someone tries to tell you a six round pick is a wasted pick, remind them of Antonio Brown.

The Steelers of course took Brown in the 6th round of the 2010 NFL Draft and haven’t looked back. Brown was proverbial one of two dogs fighting for the same bone as a rookie, but he came down with the biggest catch in the Divisional Playoff win over the Ravens and again a week later in the AFC Championship win over the Jets.

  • Since then Antonio Brown has established himself as nothing less than the best wide receiver in the NFL.

You can look up all sorts of numbers to justify this claim, but Antonio Brown’s game winner against Baltimore on Christmas Day reveals his greatness in ways numbers could never do justice to.

Steelers Depth Cart @ Wide Receiver Entering the 2017 NFL Draft – Backups

The problem is that the Steelers entered the 2016 playoffs without a viable number 2 wide receiver alongside Brown. Sammie Coates was supposed to occupy that role and looked he might, but then he got hurt. So did Markus Wheaton, who is now in Chicago. Darrius Heyward-Bey got promoted to starter at midseason, and then he got hurt.

All three men played well at critical stretches during the regular season, and they also had their moments in the post season, but ultimately they weren’t quite ready for the bright lights of the AFC Championship matchup against New England.

  • During the off season the Steelers signed Justin Hunter a journeyman wide receiver who has had a solid career, but has never lived up to his status as a 34 overall pick.

The Steelers also have the lingering question about Martavis Bryant. Bryant has served his suspension and applied for reinstatement, but the NFL has not yet cleared him to play for 2017.

Steelers 2017 Draft Need at Wide Receiver

If the Steelers knew that Martavis Bryant would be back AND would keep himself clean and if they Steelers were comfortable that Sammie Coates struggles were solely due to injury, then the priority status of wide receiver for 2017 would probably fall into the category of a luxury pick.Steelers 2016 Draft Needs wide receiver

  • But the Steelers can’t be sure of either of those two things.

And while Eli Rogers made impressive strides, he is still considered more of a slot receiver. The Darrius Heyward-Bey career revival story is a heartening one, but he has yet to produce consistently as a first-line wide receiver.

It is true that Steelers wide receivers, outside of Louis Lipps, Santonio Holmes and Troy Edwards, don’t typically produce much as rookies, but the Steelers need to think beyond the short term and therefore the Steelers 2017 draft need at wide receiver must be considered Moderate-High.

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10 Critical Dan Rooney Decisions that Shaped the Pittsburgh Steelers

As Steelers Nation mourns Dan Rooney’s passing and takes stock of his legacy, Steel Curtain Rising reviews the 10 critical Dan Rooney decisions that shaped the modern Pittsburgh Steelers and continue to impact the franchise to this day.

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Dan Rooney, sitting in front of the Steelers 1st five Lombardi Trophies. Photo Credit: Steeles.com

1965: Accepting Buddyy Parker’s Resignation

Art Rooney Sr. was a noble human being, a terrific odds-maker of horses, and a terrible Pro Football owner. But The Chief’s hire of Buddy Parker was one of his better moves. Parker arrived in Pittsburgh with a 47-23 record with the Detroit Lions which included two NFL Championships.

  • Once in Pittsburgh, Parker led the Steelers to 5 non-losing seasons in 8 tries, and finished with a .520 record.

At that point in the Steelers dismal history, such a record should have earned Parker a bust on the franchise’s Rushmore wall. But as Dan Rooney observed in his self-titled autobiography, “Parker could be unpredictable on and off the field.” He had no use for rookies and consequently traded away draft picks in favor of veteran players.

Buddy Parker, Dan Rooney fires Buddy Parker,

Buddy Parker as head coach of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Photo Credit: Behind the Steel Curtain

By 1964, Art Rooney Sr. had ceded much of the day-to-day control of the Steelers over to Dan, and Dan warned Buddy Parker not to make cuts or trades without his approval. Parker balked at the order, and often went to The Chief to get what he wanted.

Finally, during the 1965 preseason, Parker wanted to trade Ben McGee (who later went to two Pro Bowls) and Dan refused. Parker offered his resignation, Dan accepted, but asked him to reconsider and discuss the matter in the morning. Dan discussed it with The Chief, and convinced his father this was the way to go. The next morning when Parker threatened to resign, Dan gladly accepted.

  • The Steelers would go 2-12 during the 1965 season with Mike Nixon as their head coach.

But Dan Rooney had put his foot down and made the franchise’s first significant shift away from Art Rooney Sr.’s arbitrary decision making and towards Dan’s methodical mindset.

1966: Luring Bill Nunn Jr. away from the Pittsburgh Courier

Bill Nunn Jr. covered football extensively as a columnist for the Pittsburgh Courier, then one of the most influential black newspapers in the country. But he didn’t devote much coverage to the Steelers, in part because he didn’t like the way the Steelers did business.

Art Rooney Sr. was certainly no racist – Ray Kemp was an original Steeler and the NFL’s first African American player in 1933. But the same cannot be said for some of the other people in his employ (think Bill Austin).

When Dan Rooney learned of Nunn’s attitude, he asked for a one-on-one meeting, and convinced Nunn to begin working as a scout for the Steelers on a part-time basis beginning in 1966.

Bill Nunn Jr., Bill Nunn Steelers, Bill Nunn Steelers draft room

Bill Nunn inside the Steelers draft war room. Photo Credit: SteelersGab.com

By 1969, Bill Nunn was working as a full time scout for the Steelers. While Paul Brown had been one of the few NFL coaches to actively scout African American players prior to the civil rights era, Bill Nunn had an extensive network of connections to the Historically Black Colleges. Those connections paid off in the form of Ernie Holmes, Joe Gilliam, Glen Edwards, Frank Lewis, Donnie Shell, L.C. Greenwood, Mel Blount, and John Stallworth.

  • Note, you have two Hall of Famers and at least one (L.C. Greenwood) should be Hall of Famers and perhaps a fourth (Donnie Shell.)

Dan Rooney’s views on racial equality were founded in his deeply rooted sense of justice and his decision to hire Bill Nunn at a time when there were few, if any African American scouts, coaches or front office personnel in the game, symbolized the Steelers commitment to treating everyone fairly and judging them on their contribution to the team, regardless of where they came from, what their last name was or what they looked like.

The Six Lombardi Trophies in the lobby at the South Side demonstrate the practical impact of what many would still write off as wistful “idealism.”

1969: Hiring Chuck Noll

This decision speaks for itself. Prior to 1969 the Pittsburgh Steelers set records for professional football futility. Today the Pittsburgh Steelers have more championships than any other franchise.

  • You can trace that shift to the moment Dan Rooney introduced Chuck Noll as head coach in 1969.

On the day he took the job in January 1969, Chuck Noll proclaimed that “Losing has nothing to do with geography.” Ten years later, rival Houston Oiler’s coach Bum Philip lamented that “The road to the Super Bowl runs through Pittsburgh.”

Ironically, both men and both statements were absolutely right.

1986: Firing Art Rooney Jr. as Head of the Scouting Department

Dan Rooney stuck with Chuck Noll through a very mediocre stretch in the 1980’s, just as he stood behind Bill Cowher despite The Chin’s chronic stumbles in AFC Championship games. More than a few talking heads took that as a sign that Dan Rooney was “soft.”

  • What they failed realize is that the so-called softie Dan Rooney made a tough as nails decision in 1986 to fire his brother Art Rooney Jr. as head of scouting.
Dan Rooney, Art Rooney Jr.

Dan Rooney and his brother Art Rooney Jr. at St. Vincents in Latrobe. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

The quality of the Steelers drafting took a nose dive in the latter half of the 1970’s and Pittsburgh’s drafting didn’t get any better as the Steelers drafting position dropped as trips to the playoffs became rare in the 80s. There are a lot of reasons for this, and it would be horrendously unfair to scapegoat Art Rooney Jr. for the decline.

  • But it is also clear that by the mid-1980’s Chuck Noll and Art Rooney Jr. could no longer effectively function as a team.

That forced Dan Rooney into a terrible decision – do you fire your brother or do you fire the man that you and your wife respect so much you’d trust him to raise your kids? Dan opted to fire his brother, dropping the hammer in January 1986. In his 1993 must read book Dawn of a New Steel Age, Ed Bouchette concluded that firing Art Rooney Jr. didn’t improve communication between Chuck Noll and the scouting department.

Perhaps the move wasn’t a panacea, but Chuck Noll did pick future Hall of Famers Rod Woodson and Dermontti Dawson in his next two drafts. And his next three drafts brought Hardy Nickerson, Greg Lloyd, Thomas Everett, Merril Hoge, John Jackson, Carnell Lake and Jerry Olsavsky to the Steelers.

  • Anyone of those players represents an improvement over any player not named Louis Lipps that the Steelers drafted between 1984 and 1986.

Art Rooney Sr. was a man of integrity whose ability to treat everyone he met with dignity, kindness and respect was legendary. He passed those qualities on to his kids, but he did so with the admonition to “…never let them mistake your kindness for weakness.”

Dan Rooney was a kind man but a tough man, tough enough to fire his own brother.

1988: Managing the Christmas Coaching Crisis with Chuck Noll

In 1988 Steelers finished at 5-11, giving them their worst season since 1970. Chuck Noll himself quipped that his team would struggle to beat a grade school team. After one particularly egregious loss, Dan Rooney decried the “Stupid play calling.”

That 1988 Steelers squad set several new standards for franchise ineptitude, but Dan Rooney had enough wisdom to see he needed a surgeon’s scalpel and not a sledgehammer to set things right. The ’88 Steelers had, after all, finished 3-1 after Thanksgiving and prior to that tested several playoff teams to the wire.

  • Rooney determined that several assistant coaches, including Chuck Noll’s favorite Jed Hughes, had to go.

This was the first time Dan Rooney had never questioned one of Noll’s staffing decisions. Noll resisted Rooney when they discussed the subject before the season, and after Christmas The Emperor went as far as to inform his assistants he that was intent on resigning. Joe Greene alerted Rooney to Noll’s intentions, and Rooney and Noll agreed to continue discussions.

Dan Rooney, Chuck Noll, Chuck Noll Hall of Fame

Dan Rooney and Chuck Noll at Noll’s Hall of Fame induction in 1993. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Noll ultimately agreed to fire several assistants, although he saved a job or two in the process per Ed Bouchette’s reporting, and Dan Rooney in turn offered to make him a lifetime employee of the team.

  • Dan Rooney’s deft handling of a delicate situation remains important for several reasons.

First, he proved that “The Steelers Way” – a middle path between the extremes that normally govern most franchise operations – worked. Second, he also showed that it was possible to honor loyalty and tradition while forcing difficult changes. Third, move also saw the elevation of Tom Donahoe’s profile in the organization, which would be critical to the Steelers success in the 1990’s.

1992: Hiring Bill Cowher

NFL owners face a daunting task when forced to replace a legendary NFL coach. There are a lot more Richie Petitbons and Ray Handleys than there are Jimmy Johnsons. But replacing a legend was just what Dan Rooney needed to do after Chuck Noll stepped down on December 26th 1991.

Rooney left the day-to-day mechanics of the search to Tom Donahoe, but the Steelers employed a methodical approach that saw the Steelers interview well over a dozen candidates. Rooney wanted, although he didn’t insist on, a candidate who had a link to the city. He also made it clear he didn’t want to consider re-tread coaches.

  • The process of course ended with Dan Rooney selecting Crafton native Bill Cowher.

The move proved, once again, that Dan Rooney was an owner who was capable of moving outside of his comfort zone. Chuck Noll was about as stoic as an NFL head coach can be, while Bill Cowher was an extrovert’s extrovert.

Dan Rooney, Bill Cowher, Bill Cowher and Dan Rooney

Bill Cowher and Dan Rooney after Cowher’s signing as Steelers head coach in 1992. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Likewise, Rooney’s decision dispensed with any illusion that sentimentality guided his decision making. Joe Greene had entered the process as a favorite, but Rooney set aside the tremendous affection and respect he holds for Joe Greene, and determined that Mean Joe wasn’t ready to be a head coach.

While some fans might still insist that Dan Rooney was too patient with Bill Cowher’s repeated AFC Championship losses, a little 20/20 hindsight shows that Bill Cowher’s ability to make it that far with a rookie quarterback once and Kordell Stewart twice is a testament to Cowher’s coaching acumen.

The Steelers won more games during Bill Cowher’s tenure than any other NFL team and of course brought the Lombardi Trophy back to Pittsburgh in Super Bowl XL.

2000: Replacing Tom Donahoe with Kevin Colbert

As hinted above, Tom Donahoe certainly deserves more credit than he gets for the Steelers reclaiming the mantel of contender in the 1990’s. In the days before Heinz Field was built, the Steelers struggled to compete in free agency. Tom Donahoe helped map out the Steelers strategy of resigning key free agents before their contracts expired, and he uncovered under the radar free agency signings such as Kevin Greene, John Williams and Ray Seals.

Tom Donahoe, Tom Modark, Dan Rooney, Bill Cowher, Steelers 1992 draft room

Tom Donahoe, Tom Modark, Dan Rooney and Bill Cowher in the Steelers 1992 draft room. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Likewise, Donahoe’s ability to find mid and late round draft gems allowed the Steelers to continually reload in the face of annual free agent exoduses of the mid-90’s.

  • But, as the breakdown between Noll and Art Rooney Jr. illustrated, having a great coach and a great front office matters not if the two men don’t get along.

Bill Cowher and Tom Donahoe worked well together at the beginning, but their relationship quickly deteriorated. The rift became public after Fog Bowl II and, by 1999, they were barely speaking to each other. Dan Rooney had to make a choice, and he chose Cowher over Donahoe, a move that was extremely unpopular both inside and outside the South Side.

  • For the record, my own first reaction was that Rooney had chosen the wrong man.

But Tom Donahoe floundered as president of the Buffalo Bills, while Kevin Colbert gave Cowher his second wind.

Want to know why the Steelers were champions in the 00’s but only contenders in the ‘90’s? Look no further than Kevin Colbert’s 15-1-1 record with first round draft picks and his uncanny ability to uncover undrafted rookie free agents such as Willie Parker and James Harrison. Clearly, Dan Rooney knew more than his critics.

2004: Drafting Ben Roethlisberger

After the 2002 season, the Steelers thought they had a Super Bowl quarterback in Tommy Maddox. While Maddox struggled in 2003, quarterback wasn’t perceived as a major area of need heading into the 2004 NFL Draft.

And, when the Steelers turn came to draft, the focus was on picking Arkansas tackle Shawn Andrews. But Rooney, haunted by the ghosts of the 1983 draft and the team’s two decade struggle to replace Terry Bradshaw, steered the conversation toward Ben Roethlisberger.

Like his choice of Chuck Noll, this decision speaks for itself. There are 3 quarterbacks in this era who wear multiple Super Bowl rings. Roethlisberger is one of them for a reason.

2007: Signing Off on Mike Tomlin’s Hire

You’ll find no shortage of fans in Steelers Nation who’ll disagree with this one. They’re entitled to their opinions of course. The facts however speak for themselves.

  • Taking over a Super Bowl contender is no sure bet to success (just ask Ray Handley or Mike Martz for that matter.)

But Mike Tomlin took an 8-8 2006 Steelers squad and brought home an AFC North Division title in his first season, and bagged Lombardi Number Six in his second in Super Bowl XLIII.

Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin, Dan Rooney, Super Bowl XLIII

Ben Roethlisberger, Mike Tomlin and Dan Rooney celebrate the Steelers victory in Super Bowl XLIII. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Two years later he got the team back to the Super Bowl but fell short. Since then has overseen a rebuilding effort without going under .500, and included and an almost heroic turnaround from a disastrous 2-6 start in 2013.

By all accounts, it was Art Rooney II who made the decision to hire Mike Tomlin in 2008, but Dan Rooney signed off on the choice.

2009: Accepting the Ambassadorship to Ireland

Dan Rooney’s decision to accept his country’s call to service at age 77 to work as the United States ambassador to Ireland speaks volumes about his character and his commitment to serving the greater good.

  • But it also had an important impact on the Steelers.
Ben Roethlisberger, Ashley Roethlisberger, Patrica Rooney, Dan Rooney

The Rothlisbergers and the Rooney’s stand outside the US ambassador’s residence in Ireland. Photo Credit: Steelers.com

Accepting the ambassadorship meant that Dan Rooney had to relinquish any formal role with the Steelers and the NFL. While Art Rooney II had been given the role of “President” of the Steelers in 2004 and had been groomed to take control of the team in since the early 1990’s, he would now need to go it alone.

  • Art Rooney, in effect, had a chance to do what few in his position would ever get a chance to do: He got to test drive running the Steelers on his own.

When asked about Steelers issues while he was ambassador to Ireland, Dan Rooney routinely rebuffed and redirected questions to his son. While that was to be expected, if press accounts are accurate, Rooney really did remove himself from decision making.

He did, however, resume his role as Chairman in 2012, and you can imagine that he and Art II had plenty of discussions over what went right and what went wrong during his absence and this can only help Art Rooney II make better decisions moving forward.

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Did the 30-23 1985 Steelers Redskins Loss “Officially” Begin 80’s Mediocrity?

[Editors Note:  Tony Defeo expands on Steelers history vs Washington Redskins ahead of Pittsburgh’s 2016 opener on Monday Night Football @ FedEx Field]

Redskins 30, Steelers 23, November 24, 1985, Three Rivers Stadium 

After reaching the AFC Championship game a year earlier, the Steelers were limping along over the first half of the 1985 season, with a 3-5 record.Quarterback Mark Malone literally was limping, after injuring his foot in a loss to the Bengals in Week 8 and would be out of action an indefinite amount of time.

However, Pittsburgh responded behind veteran David Woodley and rattled off three-straight victories to improve to 6-5. Much like a year earlier, when the Steelers won the old AFC Central with a 9-7 record, it wasn’t going to take a double-digit win total to repeat as division champions. Unfortunately, Woodley came down with a stomach virus prior to the Week 12 match-up with the Redskins at Three Rivers Stadium, and third-stringer Scott Campbell was thrust into the spotlight.

1985 steelers redskins loss, 1985 Steelers, 1985 steelers quarterbacks, mark malone, scott campbell, david woodley

NFL.com rated the ’85 Steelers quarterbacks as 5th worst trio ever

Things didn’t start off well, as Ken Jenkins returned the opening kickoff 95 yards down to the Pittsburgh three-yard line. Running back George Rogers finished things off by plunging in from the one-yard line to make it 7-0, Redskins before most in attendance had even found their seats.

After a 22-yard Gary Anderson field goal cut Washington’s deficit to four, the special teams onslaught continued for the visitors, when Otis Wonsley blocked a Harry Newsome punt, and the Redskins took over at the Pittsburgh 19. Moments later, Jay Schroeder, like Campbell, making his first career start, found tight end Clint Didier for an 18-yard touchdown pass to extend Washington’s lead to 14-3.

Pittsburgh trailed 17-3 in the second quarter, when Campbell threw two quick touchdown passes–one to receiver Louis Lipps for five yards, and one to running back Rich Erenberg for nine-yards–to tie the score at 17.

However, an interception by Campbell in the final moments of the first half along with a personal foul on defensive lineman Keith Willis paved the way for a 39-yard field goal for Mosley, and the Redskins led by three at the break.

Running back John Riggins scored on a one-yard touchdown in the third quarter to give the Redskins a 10-point lead. Pittsburgh’s offense could only muster a couple of Anderson field goals in the second half, as Campbell threw two more picks, and Washington held on for a 30-23 victory.

For the day, Campbell completed 15 of 25 passes for 224 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions. “Its a tough situation to be thrown in there like that, but you’ve got to be ready to play,” said Campbell of his first career start on very short notice. 

  • The loss dropped the Steelers to 6-6, and they never recovered, finishing out of the playoffs with a 7-9 record (their first losing season in 14 years).

Whenever I think back on the early-to-mid ’80s Steelers who were still trudging along after their Super Bowl years, the 1985 Steelers Redskins loss seems signal the turning-point of the 1980’s Steelers from still competitive team to a team that flirted with being downright abysmal….

…Over the next three seasons, the Steelers team would finish with records of 6-10, 6-6 and 5-11 in non-strike games over the next three seasons. The slide into mediocrity really did start with the 1985 Steelers Redskins loss.

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Steelers Throwback Thursday: Mark Malone’s 5 Touchdown Game vs. the Colts in 1985

Three Pittsburgh Steelers quarterbacks have thrown for at least five touchdowns in a game. Terry Bradshaw is obviously one of them. Ben Roethlisberger is another (Big Ben in fact has done it four times). But who was the third?

Surely someone like the legendary Bobby Layne, right? And if it wasn’t him, certainly it was Neil O’Donnell, Kordell Stewart or maybe even a gunslinger like Tommy Maddox, right? Nope.

Try Mark Malone.

mark malone, steelers, 5 touchdowns, former steelers quarterbacks

Former Steelers quarterback Mark Malone in 1986; Photo Credit: Rick Stewart/Getty Images

  • Yes, you read correctly, Mark Malone once threw 5 touchdown passes in game.

Mark Malone, who played for the Steelers for eight years in the 1980s and was the team’s primary starting quarterback from  mid-way through the ’84 campaign until the Steelers traded Malone to the Chargers (for an 8th round pick) following the ’87 season, was never a fan-favorite based the fact that he had to replace a future Hall of Famer and, obviously, his poor career stats.

Malone Not Alone in  Succeeding the Blond Bomber…

Malone was the Steelers first round pick in the 1980 NFL Draft, just months after they won Super Bowl XIV, their 4th championship in six years behind the legendary Terry Bradshaw.  Was Malone, a magnificent athlete who passed for 3,388 yards and rushed for another 1,344 during his three years at Arizona State,  going to be groomed as the heir apparent to the Blond Bomber?

  • It didn’t necessarily seem so at the time.

As Malone explained to New York Times in January of 1985 as he prepared to face Miami in the 1984 AFC Championship game, how could he ever replace Bradshaw, who was just 31 years old when the youngster was drafted?

When I was drafted by the Steelers, friends back home in San Diego asked, ‘How will you ever get a chance to play with Bradshaw there?

But, again, Malone was so physically gifted that when Lynn Swann was injured heading into a Week 10 match-up in Seattle during the ’81 season, Steelers head coach Chuck Noll asked him to play wide-receiver. While Malone only caught one pass, it went for a 90-yard touchdown (a franchise record that stood for years).

  • Unfortunately for Malone, he injured his knee in the game against the Seahawks that would require surgery in the offseason and force him to miss all of 1982.

Even after Bradshaw retired following the 1983 season and Cliff Stoudt departed for the USFL, the Steelers acquired David Woodley from the Dolphins prior to the 1984 campaign, and he ultimately beat-out Malone for the starting job.

But, David Woodley wasn’t up to the job, and Malone became the permanent starter in the second half of the season, as he led the ’84 Steelers to five victories, a 9-7 record and Chuck Noll’s last AFC Central Division title.

Among  those victories was an upset over the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers in Week 7 (San Francisco’s only loss in ’84 and the 1st of two Noll/Malone wins over Walsh/Montana) and a 52-24 thrashing of the Chargers in Week 13 at old Three Rivers Stadium; in the blow-out win, Malone passed for 253 yards and four touchdowns and, according to his Wikipedia page, became the first quarterback in team history to complete over 80 percent of his passes in a game (18 of 22).

  • Other notable performances during the ’84 campaign occurred in the postseason.

Mark Malone helped the Steelers become the first road team to win a playoff game in Denver, after a 24-17 victory over the Broncos in the divisional round.  One week later, he threw for 312 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions, as Pittsburgh fell to the Dolphins, 45-28, in the AFC Championship game in Miami’s Orange Bowl.

1985 Steelers Appeared Poised for Greatness

While Mark Malone didn’t make anyone forget about Terry Bradshaw during the second half of the ’84 season, he certainly did enough to earn the starting nod moving forward, providing the perfect backdrop for Mark Malone’s shining moment.

  • To understand this, you’ve got to understand the context in which the Steelers started the 1985 season.

The 85 Steelers were a new team with a mostly revamped roster that included an exciting, young receiver named Louis Lipps, 1984’s NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year.  And this retooled roster had renewed Pittsburgh’s enthusiasm with three-straight playoff-appearances and provided objective evidence that the Steel Curtain was poised to rise again.

  • Pittsburgh opened the ’85 campaign at home against the Colts on September 8.

Malone, coming off several impressive performances the year before, had the game of his life in-front of a sell-out crowd, completing 21 of 30 passes for 287 yards and five touchdowns, as he tied Bradshaw’s single-game record just one year after he retired.

To add to Malone’s career-day, he also scored on a one-yard touchdown run giving him a hand in 6 touchdowns in a 45-3 blow-out victory.

  • According to the young quarterback, whom the Colts defenders failed to sack all day, it was a total team effort.

As Malone clarified to the UPI after the game:

I thought I had a good game. But as I’ve said in the past–and I think it’s extremely important–when two receivers run good routes and those guys in front are giving you time and you’re running the ball, well, you’re going to have good days.

Those two receivers Malone was referring to were Lipps, who caught nine passes for 154 yards and  three touchdowns, and the legendary John Stallworth, who also tallied a score. Chuck Noll’s Steelers had struggled in the early 80’s, but Malone’s 5 touchdown game on opening day vs. the Colts, Pittsburgh appeared poised to dominate the second half of the decade.

  • Unfortunately, the Steelers finished 7-9 and suffered their first losing season since 1971; as for Malone, he only played in 10 games in ’85 due to an injury.

Malone started a combined 26 games over the next two seasons, but the playoff-less trend continued, as Pittsburgh failed to quality in 1986 and again in 1987. Whatever scorn the fans initially felt for the embattled quarterback intensified during these years, as he threw  just 21 touchdown passes to a whopping 37 interceptions.

Those fans, and many reporters, who hardly criticized Mark Malone during his time in Pittsburgh certainly had Just Cause. In eight seasons with the Steelers, Malone had 60 touchdown passes to 81 interceptions and a passer-rating of 50.2.

  • In fact, in his final season as a starter, Malone had 46.4 passer rating (yes, that forty six point four)

Malone, who has had long-lasting success as a sportscaster and sports personality after retiring, never had a career even approaching that of a decent NFL quarterback.

But on opening day of the 1985 regular season Mark Malone authored in one of the most underrated quarterback performances in Pittsburgh Steelers history. For that he should be proud.

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Where to Rank Antwaan Randle El Among Steelers Wide Receivers?

Asked and Answered” is one of Steelers.com’s most popular features which sees Bob Labriola answer questions from Steelers Nation. The feature is the successor to “Overview” page of Steelers Digest, where Labriola would answer questions with equal parts wisdom and sarcasm.

Hall of Famers Lynn Swann and John Stallworth topped the list – no brainers there, followed by Antonio Brown and Hines Ward. Again, two more no brainers, even if it’s a little wired to have an active player on such a list. Then he offered a surprise “…and for the last spot I’m going to go with Louis Lipps over Santonio Holmes and/or Antwaan Randle El.”

Antwaan Randle El, steelers, falcons, steelers wide receiver rankings

Antwaan Randle El stretches for yard in Steelers 2010 season opener vs. Falcons; Photo credit: Jared Wickerham, Getty Images

The choice of Louis Lipps earns the full-throated support of this site. Louis Lipps statistics might be pedestrian by 2016’s standards, but Lipps was an All-Pro Caliber receiver playing in a run-oriented offense and forced to catch most of his balls from Mark Malone and David Woodley as opposed to benefitting from having a Terry Bradshaw or a Ben Roethlisberger throwing his way.

  • Louis Lipps is also the Steelers 4th leading wide out in terms of yards and catches.

Throwing Santonio Holmes name into the conversation for the 5th slot makes sense, not on overall career production as a Steeler, but because he was the Steelers MVP in the 2008 playoffs, and well…

….even if he’d only made that one catch in Super Bowl XLIII, ‘Tone would belong in the discussion.

  • But does Antwaan Randle El belong in this conversation?

Steel Curtain Rising holds Antwaan Randle El in high esteem. Randle El arrived as part of the Steelers 2002 draft class, and made an immediate impact as a wide receiver and kick returner. His skill as a quarterback was Inspector Gadget aka Mike Mularkey’s dream. While most of his time was spent as a number three or slot receiver, when asked to take over the starting role, Randle El was up to it.

And no one in Steelers Nation need be reminded of how Ken Whisenhunt deployed Randle El versatility with lethal effectiveness in Super Bowl XL.

  • But does Randle El deserve consideration as the Steelers 5th, or even 6th best wide receiver of all time?

Respectfully, Steel Curtain Rising argues that there several Steelers wide receivers who should rank ahead of Antwaan Randle El. Who? The first two names that jump to mind are Plaxico Burress and Yancey Thigpen. Burress is 9th on the Steelers All-Time receiving list whereas Randle El is 23rd. Thigpen is 14th on the list and caught 3 times as many touchdowns.

What about Mike Wallace? Wallace career production is actually above ‘Tone’s, but for my money both Santonio Holmes playoff production and perhaps Antwaan Randle El puts them above Wallace.

Then there is one player who played before Chuck Noll’s time who also deserves consideration, Buddy Dial. Matthews.

Buddy Dial played in Pittsburgh from 1959 to 1963, playing 12 and 14 game seasons and in an age when a run first mentality dominated the entire league, yet he still ranks as the Steelers 8th leading receiver. Actually, Dial is sixth if you limit the list to wide receivers.

  • So where to rank Antwaan Randle El among Steelers wide receivers?

Steel Curtain Rising doesn’t honestly know. Numbers don’t like but sometime statistics deceive. Dwight Stone is ahead of Randle El on the Steelers all time receiving list, and if you were picking All-Time Draft Steelers draft, would you pick Stone over Randle El? Neither would I. Charles Johnson also ranks ahead of Randle El but I’d think twice about picking him over Randle El.

At the end of the day, I’m undecided about where Antwaan Randle El ranks among Steelers wide receivers, but I do know that I’d put at least put Plaxico Burress , Yancey Thigpen, Buddy Dial and perhaps Mike Wallace ahead of him.

Where do you think he belongs? Take a moment to leave a comment.

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Remembering Weegie Thompson – One Tough 1980’s Pittsburgh Steelers Wide Receiver

When I was a kid, my grandfather would rattle off obscure names of former Pittsburgh Steelers from the ’40s, ’50s and ’60s. These players obviously weren’t stars, but to him, they were favorites that he had a soft-spot in his heart for.

  • Perhaps today, there are 40-somethings who grew up in the 1980s, telling their kids about this former Steelers receiver named Weegie Thompson.
weegie thompson, steelers, wide receiver,

Weegie Thompson Steelers wide out 1984-89

Willis “Weegie” Thompson played his college football at Florida St., before arriving in Pittsburgh as a fourth round pick in the 1984 NFL Draft.  During a three-year college career, Thompson caught just 41 passes for 711 yards and five touchdowns.

  • But 31 of those catches, 502 of those yards and three of those touchdowns occurred during his final year, which probably helped his draft-status immensely.

It also didn’t hurt that Thompson stood at 6′ 6″ and weighed 212 pounds–measurables that would equal the playing field for most unheralded college receivers looking to make it at the pro level.

Thompson was part of the same class that produced Louis Lipps. After a rookie season that included 17 receptions for 291 yards and three touchdowns, playing behind both Lipps and the legendary John Stallworth, it may have looked like the future was bright for the young Thompson.

  • Unfortunately for Thompson, he never broke through to the top of the depth chart and never caught more than 17 passes in any given season.

Thompson went on to play just six seasons with the Steelers, before getting on with his life’s work following the 1989 Steelers story book season. As the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette pointed out in a story about Thompson in 2003, maybe if he had played 15 years later, he would have been utilized as more of a downfield weapon, instead of primarily as a blocker for the always conservative Chuck Noll.

weegie thompson, louis lipps, steelers wide receivers 1980's

Getty Images, Pittsburgh Post Gazette. Steelers wide receivers Louis Lipss and Weegie Thompson

But as Thompson told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette then, he had few regrets about his career:

I don’t dwell on it. I was proud to be a member of the Steelers and of the time I spent in Pittsburgh. I played hard and performed to the best of my abilities when I was there. I gave it my best and I’m pretty comfortable with that.

However, while Thompson had a rather obscure career that included just 79 receptions for 1,377 yards and 11 touchdowns, thanks to his abilities as a blocker, he was able to gain lasting respect from one of the all-time greats, Hall of Fame safety Ronnie Lott.

Thompson’s play during the Steelers’ famous upset victory over San Francisco in Week 7 of the 1984 season (the only loss by the eventual Super Bowl champion 49ers that year and perhaps Noll’s most impressive post-’70s regular season victory) is mentioned in a SFGate article about Lott from 2000.

What follows is a snippet of the article, along with a quote from Lott:

Call it respect–for yourself, for others. It had meaning to Lott. You earned his respect by playing hard and tough, and within the rules. He still fairly gushes when he talks about a journeyman Pittsburgh wide receiver named Weegie Thompson. In Thompson’s rookie season, 1984, the Steelers were the only team to beat the 49ers. One reason they did was by assigning Thompson to block Lott on every play. 

“He blocked my butt all day–and fair,” Lott remembered. “Every play, he came after me. And I respect the hell out of Weegie Thompson to this day. He’s one of the toughest guys I ever played against.”

Some NFL players go on to have Hall of Fame careers (Lynn Swann and John Stallworth), some are borderline (Hines Ward). Others have good careers that may have been better in different eras or under different circumstances (Buddy Dial, Roy Jefferson and Louis Lipps), while some never reach their full potential (Santonio Holmes, Limas Sweed and maybe Martavis Bryant).

But there are countless NFL players who play for a while and end their careers with no legacy.

  • Football doesn’t define them; it’s something they did for a part of their lives.

Weegie Thompson was that kind of football player, but he still left enough of an impression on fans and even peers playing for rivals to be proud of his time with the Steelers and the NFL.

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Antonio Brown, David DeCastro and Bud Dupree Headline Steelers 2015 Regular Season Awards

This classifyiesas “old news” but there was simply too much going on with the holidays to write anything about it, but the Steelers 2015 Regular Season Awards are in, and Antonio Brown, David DeCastro and Bud Dupree lead the way.

Antonio Brown Wins 3rd Steelers MVP Award

Steelers fans can now officially discuss wide receiver Antonio Brown alongside Hall of Famers Jerome Bettis and Rod Woodson and Steelers Hall of Fame hopeful Hines Ward. The Steelers locker room voted Antonio Brown as the team’s MVP for the third time in his career, and that is something that the other three Steelers mentioned have only done.

It is hard to argue with Brown’s selection as Steelers MVP. With 136 receptions, 1836 yards and 10 touchdowns, the only thing that slowed Antonio Brown was a couple of Mike Vick starts. With that said, strong cases could have been made for both Ben Roethlisberger and DeAngelo Williams.

While both players had strong seasons and deserve credit, Brown rightfully wins the highest honor among the Steelers 2015 regular awards.

David DeCastro, Antonio Brown Win All Pro Honors

A few weeks back David DeCastro and Antonio Brown won Pro Bowl honors, and this week the AP took it a step further by naming both men as starters to the 2015 All Pro Team. They were the only Steelers honored, adding to the Steelers 2015 regular season awards.

Brown was also named the AFC’s offensive player of the month, and Steelers place kicker Chris Boswell won AFC Special Teams player of the month honors.

Bud Dupree Win Joe Greene Great Performance Award

Steelers 1st round draft pick linebacker Bud Dupree won the Steelers Joe Greene Great Performance Award, the long way of saying Dupree was the Steelers 2015 rookie of the year.

In recent years it’s been won by players like DeCastro, Marcus Gilbert, Maurkice Pouncey and Le’Veon Bell, who’ve sustained their rookie performance. Other award winners later performance has been less consistent (see Kendrell Bell and 2008’s winner, Patrick Bailey.)

Dupree was labeled as a “project” my many coming out of college. He’s officially made four stats as a rookie, and recorded four sacks, while splitting time with James Harrison, Jarvis Jones, and Arthur Moats.

The arrow appears to be pointed up on Dupree, and at any rate his only real competition for the award would have come from tight end Jesse James, undrafted and/or rookie free agent Roosevelt Nix as the rest of the Steelers 2015 Draft Class has been pretty quiet.

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When Will Antonio Brown Peak? What Steelers Wide Receiver History Reveals

The Pittsburgh Steelers have an unqualified star in Antonio Brown. Kevin Colbert and Mike Tomlin saw enough of him to smash Steelers precedent and offer Brown a second contract after just two seasons.

Antonio Brown is out performing his contract. Brown easily makes the NFL’s top five wide receiver list. Saying he belongs in the top 3 requires no stretch. Neither does it represent a stretch to assert that Antonio Brown is the NFL’s best wide receiver.

Yet, Brown’s compensation ranks 14th compared to his peers. His agent Drew Rosenhaus knows this and wants a new contract. Brown has 3 years remaining on the six year contract he signed in 2011. Kevin Colbert has clarified the Steelers will not renegotiate Brown’s contract. And, in terms of understanding this porblem, this is only the tip of the iceberg when you consider that Brown’s performance may have already peaked….

At What Age Do NFL Wide Receivers Peak?

Steel Curtain Rising has suggested a middle ground, that the Steelers should guarantee the rest of Brown’s contract. That’s a solid suggestion, but only a palliative step, as an article by the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Ray Fittipaldo brings into focus:

Several studies over the years, including one this year by numberfire.com, indicate that receivers reach their peak at 26. Brown turned 27 last month.

That does not mean Brown’s numbers will decline anytime soon. Those same studies show that receivers don’t severely decline until age 32. After age 32, most receivers can’t match the production they enjoyed in their prime years.

The most important number is Brown’s age when his current contract runs out. He will turn 30 in 2018….

Looked at in that light, Drew Rosenhaus defiance appears all the more understandable and the numberfire.com article reveals why. Joseph Juan analyzed the performance of 27 elite wide receivers over the last 15 years and charted their production against their NFL experience and their age. While is Juan’s analysis is detailed and intricate, his conclusions are simple:

  • Most NFL wide receivers peak after 3 seasons and at age 26.

For as encompassing as Juan’s research may be, it included no Pittsburgh Steelers, which is strange because Hines Ward would seem to fit his criteria of having a career that spanned at least six seasons since 2000 and who made at least one Pro Bowl.

So the question is, how closely does the peak performance of Louis Lipps, Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, and Hines Ward, in a word Pittsburgh’s wide receivers conform to Juan’s findings? Let’s take a look.

Louis Lipps Peak Performance

steelers, louis lipps, statistics, career, peak, performance

Louis Lipps peaked early, but rebounded on a high plateau

The Pittsburgh Steelers drafted Louis Lipps with their first round pick in the 1984 NFL Draft making him the last great player picked by Art Rooney Jr.’s scouting department. By today’s standards Louis Lipps, whose career receptions topped out at 59, would not be considered an “elite” wide receiver. But when the Steelers drafted him, the 100 yard catch barrier had only been broken twice.

However, perhaps it’s fair to say that even taking into account the era he played in Louis Lipps was a good but not great receiver, but make no mistake:

  • Louis Lipps could and did do damage as a Steelers wide out.

Before Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace arrived, Lipps and Bubby Brister owned the Steelers long passing record book with Lipps hauling in over 5 passes of over 75 yards.

In terms of Juan’s research, Lipps actually peeked in 1985 his second NFL season, at age 23. Injuries plagued him for the next two years, but in 1988, as if almost on cue, at age 26, Louis Lipps peaked again and continued to perform on a high plateau until turning 29 in 1991. (The Steelers cut Lipps in 1992 during a contract hold out. Lipps played in New Orleans and made 2 catches. The Steelers resigned him in 1993, but Lipps got cut in training camp.)

Lynn Swann’s Peak Performance

steelers, lynn swann, hall of fame, statistics, peak performance

Lynn Swann’s career statistics don’t do justice to his greatness

NFL Hall of Famer Lynn Swann needs no introduction to Steelers Nation. Lynn Swann played as a living legend. Swann’s acrobatic catches in Super Bowl X lead even the most skeptical among us to question whether Swann was an angle instead of a mere mortal.

Indeed, generations after his retirement, you still see folks who weren’t even born when Swann was playing observe a difficult reception and remark, “That was a Lynn Swann catch.”

While concussion concerns cut Swann’s career short, his body of work still lends itself to Juan’s analysis.

  • Again, almost as if on cue, we see that Swann’s best year came in 1978 at age 26.

Unlike the receivers studied by Juan, Swann’s performance dropped off, although his yards-per-catch average other statistics show that Swann remained a downfield threat when healthy.

John Stallworth’s Peak Performance

steelers, john stallworth, statistics, career, hall of fame, peak

John Stallworth’s late career rebound cemented his Hall of Fame status

The Steelers drafted Lynn Swann and John Stallworth together and it was their turnkey talent that allowed Chuck Noll to unleash Terry Bradshaw after the NFL shackled the Steelers defense with the Mel Blount rule.

As Steel Curtain Rising observed in it’s in-depth profile of John Stallworth (click here to read), Swann was often known as the “big play” receiver while Stallworth was a “possession receiver.” In truth, Stallworth was just as much of a big play receiver as Swann.

  • And, in the context of this article, he proves to be very much the exception to Juan’s research.

While Stallworth did post the highest yards-per-catch average at age 26, his best season didn’t come until 1984. Then, at age 32 Stallworth exploded for 80 catches and over 1300 yards, despite that fact that it was David Woodley and Mark Malone who were throwing to him.

Hines Ward’s Peak Performance

steelers, hines ward, statistics, peak, hall of fame

Hines Ward peaked at age 26, but performed at a high level well into his 30’s

Hines Ward universally known and loved in Steelers Nation, and while he’s often described as “a linebacker in a wide receiver’s body” Ward built a Hall of Fame worthy resume out of the brute force generated by his desire and determination.

  • And it was almost as if on cue that Ward peaked in 2002 when at age 26 he caught 112 passes for over 1300 yards

Ward’s performance following was more uneven than Juan’s research would suggest, but one must also factor in the fact that the transition from Tommy Maddox to Ben Roethlisberger conincided with Bill Cowher’s desire to “reestablish the run.” Ward’s performance did perk back up in 2008 and 2009 and didn’t really begin to decline until 2010, although Steel Curtain Rising would argue that even then Ward still continued to make critical catches in ways that numbers don’t measure.

When Will Antonio Brown Peak?

steelers, antonio brown, statistics, peak, contract, joseph juan

If numberfire.com’s Joseph Juan is right, Antonio Brown has already peaked….

Where does all of this leave Antonio Brown? First, with just four other Steelers wide receivers, this sample is far from statically valid. But they played in three very distinct NFL eras, and for wide spectrum of quarterbacks, from Hall of Famers to outright busts to others straddling the average to good continuum.

  • First, the evidence suggests that Antonio Brown has already hit his performance peak.

Past performance does not indicate future result, but Joseph Juan’s data says so, and so does the career trajectory of Swann, Lipps, and Ward, with Stallworth as an outlier. But the data also suggests that the Steelers can expect elite performance from Brown for several more years, and a post-30 resurgence isn’t out of the question.

  • But there’s also a downside: 2 of the 4 Steelers wide outs surveyed (Swann, Lipps) saw their career end abruptly.

Stallworth and Ward continued to play productively well into their 30’s however. But that dichotomy depicts the coin-flip nature of destiny in the NFL – careers can always end on one play.

Steel Curtain Rising has argued that the Steelers should not alter their contract renegotiation stance for Antonio Brown and that position stands. But based on the data, we’ll also say, one more time, the Steelers should guarantee the rest of Antonio Brown’s contract.

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Watch Tower: Kudos for Bouchette on Blount Story, Persistent Steelers Media Guide Error

The Steelers may have reached their bye week, but there’s plenty for the Watch Tower to shine its light on including LeGarrette Blount’s departure,a persistent error in the Steelers media guide, and some kudos for “Matt C. Steel” a contributor to Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider.

Being Blunt on Blount

A glaring negative that shines through the Steelers win over the Titans was LeGarrette Blount’s decision to go AWOL during the game’s final moments. Once the news broke, speculation immediately turned to what action Mike Tomlin would take to discipline him.

The interesting thing from a media analysis stand point, is how the press covered the event. As the Watch Tower has observed, the press that covers the Steelers, generally know more than they print, which isn’t to say they’re remiss in holding back.

But that insider knowledge does influence coverage of news that sees the daylight of public consumption, and Blount going AWOL is a perfect example. For example, at 1:15 am Dale Lolley made this observation:

If Blount did, indeed, leave before the game was completed, that was not a good, or smart, move by him. I’m sure head coach Mike Tomlin will have some kind of punishment for him, even if it’s not made public.

While that’s a reasonable observation, Ed Bouchette of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette clearly outhustled him (and much of the rest of the Steelers press corps.) Theirteen minutes before Lolley pubished the above on his blog entry, Bouchette landed this bombshell:

Blount has been an internal problem for at least a month for the Steelers and sources told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that he is dragging down star halfback Le’Veon Bell, even though that obviously was not the case Monday night when Bell ran 33 times for 204 yards.

Bouchette also offered that one player told him privately that the team should have left Blount in Nashville. While few specifics of how Blount was a “problem” surfaced, Ray Fittipaldo got Antoino Brown, Maurkice Pouncey and Cameron Heyward on the record endorse the decision to cut Blount.

Journalism professors are fond of saying that “the media’s role is to prepare the public for what is to come.” Well, Bouchette didn’t predict the Steelers would cut Blount, when they did it wasn’t a surprise based on his reporting.

The Bud’s for you Mr. Bouchette.

NFL Network Strikes Again?

The Steelers of course needed to replace Blount. Before news broke that Josh Harris was being promoted, speculation turned to available free agents, with Cleveland’s Ben Tate chief among them.

The NFL Network immediately jumped on the story, with Aditi Kinkhabwala tweeting:

Kinkhabwala made her tweet at just before four pm. However, ESPN’s Scott Brown fired back with this about 90 minutes later:

But running back Ben Tate, who was waived by the Browns on Tuesday after falling out of favor in Cleveland, has not drawn any interest from the Steelers, a source told ESPN.

Differing stories in a situation like this isn’t necessarily fodder for the Watch Tower, but Kinkhabwala’s track record with these stories is. Back when the Steelers fired Jack Bicknell, she claimed to have foreseen the move, yet could produce nothing to back up that claim. The Watch Tower commended Dejan Kovacevic for taking her and the NFL Network to task.

  • Brown’s story doesn’t mean that Kinkhabwala didn’t actually talk to someone who told her that the Steelers made inquiries with the Browns about Tate. Such conversations may have taken place.

But the Watch Tower is inclined to believe Brown….

Persistent Error in the Steelers Media Guide

The problem with incorrect facts being reported is that they get repeated, and if it happens often enough conventional wisdom leads them to become accepted as true.

For example, the Steelers traded Huey Richardson at the end of his second training camp (to the Redskins for an 8th round pick), yet more often than not, you’ll see it reported that he was cut.

  • It’s one thing for scribes to get these facts wrong – it’s another when the Steelers themselves are the source of the error. And so it is with the Steelers History section of the Steelers Media Guide.

Page 316 of the 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers Media Guide reads like this:

In 1988 the team suffered through its worst campaign in 19 years with a 5-11 record. The next season got off to an similar start with losses of 51-0 and 41-10 in the first two games as the offense failed to score in the first month of the season…. [Emphasis added.]

Sounds about right doesn’t it? The 1989 Steelers started off in total disaster only to finish in the playoffs. That is true.

But the Steelers offense most certainly did score during the first month.

In fact, Bubby Brister hooked up late in week 2 with Louis Lipps to add window dressing to a blowout. But the Steelers didn’t stop there. Merril Hoge, Tim Worley and Mike Mularkey all scored touchdowns in the ’89 Steelers week 3 upset of the Vikings. The 1989 Steelers scored touchdowns in week 4 vs. the Lions.

  • These facts are all well documented, including in the Pittsburgh Steelers 1990 Media Guide.

Yet year after year, the Steelers PR office keeps reprinting the same mistake. The error first surfaced in 1997. Yours truly wrote a letter (yes, a pen and paper letter) and the next year the error was corrected. But the Steelers PR man moved on after 1998, and the error resurfaced again in 1999 and has remained since then.

In an effort to catch their attention, Santiago Murias, Vice President of the Pittsburgh Steelers Fan Club of Buenos Aires, even sent letters (yes, pen and paper letters) in 2003 and 2004 pointing out the error.

Yet they keep printing it, year after year.

  • For the record, the Steelers offense did once go a month without scoreing a touchdown. That happened in 1990 under Joe Walton.

Perhaps this public calling out will prompt a correction.

5 Minutes of Fame for Matt C. Steel

A few weeks back the Watch Tower looked at the work of Matt C. Steel on Jim Wexell’s Steel City Insider site, complementing him on his detailed, nuanced critique of how and why Todd Haley’s offense was struggling early in the year.

One of the points Steel kept hammering was how effective Ben Roethlisberger was as a quarterback using play action under center.

Late in the game vs. the Titans, Steel got his wish (available 11/23/14, watch now before Goodell’s YouTube police find it):

Sometimes, it is really fun to be right. Here’s to hoping you’re right more often as we close down the season Mr. C. Steel.

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September 7, 2014 Declared “Chuck Noll Day.”

Prologue

Back when the ’88 Steelers were sitting on a 1-6 record , Terry Bradshaw went on national TV to declare that the Steelers lacked talent, and that it was “Time to give Chuck Noll his day” and let him step aside in favor of a new coach….

The Blond Bomber’s suggestion came at the height of the Noll-Bradshaw feud; 26 years have passed since then, but legendary Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Chuck Noll is finally getting his day.

chuck noll terry bradshaw day feud
Noll, Bradshaw don’t see eye to eye

Literally.

Thanks to a joint resolution sponsored by Pennsylvania Senators Bob Casey Jr. and Pat Toomey, Sunday September 7th 2014 will officially be declared “Chuck Noll Day.”

Chuck Noll, who passed away last month at age 82, would doubtlessly not approve. However, it is a fitting day to offer tribute to the Emperor, as it marks the Pittsburgh Steelers 2014 opener, when they will play the Cleveland Browns, who Noll played for as one of Paul Brown’s messenger guards.

Epilogue

…Bradshaw had plenty of company in calling for Noll’s head that week. When prompted to respond to his critics, Noll only replied, “Winning is the only response.”

Rodney Carter exploded for 105 yards on 11 runs, caught two passes including one touchdown, and even completed a pass. Louis Lipps got into the trickery with a 23 yard reverse. Merril Hoge didn’t start, but chalked up 94 yards just the same, and Rod Woodson had a 29 yard interception as the Steelers beat the Broncos 39-21.

Afterwards, Noll joked that he’d gotten the idea for the trick plays in a letter from a fan.

  • Noll was never one for introspection. 

Later that night it fell to ESPN’s Chris Berman for the serious analysis as he observed, “You back Chuck Noll into a corner? I want him on my side.”

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