While it might not evoke cheers of “Here We Go Steelers Here We Go!” the way it did for Jerome Bettis last summer, the Pro Football Hall of Fame 2016 class has been announced and this year’s class as a Black and Gold tinge.
- Former Steelers outside linebacker Kevin Greene was elected along side former Steelers defensive back and defensive coordinator, Tony Dungy.
Kevin Greene Shined in Black and Gold
In the spring of 1993 NFL teams literally tripped over themselves to land free agents such as Reggie White. Ticker tape parades were thrown, keys to cities were bestowed, and there was much pomp and circumstance. The Steelers took a low key approach, and one of the signings they made was that of Kevin Greene.
By the time the Steelers signed Greene, he was over 30 years old and had amassed 72.5 sacks. Yet he was little known outside of the NFC West, where he’d played for 8 years for the Los Angeles Rams. That changed in a hurry, as Bill Cowher pared him with Greg Lloyd, and together the tandem terrorized opposing quarterbacks for the next three seasons.
- Greene played for the Steelers from 1993 to 1995, with his last game being Super Bowl XXX.
During that time Kevin Greene amassed 35.5 sacks, but the Steelers opted to let him depart via free agency, thinking his best days were behind him. That conclusion was very, very wrong, as Greene would go on to play for 4 more years and register another 52 sacks in the process.
As it was, Greg Lloyd’s next two seasons would be shortened by injury, the Steelers would lose Chad Brown in another year, Jason Gildon would show he was good but not great, and Carlos Emmons provided average play until the Steelers could draft and develop Joey Porter.
Dungy’s Roots Trace Back to Pittsburgh
The Steelers drafted Tony Dungy in 1977, and he played as a back up defensive back. His most notable feats were subbing as emergency quarterback as a rookie in 1977 when Terry Bradshaw and Mike Kruczek both got hurt. Dungy’s performance was a disaster, but he did complete passes to both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth. Dungy also become one of the few modern era players to both record and throw and interception in the same game.
[Editors note, the orginal version of this article had an error, which has been redacted and corrected below.]
- Tony Dungy’s biggest play for the Steelers came in Super Bowl XIII, when he forced a fumble after the Dallas Cowboy’s final on-sides kick which Rocky Bleier recovered.
- Tony Dungy’s biggest play for the Steelers came in Super Bowl XIII, when he forced Randy White fumble which Dennis Winston recovered. One play later, Bradshaw hooked up with Swann in the end zone
Despite that, the Steelers traded Dungy after the 1978 season, and he played another year in San Francisco.
Dungy spent 1980 coaching defensive backs for the University of Minnesota, but a year later Noll brought him back to Pittsburgh, first as a defensive assistant, then as a defensive backs coach. In 1984, Noll promoted Tony Dungy to defensive coordinator at age 29, making him one of the first, if not the first, African American defensive coordinators.
Dungy’s first two years as defensive coordinator were so successful that he was touted as possibly being the NFL’s first African American head coach. The Steelers defense declined in 1986 and 1987, as the full impact of the Steelers mediocre drafting of the early and mid 1980’s was felt. Nonetheless, in 1987 the Steelers defensive touchodowns, and were 5th in take aways.
- The Steelers defense fell on hard times in 1988, finishing dead last.
Indeed, the 1988 Steelers finished 5-11, but saw 4th quarter leads evaporate in at least 3 games. Dan Rooney decided to order changes, and in the ensuring scuffle, Tony Dungy opted to resign rather than accept demotion.
- In an ironic twist of fate, Chuck Noll replaced Dungy with Kanas City’s Rod Rust, while Dungy took a position under new Kansas City defensive coordinator Bill Cowher’s staff….
Dungy of course, never did succeed Chuck Noll as many once expected him to, but he did go on to become the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, where he hired and mentored Mike Tomlin has his defensive backs coach.
Tony Dungy rightly wins Hall of Fame induction for his work as Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach and for becoming the first African American to win a Super Bowl with the Indianapolis Colts, but he made important contributions while a member of the Pittsburgh Steelers and, in many ways, his influence lives on in the organization.
Faneca Must Wait
The Hall of Fame candidate with the strongest ties to the Pittsburgh Steelers organization will have to wait another year. Former Steelers, Jets and Cardinals guard Alan Faneca was a candidate for induction into the Hall of Fame, but did not receive the necessary votes.
- This was Faneca’s first year of eligibility, and it is not unusual for offensive lineman, who lack statistics and other high-profile measures of success, to wait several years to get induction.
Joining Greene on the Hall of Fame dias are Brett Favre, Marvin Harrison, Orlando Pace, Ken Stabler, Dick Stanfel and former San Francisco 49ers owner Eddie DeBartlo Jr.