How Willie Williams Steelers Career Bookended 2 Super Bowl Eras

It might be a bit much to call Willie Williams, a former Steelers cornerback on two-different Super Bowl teams from two-separate eras, “forgotten,” but he certainly had a unique career in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers made Willie Williams their sixth-round pick out of Western Carolina in the 1993 NFL Draft.

Willie Williams, Myron Bell,

Willie Williams and Myron Bell. Photo Credit:

After biding his time for two seasons, Williams emerged as a starting quarterback for the Steelers 1995 squad that lost its top corner and all-around best player, Rod Woodson, during a Week 1 overtime win vs. the Lions at old Three Rivers Stadium. Williams started 15 games during the regular season, two more in the playoffs, and was one of the fortunate players to have his name announced as he ran out of the tunnel before Super Bowl XXX.

That’s right, that 1995 Steelers team made it to the Super Bowl, and Williams played an underrated role in getting there.

Not only did Williams record seven interceptions in ’95 to help lead the Steelers to an 11-5 regular-season record, but he may have made the most important play in the Steelers victory over the Colts in the AFC Championship Game at TRS.

Everyone remembers Jim Harbaugh’s Hail Mary pass on the game’s final play that ALMOST settled into the arms of receiver Aaron Bailey before falling to the Astroturf. They talk about the 37-yard pass from quarterback Neil O’Donnell to receiver Ernie Mills that set up the Bam Morris game-winning touchdown plunge moments earlier. I mentioned Woodson’s injury. Carnell Lake, an accomplished safety heading into ’95, rightfully gets a ton of credit for transitioning to corner during the season and going on to have another Pro Bowl year.

But none of that would be as memorable today, or just plain would not have happened, if not for a tackle that Williams made on running back Lamont Warren late in the AFC title game with the Colts facing a third and one and clinging to a 16-13 lead. Williams recognized the run from his left-cornerback spot and raced into the backfield to make the very definition of a shoestring tackle; it was a good thing, too, because Warren had nothing but Astroturf in front of him and could have easily gained 15 or 20 yards. With precious few minutes remaining, it could have been the difference between the Steelers making it to their first Super Bowl in 16 years or once again going home losers after falling to a huge road underdog in the AFC Championship Game.

Rod Woodson, Terry Glenn, Steelers vs Patriots, Fog Bowl II

Rod Woodson can’t stop Terry Glenn in his final game as a Steeler. Photo Credit: CBS

Williams was again a full-time starting cornerback for the 1996 Steelers, as Pittsburgh advanced to the divisional round before getting blown out in New England.

Like most Steelers free agents in the 1990s, Williams bolted for more lucrative pastures and signed with the Seahawks. Williams started 74 games over seven seasons in Seattle and recorded 17 interceptions.

Williams quietly signed back with Pittsburgh just prior to the Steelers 2004 season. He began the year as a backup but became a starter when Chad Scott suffered a season-ending injury. Williams started 10 games at cornerback for a Pittsburgh defense that was the most dominant in the NFL. Williams started two more games in the playoffs before once again having his postseason journey end in a blowout loss to the Patriots–this time at Heinz Field.

  • That would be the final postseason game of Williams’ career.
Bill Cowher, Dan Rooney, Art Rooney II, Super Bowl XL, Steelers vs Seahawks, One for the Thumb, Lombardi Trophy

Bill Cowher hands Dan Rooney the Lombardi Trophy. Photo Credit: AP, via Tribune-Review

This isn’t to say he wasn’t on the roster in 2005, as the Steelers overcame long odds to finally capture their One For The Thumb after a 21-10 victory over the Seahawks in Super Bowl XL. Unfortunately, after appearing in four games and starting one during the regular season, Williams did not play in any of Pittsburgh’s four postseason games.

  • Williams was released after the season and officially retired from the NFL.
  • But he did so after finally earning a ring.

Williams started 115 games during his career but only 41 with Pittsburgh.

However, seven of Williams’s 10 career playoff appearances came as a member of the Steelers–including three in the AFC title game.

Seven of Willie Williams’s eight career playoff starts came as a Steeler–including two in the AFC title game.

Only nine of Williams’s 26 career interceptions came as a Steeler, but the seven he had during the Super Bowl XXX campaign were the most he had in any single season.

And he was a starter in Super Bowl XXX.

  • How many Steelers can say they played during two different Super Bowl eras? No one besides Williams can.

Willie Williams did a lot of heavy lifting for two different Steelers teams that came close to winning it all and was essentially a non-factor during a year when he finally earned a Super Bowl ring.

But while Willie Williams didn’t do much to help the Steelers win their fifth Lombardi trophy, he contributed enough to a couple of earlier contenders that he can certainly wear his Super Bowl XL ring with pride.

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Clark Haggans Carved Out a Nice Niche in the Steelers Rich History at Outside Linebacker

Living up to the Steelers’ rich history of outside linebackers is not easy.

Just ask Jason Gildon. When he left Pittsburgh following the 2003 season, he did so as the organization’s all-time leader in sacks with 77. Yet, when fans talk about Steelers’ legends at the position, Gildon’s name is rarely mentioned.

  • Sure, Gildon’s name might eventually come up when it comes to retired greats.

Still, it would almost surely be an afterthought after fans rattle off names like Jack Ham, Andy Russell, Mike Merriweather, Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Joey Porter, LaMarr Woodley and James Harrison, the 2008 Defensive Player of the Year who eclipsed Gildon’s mark during his storied Steelers career.

  • If you thought being Jason Gildon was tough, try being the guy who replaced him.

I’m talking about Clark Haggans, a fifth-round pick out of Colorado State in the 2000 NFL Draft.

Clark Haggans, Matt Hasselbeck, Clark Haggans sack Super Bowl, Clark Haggans obituary

Clark Haggans sacks Matt Hasselbeck early in Super Bowl XL. Photo Credit: Jonathan Ferrey, Getty Images, via FOX

Not only was Haggans a mid-round pick from Colorado’s second-most famous college football team, but he wasn’t even the most well-known alumni from that team — at least among Steelers players. For that matter, Haggans wasn’t even the most famous Steelers outside linebacker from Colorado State. Porter, a third-round pick in 1999, would quickly earn that distinction after becoming a full-time starter during the Steelers 2000 season and recording 10.5 quarterback sacks.

It’s a pity, too, because if you do a little digging into Colorado State’s history, you’ll learn that Haggans, not Peezy, is the school’s all-time leader in sacks with 33.

Back to Haggans’s Steelers career.

While Porter was quickly establishing himself as one of the best young outside linebackers in the NFL in the early-2000s, Haggans had to bide his time as a backup and special teams player.

  • It was as a reserve in 2002 when Clark Haggans had a bit of a breakout year and recorded 6.5 sacks.

This was Gildon’s penultimate season in Pittsburgh and perhaps paved the way for Haggans to ultimately succeed him as the starter on the strong side.

  • Haggans finally became the man on the left side in 2004. He would go on to start 13 games and tally six sacks.

Haggans’s best season came in 2005 when he posted nine quarterback sacks for the Super Bowl-bound Steelers. Haggans notched another 1.5 sacks in the postseason, including a takedown of Matt Hasselbeck forcing the Seahawks to punt on the first possession of Super Bowl XL.

But while that sack was huge, the holding penalty Haggans drew on tackle Sean Locklear early in the fourth quarter was bigger. Pittsburgh led, 14-10, but the Seahawks were driving and looked to have a first and goal after a pass from Hasselback to tight end Jerramy Stevens. Unfortunately for Seattle, Locklear, who was beaten badly by Haggans, was called for the controversial infraction. While that penalty will always be controversial in the eyes of Seahawks fans (Haggans may have also been offsides on the play — others will differ), there is no doubt it altered the course of the game.

  • Ike Taylor intercepted Hasselbeck moments later, and the rest is history.

Ike Taylor, interception, Super Bowl XL

Ike Taylor’s interception changes tempo of Super Bowl XL

Haggans started 61 games during his Steelers career and recorded 32.5 sacks. He departed following the 2007 campaign, as the Steelers made room for LaMarr Woodley, the next to carve his name into the Steelers’ history book of notable-to-great outside linebackers.

After playing four years in Arizona where he recorded 14 more sacks, Haggans finished his career with the NFC Champion 49ers in 2012 — his final game was a loss to the Ravens in Super Bowl LVII.

Clark Haggans, who tragically passed away on Tuesday, June 20th at the age of 46, will likely rarely be mentioned when fans talk about the Steelers’ rich history at outside linebacker.

But it’s certainly not an easy history to live up to, and it’s much easier to be an afterthought than someone who sticks around and carves out a nice little niche for himself at the position.

  • Clark Haggans may not have been a Steelers’ legend at outside linebacker, but he was far from an afterthought.

RIP to a man who did the position proud for the Steelers organization.



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Advice for Surviving the True Offseason? Embrace and Immerse in Steelers History

My favorite time of the Steelers’ offseason has arrived.

I’m talking about that “dead” period between OTAs (Organized Team Activities)/minicamp and the start of Steelers training camp.

Yep, there’s always a huge content void during the second half of June and most of July until the boys report to Saint Vincent College in Latrobe, Pennsylvania, to prepare for yet another Steelers regular season.

The first day of Steelers training camp in 2023 is July 26, and nothing will be the same when it comes to Steelers news from then until their season wraps up in either January or, for the truly positive pollyannas out there, on February 11, 2024 (the date of Super Bowl LVIII).

But in the six weeks before that, following the final day of last week’s mandatory minicamp on June 15, there will be little tangible news to report on as it pertains to the Pittsburgh Steelers (provided the Steelers “June Curse” doesn’t strike again.”)

However, Steelers fans being who they are, Steelers media being what it is, and the 24/7/365 obsession with the NFL being what it is, the desire for black-and-gold-related content will still be there.

weegie thompson, louis lipps, steelers wide receivers 1980's, 1988 Steelers

Steelers 1980’s wide receivers Louis Lipps and Weegie Thompson. Photo Credit: Getty Images, Pittsburgh Post Gazette

It used to be that a writer such as myself could use the dead period of the offseason to focus on stories involving Steelers’ history. I could honor heroes from the past who we may have forgotten about. I felt like I had a license to talk about unheralded players from yesteryear, guys who will never be remembered but still contributed to some successful Steelers seasons (Weegie Thompson comes to mind).

Speaking of Weegie Thompson, I may have even written a story or two about the 1984 Pittsburgh Steelers and their unexpected appearance in the AFC Championship Game. What about that wild wildcard win over the Oilers down in the Astrodome on December 31, 1989?

June and July used to be the time of year for such stories, but it’s just not like that anymore. Now, writers (both credentialed and non-credentialed) as well as radio hosts and podcasters try to fill the dead period with nothing but speculation and drama.

  • What player said what on some podcast?
  • Are there any free agents still on the open market that Pittsburgh should pursue before training camp?
  • Can you believe what that numbskull receiver did on TikTok?

In my opinion, this is mostly all garbage. Having said that, I often find myself writing about such speculation and drama. Why? It gets a great reaction. Steelers fans love to speculate. They love to be mad. They love to be outraged. They love to work themselves up into a frenzy over the most ridiculous things (Devin Bush’s stupid joke about a falling cat from two years ago comes to mind).

Steelers fans love to talk about trades and signing free agents.

It simply never stops, not even in June or July.

  • I do have some advice: Stop and smell the flowers.

I know I always do. The summer months before training camp are when I begin to fall in love with the Steelers and the NFL all over again.

It’s easy to get jaded when every story involving the Steelers is about Kenny Pickett’s hand size, Matt Canada’s schoolyard offense and Mike Tomlin’s lack of a playoff win since 2017.

It’s easy to get worked into a frenzy over some receiver’s TikTok account (although, I can’t imagine why).

  • But revisiting the Steelers’ past will never leave you jaded or outraged.

Even learning about the bad times is comforting because we know that they led to some memorable years.

Yancey Thigpen, Yancey Thigpen Terrible Towel, Steelers vs Browns

Yancey Thigpen twirls the Terrible Towel.

Go on YouTube and watch Steelers highlight films from the 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, heck, even the 2000s and 2010s. Take some time dig into some long-form pieces and learn about the 1989 Steelers or to relive the Cowher Years

Watch those America’s Game films that chronicle every Super Bowl season since the first one. You don’t just have to watch the ones involving the Steelers, either. There are other NFL dynasties and champions to explore and learn about.

What about memorable playoff games involving the Steelers? Those are available in highlight form, as well as in full broadcast form. Check out Steel City Star’s Twitter feed. Check out Ron Lippock’s Steelers Takeaways where you can find interviews from the 1991 Steelers Helper Assistant Water Boy to Super Bowl Architect Dick Haley — and everyone in between.

Social media can actually be a beautiful thing, especially when we can go back and explore great sports memories.

  • Heck, go back and watch features involving the Ice Bowl or the Fog Bowl.

I know it sounds crazy to focus on teams besides the Steelers, but it’s not that bad.

You know what I can’t wait for? That moment when I walk past some football field this summer, and I smell that freshly-cut grass. It’s going to get me all jazzed up for the NFL. It’s going to remind me why I love the game of football so much.

There’s more to being a Steelers fan than just being worked into a frenzy 24/7/365 over real or imagined drama.

  • Learning and writing about Steelers history is quite therapeutic.

I encourage you to try one or both of those before the start of the 2023 regular season.

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Stan Savran’s Legacy May Be Unmatched In Pittsburgh Sports Broadcasting

“And then they started running the ball down their throats.”

That was my first recollection of Stan Savran as a Pittsburgh sports broadcaster. I can’t remember if it was on TV or radio, but he was doing some postgame show after the Steelers defeated the Patriots, 24-20, in a preseason game in Knoxville, Tennessee, on August 14, 1982.

Stan Savran, Stan Savran obituary, Art Rooney II

Pittsburgh Broadcasting legend Stan Savran and Art Rooney II, Photo Credit:

Perhaps, it was fitting that I don’t know if my first memories of Savran were on television or radio. I started following Pittsburgh sports in the early ’80s, and that man was always somewhere talking about them.

  • In other words, Savran was omnipresent as a Pittsburgh sports broadcaster and journalist for most of my life.

Savran, who passed away at 76 on Monday after a battle with lung cancer, began his career in Pittsburgh in 1976 after a stint in Florida where he did play-by-play for the World Football League.

Savran started out at radio stations WWSW and then KQV in the ’70s, but by the time I found him in the ’80s, he was part of WTAE’s Action 4 Sports Team, a lineup that included Bill Hillgrove, who still does radio play-by-play for both the Steelers and University of Pittsburgh Panthers football and men’s basketball teams; John Steigerwald; Guy Junker; and, of course, Myron Cope, a Steelers and Pittsburgh broadcasting icon who, among other things, created The Terrible Towel.

  • Can you imagine that kind of broadcasting roster on the local level today?

You talk about star power. But it was different in the 1980s. ESPN wasn’t really the worldwide leader yet, and fanatics like me looked to the local news stations for the daily scoop on the Steelers, Pirates, Penguins and Panthers. Savran served as a sports anchor and reporter for WTAE in the 1980s, and he also followed Cope with his own talk show five nights a week over on the radio side.

At various points in his career, Savran did everything from pre and postgame shows for the Steelers, Pirates and Penguins, to television, to radio. Savran even did radio play-by-play for Penn State football in the ’80s and was in the booth for the Nittany Lions‘ 1986 National Championship win over Miami. Savran also hosted the weekly Penn State football highlight show on the television side.

  • Savran even wrote a weekly sports column for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette in the early-2000s.

Of Savran’s many roles, however, none were more iconic than as the host of Sportsbeat from 1991-2009.

Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher

Chuck Noll & Bill Cower after the last game at Three Rivers Stadium. Photo via 6th

Sportsbeat was a local cable show that Savran co-hosted with Junker through 2003 before finishing out as a solo host until 2009. The show–basically, a radio show on television–saw many icons sit down and talk to Stan and Guy over nearly two decades, including Reggie Jackson, Bill Cowher, and, yes, Chuck Noll.

My favorite Sportsbeat episode was also my most therapeutic, and it aired on October 15, 1992, just one night after the Pirates lost Game 7 of the National League Championship Series to the Atlanta Braves. Pittsburgh is a proud sports town that was dubbed The City of Champions in the 1970s thanks to four Steelers Super Bowl victories, two Pirates World Series titles, and a national championship for the Pitt football team. That reputation was strengthened in the early-’90s thanks to back-to-back Stanley Cup victories for the Pittsburgh Penguins.

But as great as all of those memories were for Pittsburgh’s citizens, none of them may have matched the low that everyone felt the day after the Pirates blew a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 7 in Atlanta with a trip to the World Series on the line.

  • I was 20 and in tears that night. Downtown Pittsburgh was like a morgue the next morning.

I turned to Stan and Guy to talk me off the bridge (metaphorically, of course). The late, great Beano Cook was a guest on that night’s show and also did his part to make me feel better.

It’s been over 30 years since Sid Bream was safe at home plate, and I still can’t go back and watch Game 7. But I remember how a guy from Cleveland and his two colleagues got me through the worst sports loss I think I’ll ever experience.

  • That’s a special kind of talent.

That’s right, Savran was born in Cleveland, Ohio, and grew up a Browns and Indians fan. But while he remained a diehard fan of Cleveland’s Major League Baseball team up until the day he died, he left Cleveland’s football team –the original one that moved to Baltimore and was renamed the Ravens in 1996 — behind many years earlier and became a supporter of the Black and Gold.

In addition to his many years covering the team on television, radio and even in print, Savran was very instrumental in the creation of the Steelers Hall of Honor in 2017.

More importantly, Savran became a supporter of Pittsburgh and called it his home over the final 47 years of his life.


That was the first call to the Steelers postgame show following a devastating 34-31 overtime loss to the Titans in the  2002 Steelers divisional-round playoff game on January 11, 2003. The caller was seeking comfort and validation after a controversial running into the kicker penalty gave Tennessee new life and a chance to win the game. But Savran, the host of this postgame show on the Steelers Radio Network, calmly said, “You can’t run into the kicker. It’s as simple as that.”

  • Clearly, the caller didn’t like Stan’s answer.

As stated earlier, Savran was a fixture in the Pittsburgh sports scene for nearly 50 years, but even though he was very opinionated and told it like it was, the venom that the caller spewed that night was the exception and not the rule.

Savran often disagreed with callers and was critical of players and coaches, but he seemed to have a knack for not taking cheap shots — a lost art in the current sports landscapes, one that’s dominated by social media and one where opinions and people are often called garbage (or worse).

While just about every Pittsburgh sports personality is often a target for the venom spewed by “fans” on social media, Savran was too respected to get that kind of treatment.

Maybe that’s because he was known as “The Godfather of Pittsburgh sports,” and you never disrespect The Godfather, not if you know what’s good for you.

The whole “Mount Rushmore of…” talking point is now a tired cliche, but if there was a Mount Rushmore of Pittsburgh sports broadcasters, Stan Savran would surely have his likeness carved into it.

Rest in peace, Stan, so many of us really did love the show.

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The Steelers 2023 Draft Class Is Amazing, But These Guys Still Have To Prove They Can Play

“The Khan Artist!”

“The Khan Man!”

“Omar Khan continues to cook!”

“Omar coming, Yo!” (The Wire).

Yes, sir, Omar Khan, the Steelers’ new general manager, is drawing tons of praise for his work in selecting the Steelers’ 2023 NFL Draft.

Rightfully so.

If you had scripted (mocked) the Steelers’ new class before the 2023 NFL Draft kicked off on Thursday, April 27, it couldn’t have come out any better.

A left tackle stud in Broderick Jones; Joey Porter Jr.; Darnell Washington; Nate Herbig‘s brother; Cory Trice, an enticing cornerback prospect they nabbed in the seventh round, etc., etc.

The Steelers addressed several positions of need in the draft, and they did so with great value in just about every round.

With the first-round tackle prospects flying off the board, and with the first-round cornerback prospects moving slower than expected, Khan orchestrated a trade with the Patriots in order to move up three spots in the first round to select Jones, the big, athletic left tackle out of Georgia. In doing so, Pittsburgh only had to part with its fourth-round pick. Not only that, but this move prevented the Jets, who were said to be in the market for a new left tackle to protect the blindside of their new starting quarterback–Aaron Rodgers–from taking Jones.

When the draft resumed on Friday night at the start of the second round, the Steelers, sitting with the 32nd pick, had the option of either trading down to accumulate more draft choices or simply taking who they thought was the best player available.

Pittsburgh went with Option B, and that player’s name was Joey Porter Jr., the stud cornerback prospect from Penn State and the son of the great Joey Porter Sr., a Steelers Super Bowl hero from yesteryear.

So, the Steelers went into the first round in search of a top-caliber left tackle AND cornerback, and they had both by the time they were done with their first pick of the second round.

You couldn’t have asked for anything better.

The Steelers actually re-acquired a fourth-round pick by moving down 13 spots in the third round. Not only that, but they still managed to land Darnell Washington, a hulking tight end from Georgia, with the 93rd pick of the draft.

So, to recap, the Steelers went into the draft with four of the first 80 picks (four in 93, after the trade to re-acquire a fourth-round selection) and managed to walk away with four players–Broderick Jones, Joey Porter Jr., Keeanu Benton and Darnell Washington–who all had first-round buzz prior to or going into last weekend.

As the cool draft kids like to say, that’s quite the haul.

The Steelers have been receiving rave reviews for their performance in the draft. They’ve been passing every post-draft review with flying colors–mostly with A’s and A+’s.

It’s a cause for celebration. It’s a reason to be happy. It’s a time for great excitement in Steeler Nation.

You simply cannot wait for the start of the rookie minicamp, regular minicamp and training camp. Get me to Latrobe, Pa. so I can see these new toys in action!

When is the first preseason game?

This is awesome!

It’s also just a group of guys who have yet to set foot on a professional football field of any kind.

Let’s remember that.

I remember how over the moon everyone was about the Steelers’ 2008 draft class, a class that included running back Rashard Mendenhall, receiver Limas Sweed, quarterback Dennis Dixon and safety Ryan Mundy. Like Porter, Sweed was said to be a first-round talent who fell into the second.

Pittsburgh got a steal, a bargain, with Sweed. Turned out, all the Steelers got was a receiver who couldn’t catch (a pretty important job for a receiver).

Dixon did play an important role by starting a few big games at quarterback when Ben Roethlisberger was either injured or suspended, but he certainly never lived up to the prospect he was said to be before injuring his knee in college.

Mendenhall, the stud running back from Illinois, did seem to be destined for a great Steelers career after suffering a season-ending shoulder injury in his rookie season. Mendenhall had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons–including 1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2010. Mendenhall may have been Pittsburgh’s most valuable player en route to an appearance in Super Bowl XLV following the 2010 campaign. Unfortunately, there was Mendenhall’s fumble in the fourth quarter of that Super Bowl that proved to be vital to a Packers victory.

The fumble, coupled with Mendenhall’s controversial remarks about Osama bin Laden many months later, made him a very unpopular figure among Steelers fans.

Mendenhall was on his way to another 1,000-yard season in 2011 before suffering a torn ACL in the final week. He was never the same again.

Long story, short, Mendenhall, and every other pick from the 2008 class, was out of Pittsburgh by 2013.

I don’t know why I chose 2008, other than that was the last time I remembered this kind of universal excitement for a Steelers draft class.

The bottom line is this: Omar Khan deserves all the credit in the world for orchestrating such a great draft, but this is just the first step. (Btw, isn’t it amazing how head coach Mike Tomlin is getting almost zero credit for the draft haul? I guess he only has too much power when the Steelers have a bad draft.)

Fans shouldn’t get too excited about this class. They mustn’t talk in absolutes, as if most of these picks will go on to have great careers. The stats tell us that Pittsburgh will be lucky to land one superstar and maybe two more dependable starters from the class. Don’t be surprised if someone like Washington is a dud, while offensive lineman Spencer Anderson, the second and forgotten seventh-round pick from Maryland, turns out to be a stud–or at least a versatile role player capable of lining up anywhere up front.

I hate to throw a wet blanket on the excitement of the Steelers 2023 draft class, but it seems to be a bit too on the nose to work out as well as everyone is expecting.

Not to say it won’t be a good-to-great class (I certainly wouldn’t mind the latter), but Khan has a ways to go before he’s the general manager legend everyone has already made him out to be.

Enjoy the honeymoon, Omar.

Criticism’s coming, Yo!

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Steelers Draft Broderick Jones In The First Round Of The 2023 NFL Draft

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin may not be interested in keeping up with the Joneses, but that doesn’t mean he’s not interested in drafting one to keep his quarterback upright.

The Steelers finally decided to address their offensive tackle position with a serious pick on Thursday night by selecting Broderick Jones, a left tackle from the two-time defending champion Georgia Bulldogs, in the first round (14th, overall) of the 2023 NFL Draft.

Pittsburgh originally had the 17th pick in the first round but moved up three spots to ensure that it would have a chance at Jones, rated as either the third or fourth-best tackle heading into the draft. The Steelers made a deal with New England to move into the 14th spot and had to part with their fourth-round pick (120th, overall).

You can understand the strategy, given the perceived depth at the Steelers’ two biggest positions of need heading into the draft–offensive tackle and cornerback–along with how the first round played out over the first 13 selections on Thursday. Paris Johnson Jr (Ohio State), Darnell Wright (Tennessee) and Pete Skoronski (Northwestern) were taken sixth, 10th and 11th, respectively, which meant three of the top four tackle prospects were gone before 14. Conversely, Devon Witherspoon (Illinois) was the only first-round caliber cornerback drafted through 13 picks.

With that in mind, the Steelers aggressively moved up to get the last tackle with a consensus first-round grade.

Jones, 21, was a red-shirt freshman in 2020. He started four games in 2021 and helped the Bulldogs win a national title. Jones became a full-time starter in 2022 and was named First-Team SEC as he helped Georgia win back-to-back national championships.

The book on Jones, whose Draft Profile lists him as 6’5″ and 311 pounds, is that he’s extremely athletic and someone who may have just touched the surface in terms of potential.

Will he start right away? Perhaps. Perhaps not, but with Dan Moore Jr. as the incumbent starter at left tackle, 2023 could act as a bit of a redshirt year for Jones while he learns the ropes and hones his skills at the professional level.

In any event, the Steelers went into the 2023 NFL Draft needing to address the position of left tackle, and they appeared to find a darn fine prospect in Broderick Jones.

The Steelers head into Friday evening with three picks–two in the second (32nd and 49th, overall) and one in the third (80th, overall)–and have a chance to address their other glaring need with the likes of Joey Porter Jr. still sitting on the board.

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And the Steelers Pick: Alan Faneca 1st Round 1998 NFL Draft – I Remember Where I Was. Do You?

There haven’t been many Steelers draft picks who turned out better than Alan Faneca over the past few decades.

Faneca was a guard from LSU who the Steelers selected in the first round (26th, overall) of the 1998 NFL Draft.

Alan Faneca, Tommy Maddox, Steelers vs Ravens

Hall of Fame Guard Alan Faneca was forced to play tackle at times during 2003. Photo Credit: George Gojkovich, AP via the Athletic

It didn’t take long for Faneca to become a fixture on the Steelers’ offensive line; he started 12 games at left guard as a rookie and a total of 153 over his 10 years in Pittsburgh. While Faneca did become a full-time starter right away, he didn’t earn his first trip to the Pro Bowl until 2001.

Faneca was also named a First-Team All-Pro in ’01, an honor he would achieve a total of six times during his distinguished career. Faneca was also named a Second-Team All-Pro twice and was voted to the Pro Bowl a grand total of nine times in 13 years.

Faneca finished out his career with stints with the Jets and Cardinals after leaving Pittsburgh as a free agent following the 2007 season.

Faneca was regarded as the top guard of his era, as he started a total of 201 games over 13 years and was named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 2000s.

Faneca is now a member of the Steelers Hall of Honor and, more fittingly, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame after being enshrined in the summer of 2001.

  • OK, we get it, Tony. Alan Faneca was special. What’s the point of this article?

The point is, I remember exactly where I was when the Steelers picked him in the first round back in 1998

Where was I? I was stocking shelves at this store called Save-A-Lot. (That’s right, insert your jokes about a sportswriter stocking shelves here.)

Not only was I stocking shelves at work, but I was barely paying any mind to what was happening during the first round of the 1998 NFL Draft. In fact, I don’t think I even found out who the Steelers picked until I got home from work later that afternoon. What was my initial reaction when I found out about the selection of Faneca? I believe it was something along the lines of, “Cool.”

I had never even heard of Alan Faneca, but maybe that’s because I was pretty much over the annual NFL Draft by that point.

Pittsburgh was coming off the 1997 season in which it made the playoffs for a sixth-straight time and played in the AFC title game for the third time in four years.

Yancey Thigpen, Ray Crockett, Steelers vs Broncos

Yancey Thigpen advances on Ray Crockett. Photo Credit:

While I didn’t know the fun was about to be over (Pittsburgh would miss the playoffs for three-straight seasons, starting with a disappointing 7-9 campaign in 1998), my zeal for the annual draft had long since been replaced by how awesome the Steelers had became at actual football during the 1990s.

The Steelers were mediocre-to-horrible in the 1980s, and it was in this reality that I found the NFL Draft to be exhilarating as a teenager desperate to fill the void of those Super 70s teams I had only heard of. Which high-profile college prospects from the big-time schools would come to Pittsburgh and save the day?

  • Maybe that’s why my reaction to the Steelers’ first-round pick in 1988 was much different.

I looked forward to that year’s draft more than any before or since. Who would the Steelers take, and would it be Lorenzo White, a high-profile running back from Michigan State?

The Steelers selected 18th in the first round, and White was still available when it was their turn to pick. I was so happy, I, a 15-year-old moron, began to run around my grandmother’s house, screaming, “We’re gonna get Lorenzo! We’re gonna get Lorenzo!”

  • Pittsburgh wasted no time turning its pick into the commissioner.

“With the 18th pick in the first round of the 1988 NFL Draft, the Pittsburgh Steelers select….Aaron Jones, defensive end, Eastern Kentucky.”


I was crestfallen. I may have even shed a tear or two. My dreams had been shattered.

I never even heard of Jones, and despite the fact that I eventually found his name listed as the second-best defensive end prospect when I reviewed the draft preview from that morning’s paper, I was still pretty darn upset.

Dick Haley, Chuck Noll, Steeler Training Camp 1991

Dick Haley and Chuck Noll at St. Vincents in 1991. Photo Credit: George Gojkovich, Getty Images via FOX News.

Jones went on to have an unremarkable career and was yet another failed attempt by head coach Chuck Noll and Dick Haley to recapture the magic of the Steel Curtain defense from the previous decade.

I continued to live and die with the draft over the next few years until Bill Cowher came along in 1992 and brought with him the winning Steelers culture I spent my youth yearning for.

While I haven’t lived and died for the draft in quite a while, I definitely pay more attention to it now than I did the day Pittsburgh selected Faneca a quarter of a century ago.

It’s hard not to pay attention to the annual NFL Draft in this 24/7 news cycle we find ourselves in. Thanks to social media, podcasts and blogs, the draft is top news from the second the Steelers season ends in January until many weeks after they select their new class in April.

  • But the 1990s taught me a lot about what really matters when it comes to prospects like Alan Faneca.

It’s not about whether or not I know anything about him. It’s not about the position he plays. It’s not about the school he played football at.

All that matters is what he can do to help the Steelers on Sunday afternoons in the fall.

I don’t even have to know who this prospect is in order to enjoy that.

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“Don’t Fear the Reacher” – Steelers Fans Need Not Fear a Reach in the 2023 NFL Draft

The dreaded reach.

I believe Steelers fans fear this more than anything when preparing for the annual NFL Draft.

Think Terrell Edmunds, a player the Steelers definitely reached for when they selected the safety out of Virginia Tech in the first round (28th, overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Of course, Edmunds went on to have a solid-to-good five-year career in Pittsburgh before finally spreading his wings and becoming an Eagle in free agency. Just try telling that to the Steelers fans who could never get over the lack of Troy Polamalu-like splash and pizzazz.

  • Artie Burns provides another great example of a reach. 
Donte Moncrief, Steelers sign Donte Moncrief, Artie Burns, Steelers vs Colts

Steelers sign Donte Moncief, pictured burning Artie Burns in 2017. Photo Credit: Matt Kryger, Indy Star

Everybody and His Brother knew that cornerback was a prime need for the Steelers heading into the 2016 NFL Draft. The Steelers wanted William Jackson. The Bengals got him first. So the Steelers reached for Artie Burns. After a respectable rookie year, Burns started off year 2 OK but got shaky as the year progressed, opend 2018 as the starter but got benched and his career imploded shortly thereafter.

Fear not, Steelers fan, because it doesn’t look like your favorite professional football team will have to reach for a position of need when the 2023 NFL Draft kicks off on the evening of Thursday, April 27.

For one thing, the Steelers will be drafting damn-near in the middle of the first round (17th).

That’s right, unlike the 2018 draft when Pittsburgh, selecting near the end of the first round due to having an excellent 2017 regular season, missed out on three highly-thought-of inside linebackers (unfortunately, the organization was in desperation mode after the horrific spinal injury suffered by Ryan Shazier on December 4, 2017), the Steelers should have a shot at at least one high-pedigreed prospect who would address a specific position of need.

The two most important positions of need for the Steelers (in my humble opinion) are cornerback and offensive tackle (and not necessarily in that order).

If you go by the many big boards and the endless mock drafts that are produced on the regular, it’s easy to see that there are a lot of high-end prospects at both cornerback and offensive tackle.

By my count, there are no less than six corners who could go in the first round–including Christian Gonzalez (Oregon); Devon Witherspoon (Illinois); Joey Porter Jr. (Penn State); Cam Smith (South Carolina); Deonte Banks (Maryland); and Kelee Ringo (Georgia).

As for offensive tackles, there are at least five–including Paris Johnson Jr. (Ohio State); Pete Skoronski (Northwestern); Broderick Jones (Georgia); Anton Harrison (Oklahoma); and Darnell Wright (Tennessee).

That’s 11 prospects from two different positions who would very well go in the first round.

You throw in the handful of quarterback prospects who will likely be drafted before 17–including C.J. Stroud (Ohio State); Bryce Young (Alabama); Anthony Richardson (Florida); and Will Levis (Kentucky)–and there is no way Pittsburgh won’t have a shot at a promising cornerback or offensive tackle.

And we can’t forget about the likes of Will Anderson, EDGE, Alabama; Tyree Wilson, EDGE, Texas Tech; Nolan Smith, EDGE, Georgia; Jalen Carter, DL, Georgia; Calijah Kancey, DL, Pitt; Lucas Van Ness, DL, Iowa; Bryan Bresee, DL, Clemson; Bijan Robinson, running back, Texas; Quintin Johnston, WR, TCU; and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, WR, Ohio State.

  • Many of those prospects will also be off the board by the time Pittsburgh selects at 17.

It’s going to be damn-near impossible for Pittsburgh to reach at cornerback or offensive tackle.

Also, if the Steelers, an organization that perhaps has a better grasp of its needs than I do, decides that an edge, receiver, defensive lineman or safety (can’t forget about Alabama’s Brian Branch) is too good to pass up at 17, well, they also have the first pick of the second round (32, overall) to address either cornerback or offensive tackle with a quality prospect–likely someone from the aforementioned pool of players.

Or, since the depth at corner appears to be greater than the depth at offensive tackle in the 2023 NFL Draft, Pittsburgh could snatch up one of the top linemen, knowing that a quality defensive back will probably still be there at 32.

Obviously, the draft is a crapshoot, and for every Troy Polamalu, there is at least one Devin Bush (usually three or four, unfortunately).

But the more high-end prospects there are at positions of need, the better chance a team will have of not reaching for a player.

The Steelers should be sitting pretty in that department in 2023.

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Its (Almost) April. NOW is the Time to Focus on the Steelers 2023 Draft Plans

It’s almost April, the first wave of free agency is winding down, which means it’s almost time for me to study and research the prospects in the 2023 NFL Draft.

Mike Tomlin, Terrelle Edmunds, Steelers 2018 1st round draft choice

Mike Tomlin shake hands with 2018 1st round draft pick Terrell Edmunds. Photo Credit: Jessie Wardarski, Post-Gazette

I don’t normally start worrying about the draft until about a month or so before it starts, and while I haven’t been fanatical about it since I was a kid, the month leading up to the big event is kind of fun.

By the time the draft coverage really ramps up in April, I feel like I know just about everything the Steelers should do in order to improve their roster for the upcoming season. I have a pretty good idea of Pittsburgh’s needs and areas it should address. I become familiar enough with the top prospects of every position of need and can give an educated opinion on whether or not the team should and would select these players in the first round.

  • The sad thing about the modern era is that the draft coverage never stops feeling “ramped up.”

That’s especially the case right after the Steelers’ season ends short of a Super Bowl title, which, even for them and their rich history of Lombardi procurement, is most of the time.

We got people talking about the upcoming draft the second the players start cleaning out their lockers for the offseason. Mike Tomlin hasn’t even conducted his final exit interview, and Steelers fans are already having meltdowns over someone’s mock draft.

  • There are people (and when I say “people,” I mean fans who don’t get paid a cent) who dedicate all of their free time to draft coverage year-round.

I used to think I was obsessed when, as a kid, I’d go and buy the annual draft guide at the local drugstore (that’s a lie, actually. I simply glanced at it when my mom was shopping). I was a bit irrationally into the draft in the 1980s, though, but I always felt like my fondness for it began at an appropriate time — about two weeks before it started.

Isn’t that all the time you really need in order to get up to speed on these players? What’s with this relentless pursuit of draft knowledge? I realize we are in the information age. Heck, if I were young and had access to this kind of draft info, I may become obsessed, too. But what’s with ALL the fans out there (even the middle-aged and old ones) trying to be armchair Mel Kipers?

  • Why do you derive so much pleasure from this stuff?

It would be one thing if today’s modern technology made draft analysis an exact science. But here we are, it’s 2023, and we can learn the hand size of every quarterback in the upcoming draft class, yet, we still can’t truly predict how things will turn out.

  • I grew up thinking I was a pretty knowledgeable Steelers fan. “You know your stuff,” folks would say.

Then, I discovered Steelers fans on social media and realized how obsessed they are all the time about everything black-and-gold-related.

But just because you decorate your Christmas tree in October, that doesn’t mean you love the holiday more than I do, nor does it mean you’re more knowledgeable about Santa Claus.

I still love the Steelers. I still care about their draft needs. I still get excited when the draft comes on every April.

But there is a line, and so many Steelers fans crossed it years ago with their obsession with the annual NFL Draft.

I refuse to cross that line.

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Did Andy Reid Really “Rein In” JuJu Smith-Schuster? Or Are the Chiefs Simply Superior to the Steelers?

It didn’t take long after the Chiefs’ 38-35 victory over the Eagles in Super Bowl LVII for current Kansas City receiver and former Steelers receiver, JuJu Smith-Schuster, to become the heel of the professional football world.

He trolled James Bradberry, the cornerback who was called for holding Smith-Schuster near the end of the Super Bowl (a play that was deemed controversial at that moment and gave the Chiefs a chance to run out the clock and kick the game-winning field goal with eight seconds left), with a Valentine’s Day-themed Tweet on Tuesday:

“Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone,” Tweeted the sixth-year receiver out of USC, accompanied by a meme that included Bradberry’s picture on Valentine’s Day-inspired greeting card with a caption that read: “I’ll hold you when it matters most.”


JuJu Smith-Schuster Super Bowl Kilt

JuJu Smith-Schuster arrives for Super Bowl in a Kilt. Photo Credit: USA

Given the controversial nature of the holding call on Bradberry (a good number of people thought it was a ticky-tack penalty that shouldn’t have been called with less than two minutes left in the game), along with the fact that it may have been the worst moment of Bradberry’s life (at least professionally), you can see why Smith-Schuster has become a Ric Flair-level heel on social media.

In terms of bulletin-board material, JuJu Smith-Schuster’s tweet makes his “The Browns is the Browns” comment he made in an interview before the Steelers met Cleveland in a wildcard playoff game at Heinz Field following the 2020 campaign look downright bland by comparison.

Only, Smith-Schuster’s trash talk to James Bradberry occurred AFTER his team just captured the most coveted trophy in all of professional team sports (in America, anyway).

  • Does that make it better? Is this the perfect example of the spoils going to the riches?

That’s a matter of debate. I don’t care much about trash talk or giving your opponent bulletin-board material before a big game.

  • It’s mostly meaningless, in my opinion.
JuJu Smith-Schuster, JuJu Smith-Schuster water ballon fight

JuJu Smith-Schuster at his first annual water ballon fight. Photo Credit:

I’ve always liked JuJu Smith-Schuster, and I thought his character was unfairly tarnished during his five-year career in Pittsburgh. He started out as a breath of fresh air, someone that all fans — but especially children — gravitated to instantly. Then, suddenly, by 2019 or 2020, his social-media antics and off-the-field fun became a detriment in the eyes of the media and fans.

Smith-Schuster was now a “problem,” and someone who was seen as the bad guy for dancing on opposing teams’ logos before a game (in the name of TikTok) and for participating in the milkcrate challenge during the offseason (again, for social-media clout).

JuJu Smith-Schuster was put in the same toxic class as Antonio Brown, a truly disturbed malcontent who the Steelers traded to the Raiders in exchange for third and fifth-round draft picks following the 2018 season.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant, Antonio Brown, Steelers 2018 wide receiver draft needs

JuJu Smith-Schuster, Martavis Bryant & Antonio Brown. Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire

It certainly didn’t help that Smith-Schuster’s numbers fell off after Brown, perhaps the most talented and productive receiver in Steelers history, was given his walking papers.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s rookie season of 2017 saw him catch 58 passes for 917 yards and seven touchdowns. The former second-round pick then turned in a sophomore campaign that included 111 receptions for 1,426 yards and another seven touchdowns.

Smith-Schuster’s 2018 season was so spectacular that his Steelers teammates voted him team MVP, an honor that was apparently one of the final straws that led to Brown’s epic meltdown and desire to burn every bridge on his way out of Pittsburgh (and Pittsburgh has a ton of bridges).

Yes, Smith-Schuster’s production took an immediate hit in 2019 without Brown around acting like the Jerry Rice to his John Taylor (or Batman to JuJu’s Robin), but then again, so did Pittsburgh’s quarterbacks room, thanks to the season-ending elbow injury suffered by Ben Roethlisberger in Week 2.

Sure, losing an all-time great receiver will hurt the number two wideout, but so will the loss of an all-time great quarterback, someone who led the NFL in passing yards in the year before.

The Steelers’ offense was piloted by both Mason Rudolph and Devlin “Duck” Hodges, two very-inexperienced quarterbacks, for the rest of the 2019 campaign, a reality that probably explains why Smith-Schuster’s numbers saw a massive drop to the tune of 42 receptions for 552 yards.

Smith-Schuster never did duplicate the same level of play he enjoyed over his first two seasons as a Steeler. Sadly, neither did the offense — including Roethlisberger — as it became the proverbial shell of its once-potent self.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, JuJu Smith-Schuster injury, Steelers vs. Broncos

JuJu Smith-Schuster leaves the field after a season-ending injury. Photo Credit: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

After surprisingly signing a one-year free-agent deal to remain in Pittsburgh following the 2020 season, Smith-Schuster, who suffered a significant injury in 2021 that limited him to five regular-season games, became a Chief in 2022.

As the Chiefs were marching toward yet another Super Bowl appearance, while Pittsburgh was simply trying to remain relevant, it became popular to claim that JuJu Smith-Schuster had changed his stripes now that he was no longer a Steeler.

You see, Andy Reid, Kansas City’s veteran head coach, would never give the charismatic Smith-Schuster the same kind of latitude to express himself that Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin did.

The Chiefs were far more disciplined under Reid than Pittsburgh was under Tomlin, and that’s why Smith-Schuster is now about to be fitted for his first Super Bowl ring….

Or so goes the narrative.

You really think Smith-Schuster is now a Super Bowl champion because his antics were reined in by a new employer?

  • Did you see what Smith-Schuster wore to the stadium on Sunday?

A skirt. That’s right, a skirt (a sight that may have caused the head of your average Steelers fan to explode).

As he was talking to reporters and celebrating wildly with fans after the Chiefs’ Super Bowl win, Smith-Schuster seemed like the same charismatic and happy-go-lucky guy that he always was in Pittsburgh.

Throw in the skirt/kilt before the Super Bowl (not that there’s anything wrong with that) and the heel Tweet directed at Bradberry after the Big Game and, well, has Smith-Schuster changed all that much?

Perhaps he just went to a much talented team.

You look at Smith-Schuster’s numbers in 2022 — 78 receptions for 933 yards and three touchdowns–and they don’t look much different than the stats he put up in his last full season in Pittsburgh in 2020 — 97 catches for 831 yards and nine touchdowns.

JuJu Smith-Schuster’s numbers and production haven’t changed since he left Pittsburgh; instead, the talent surrounding him–including an MVP quarterback (Patrick Mahomes) and a future Hall of Fame tight end (Travis Kelce)–has.

Smith-Schuster was simply on a much better team in 2022, and that’s why it seemed like he was more disciplined than he was with the Steelers.

Again, I have no problem with Smith-Schuster, his personality, or the way he conducts himself on and away from the football field.

  • He’s a good dude who does many great things in whatever community he finds himself in.
  • Is he a lot to take for your average football fan whose stick is planted firmly in the mud? Absolutely.

But to suggest that the Steelers allowed JuJu Smith-Schuster to run amok in Pittsburgh while the Chiefs kept him in check in Kansas City? And to claim that this is why he’s not only a much better player now but also a Super Bowl champion?

Sadly, that’s why the media is the media

That’s also why the fans is often the fans.





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