Not the Same Old Steelers

Yesterday I received word that a ‘journalist’ (term used very loosely here) in Arizona had written an article that was terribly demeaning to Pittsburgh and the Steelers fans. I tracked it down and read it.

The language used by the writer and the misinformation concerning Western Pennsylvania and the people who live there was deplorable. He claimed to be a former Cleveland Browns fan, but most cities and teams should be ashamed to have his name associated with any of them. I don’t blame the Cardinals nor Arizona for the actions of the man, but I do question the editors who allowed his piece to be published.

A couple of years ago I attended an Atlanta Falcons football game. Their opponent that day was the Pittsburgh Steelers. It was difficult to tell which team was the home team… half of the crowd as wearing red while the other half wore the black and gold.

Because the Steelers fans bought whatever tickets were available, their seats were totally intermingled with the Falcons fans. In the area where I was sitting, the entire game was filled with good natured teasing as each team scored. The game went into overtime and was eventually won by the Falcons.

During almost five quarters of football, there were no heated arguments and no fights. Steelers fans, for the most part, are like that – as are the Falcons fans. Everyone wants to see their team do well and will gladly yell and scream and make fools of themselves by painting their faces and wearing silly hats. But, deep inside, they know it is just a game… a diversion to get their minds off the problems of day-to-day life.

Younger Steelers fans are probably unaware of what we older fans suffered through. My first memories of the Steelers had a lineup that included the likes of Elbie Nickel, Lynn Chandnois, Jim Finks, and Ernie Stautner. I heard these names on radio station WWSW as Joe Tucker relayed the play-by-play action to us. Other names from the past included Jack Butler, Brady Keys, and George Tarasovic; but Ernie Stautner was the only one who didn’t have to pay admission to enter the Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. In fact, he’s the only member of the Steelers to have had his number retired.

Ernie was a defensive end who weighed less than two hundred fifteen pounds. Considering the size of today’s linemen, it’s hard to believe he is still considered one of the best of all time.

The thing I remember most about Brady Keys was the time the opposing team attempted a field goal near the end of the game. The Steelers were leading by a point or two; a field goal would mean a loss for Pittsburgh’s squad.

In those days, the goal posts were on the goal line, which meant wide receivers and defensive backs often ran into them at full speed. It was funny to watch, but painful to the unfortunate players.

In any case, Brady Keys was standing in front of the goal post ready to run back the kick if it should fall short of the mark. The kick was indeed short and would have fallen harmlessly between Brady’s head and the crossbar. However, Brady misjudged the distance and, believing the ball would make it over the bar, jumped in an attempt to block it with his hands. In so doing, he succeeded in knocking the ball higher… just high enough to cross over the goal post and ensure another loss for the Steelers.

In fairness to Brady, it should be pointed out that he played eight years in the NFL and was a pro-bowl caliber player. With seed money borrowed from Art Rooney, he started a restaurant chain and eventually became a successful business man.

Those were the days of SOS in Pittsburgh… the Same Old Steelers. They always seemed to find a way to snap defeat out of the jaws of victory.

Today’s Steelers do a wonderful job of drafting and picking up free agents. Yesterday’s Steelers had a lot to learn in those areas.

For instance, in 1957, the Steelers had the fifth overall pick in the draft. They selected Lenny Dawson. The Cleveland Browns, picking sixth, took Jim Brown.

Lenny Dawson was very much like Bret Favre who was drafted by Atlanta and showed no signs of becoming a Hall of Fame quarterback. The Falcons traded Favre to Green Bay. The Steelers traded Lenny to Cleveland where he was equally unimpressive. After a total of five years in the league, Dawson had completed just 21 passes for 204 yards and two touchdowns.

After he was released by Cleveland, he joined the Dallas Texans of the floundering American Football League. As they say, the rest is history.

As for free agency, there was no such thing back then. However, the Steelers were involved in numerous trades. That’s how they picked up Bobby Lane and Gene “Big Daddy” Lipscomb.

With Buddy Parker at the helm, the Steelers made their first post-season appearance in 1962. With a record of 9-5 they finished in second place and qualified to play in the ‘runner up’ bowl, which they lost.

As for the current stability – three head coaches in forty years – that all started in 1969 with the hiring of Chuck Noll. In the years prior to that, the Steelers had four head coaches in fourteen years. That stint was begun with Walt Keisliing who was filling that slot for the third time. Shades of Billy Martin and George Steinbrenner!

So things have not always been a bed of roses for Steelers fans. Success did not happen overnight. Hopefully, the nightmares that came with the Same Old Steelers in the 1930s, 40s, 50s, and 60s can remain long forgotten.

Perhaps the younger fans can see SOS with a certain amount of giddiness and glee!

In the meantime, that guy in Arizona should realize that knocking Western Pennsylvania and the Steelers Nation is worse than stomping on the Terrible Towel.

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