Archive for May, 2012
Posted on May 25, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
Dear Old Dad remembers it well. It was a Monday night. He was “doodling on a legal pad.” O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills were coming to Three Rivers Stadium that weekend, and he was determined to keep the 1,000-yard rusher from all those cutbacks and gashing runs.
That’s how he recalls fathering the stunt 4-3 defense: tilt Joe Greene at an angle between the guard and center, aim him toward the numbers on the center’s helmet (as if that wasn’t intimidating) and keep those infernal interior linemen off rookie middle linebacker Jack Lambert.
Nice going, Dad.
“That was the beginning of the stunt 4-3 and the Steel Curtain,” George Perles recalled. O.J. got 49 yards on 15 carries that first game. Oakland conjured 29 yards on 21 carries in the AFC Championship. Minnesota collected 17 yards on 21 carries in the Super Bowl, and suddenly a tilting Greene, a twisting defense and the tide-turning Steelers were curtains for the rest of the NFL winning four of six Supes.
He brought the defense to the United States Football League Philadelphia Stars and then, a few minutes later, to Michigan State, taking with him one to coach it one of the defensive linemen who played it, Curtain backup Steve Furness. Things came up roses for them at Michigan State, too.
There are inside-Steelers legends about the coaches meeting where Perles introduced the stunt 4-3 idea was one of the knock-downest, drag-outest of those gatherings when Chuck Noll‘s bright minds convened. Naaaaahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh, said the proud father. That meeting went so well, in fact, Perles said they all agreed never to put down in writing or charts their stunt ideas and twists and games. Heck, when media a week later bugged Noll about the philosophy behind the stunt 4-3, he sent the 20 or so reporters down to the office of Perles, who drew it up on the chalkboard.
Perles was the defensive line coach and, when “genius” Bud Carson (Andy Russell‘s description) left for the Los Angeles Rams, the defensive coordinator of the NFL’s dominating defense of the the last 25 years of the 20th century and the infamous Steel Curtain that once made the cover of Time.
Dad has stories about all his kids: Greene (the time he took on the entire Browns team), “Ernie Holmes, my man,” L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White, Jack Ham, Lambert. . . and more.
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog: Friday, June 1.
Happy Memorial Day weekend.
Posted on May 18, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
Jon Kolb was there for all of it, the entire Chuck Noll era. He was among that 1969 draft class. He was an assistant who got a plain telephone call from the Hall of Fame coach after the 1991 season:
Kolb’s first response? It wasn’t selfish anguish or fear. It wasn’t shock.
It was concern for the only head coach he knew in Pittsburgh.
“What are you going to do?”
Kolb works in wellness and physical rehabilitation nowadays, removed from the Steelers and the hullabaloo of Pittsburgh. But his memories remain strong. His tales remain entertaining and incisive and informative. Heck, when Tunch Ilkin and Craig Wolfley say that Kolb is somebody important to talk to, there are fewer Steeler alumni recommendations that come more highly.
Kolb played on a line with Mike Webster, he roomed on the road with Terry Bradshaw, he practiced against Joe Greene and the Steel Curtain, he coached Rod Woodson and a variety of 1980s Steelers in his various assistant roles.
Funny, but the first question of our sitdown was a simple one: So tell me how you got drafted out of Oklahoma State by the Steelers.
He immediately thought it was a set up.
“Did they send you up [here] with that question? We played Oklahoma my sophomore year, and we beat them. I was playing center. And the next week, I got a letter from the San Diego Chargers. By my senior year, I heard from almost every team. The day before the draft, I got a form letter from the Pittsburgh Steelers; it wasn’t signed. So I started answering when people asked ‘Where do you think you’re going?,’ ‘Anywhere but Pittsburgh.’ ”
He never heard from any teams the day of the draft, so he shrugged it off and considered himself undrafted. Time to hit the weights. “I went into the stadium to work out, and somebody said, ‘You have a call from a Mr. Rooney. He’s old.’ All my teammates were there, ‘Who is it? Who is it?’ I was convinced it was a joke. I thought it was a set up. I was just rude [to him].”
That night, he heard it on the news: drafted in the third round by the Steelers. “I was like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ I called Mr. Rooney [the next day] and told him the story, and he thought it was funny. Thirteen years later when I started coaching the Steelers, I was still apologizing. He was always so gracious.”
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog: Friday, May 25
Posted on May 11, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
His tenure with the the world’s most decorated football franchise all began with hockey.
Joe Gordon was the publicist for the Pittsburgh Hornets of minor-league hockey when he used to continually run into a couple of puck fans and press-box regulars: personnel director Fran Fogarty and owner Art Rooney Sr. of the local pro-football club.
Next thing Gordon knew, he was sharing an office with the Chief. The year was 1969. You might recall, that’s about the time the floundering franchise’s fortunes changed.
Chuck Noll. Joe Greene. Terry Bradshaw. The ’71 and ’74 drafts. Four Lombardis.
He knew them intimately.
He knew their stories, ones that perhaps weren’t so publicized before.
- The Chief loved baseball so much (he would call Gordon during broadcasts livid about a call or play), the Rooneys looked into purchasing a major-league team… and not the Pirates.
- Dan Rooney, a “consensus builder,” doesn’t get enough credit for being a visionary.
- Chuck Noll was such a stickler, somewhere between being a teacher, perfectionist and a renaissance man, that a few hours before an AFC championship game he got down on his knees to fix Gordon’s broken file cabinet.
- The most amazing people Gordon ever knew were the Chief, Franco Harris. . . and Myron Cope (“a legend”).
- Joe Greene was not only a marvelous player and leader, he was the cornerstone. “Dan Rooney credits Joe with much of the success of the Steelers. The right man in the right place at the right time.”
- Terry Bradshaw‘s athleticism was oft-overlooked. He once saw him hit a softball some 330 feet to the Three Rivers Stadium wall. A softball.
- Harris continues to give to Pittsburgh, which causes Gordon to place Franco in his top-three all-time.
- When it came time to talk about Rocky Bleier, Gordon went into his personal archives to pull out old media guides to jog his memory. But he can still picture Bleier limping on crutches onto Pitt Stadium after post-Vietnam foot surgery and thinking: No way he’ll ever come back.
And so much more.
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog: Friday, May 18
Posted on May 4, 2012 - by ChuckFinder
He puts on the bowler to head out the door and take me to lunch — despite it being 80-something degrees outside — and the image is unmistakable.
That is a young Art Rooney, all right.
Junior is his father’s son, indeed.
He has written a book on his family, on their Steelers background, “Ruanaidh: The Story of Art Rooney and his Clan.” He spent 500-some pages spinning great stories. I asked him if he had any that he left out of the book. Surprisingly, he did. Given this area code and his wealth of experience, he’s the perfect person in the 412 to ask for the 411.
The man is a storyteller, even better than his father, the Chief. Which is, by the way, what he calls his father. Chief. I’ve heard that in Ireland, the land of their ancestry. But nowhere else in the states.
Art Jr. only now is starting to get the recognition he deserves for his work heading the Steelers scouting department during the 1970s. He long will be remembered for getting fired by brother Dan in 1987 — and there’s a very interesting and untold side to that family/business transaction in the book.
“Exiled,” he called it.
It remains a touchy subject, one where he couldn’t talk about it for years. In fact, he never returned to St. Vincent College, the site of training camp, until 20 years after he was fired when he attended the naming ceremony to honor new Chuck Noll Field.
Oh, but he also spun stories funny and fantastic, haunting and humorous. Johnny Unitas. Joe Greene. Terry Bradshaw and the trade talk. Marion Motley. Jim Brown. Ernie Holmes. You name it.
He is the man who helped to oversee two of the greatest drafts in NFL history, 1974 (with four Future Hall of Famers) and 1971 (one Hall of Famer and seven Super Bowl starters). FoxSports.com last year named him one of the greatest talent evaluators in NFL history, ahead of Bill Walsh and Vince Lombardi.
Nice company, for the Chief’s second-born.
Next “The Steelers Encyclopedia” blog: Friday, May 11