Tag Archives: PITTSBURGH STEELERS

PEYTON MANNING OR TERRY BRADSHAW

Michael David Smith of Pro Football Talk fell into the same trap that way too many writers fall into when comparing Terry Bradshaw to superstar and/or Hall of Fame quarterbacks who have come after him.

They compare his stats (apples) to theirs (oranges) without taking the differences in the eras into account. Smith found lots of ugly stats from some of Bradshaw’s post season games and he makes the mistake of saying that Bradshaw had little to do with the Steelers’ first two Super Bowl wins.

Johnny Unitas had 7 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions in the post season and put up a 68 passer rating. Quarterbacks took all their snaps from under center in those days. They had two running backs lined up behind them and rarely had more than two wide receivers in the formation.   And their offensive lineman had to keep their hands off of pass rushers. There was a penalty called illegal use of the hands. And defenders  could knock receivers on their asses whenever they felt like it as long as the ball wasn’t in the air.

When those rules were changed to the ones that Manning plays under now Bradshaw put up great numbers. It’s scary to think what  Bradshaw, who did EVERYTHING better than Manning would do in today’s flag football offenses.

You know how many touchdown passes Joe Namath threw in that famous Super Bowl win over the Colts? None. You know what his completion percentage was the week before in the AFC  championship game? 38%. The Jets won the game. His career post season completion percentage was 42%. Namath, like Bradshaw, threw the ball downfield. There was no dinking and dunking.

In 1972, on the way to winning the Super Bowl, Roger Staubach, who also did EVERYTHING better than Manning, threw for 99, 103, 119 yards and had a total of three touchdown passes in three games. In 1978, the first season under the new rules, Staubach was 7-17 and 13-25 in the two playoff games before losing to the Steelers in Super Bowl XIII.

You just can’t compare Bradshaw to modern quarterbacks with stats alone. The guys today are playing a completely different game. Compare Bradshaw to his contemporaries and he looks just fine.

Chuck Noll, R.I.P.

When Chuck Noll died on June 13, 2014, I wrote this obit for my weekly sports column:

They say Pittsburgh is a football town. If it is, you can thank Chuck Noll, who died Friday night at the age of 82. When he showed up to coach the Steelers in  January of 1969, Pittsburgh was anything but a football town. The Steelers were not just the laughingstock of pro football. They were the laughingstock of American sports.

In Western Pennsylvania, the Steelers were something to do during Pirates seasons and they may not have been as popular as Pitt football, which stunk every bit as much if not more in the 1960s. In order to appreciate the job that Noll did, you have to understand just how bad the Steelers were before he changed them forever.

The Steelers had never won a a championship and were 45-72-6 in the 1960s with two winning seasons. They had two winning seasons in the ’50s and three in the ’40s. That’s seven winning seasons in 29 years. And their record didn’t do them justice.

They were worse.

A month before Noll took the job, the Steelers had played in front of a “crowd” of 22,682 at Pitt Stadium. They lost of course.

Fans were rooting for them to lose so that they could take O.J. Simpson with the first pick in the draft.

When they messed that up by going 2-0-1 in weeks 7,8 and 9, the plan was to do what they almost always did on the rare occasions when they hadn’t traded their top draft picks for more bad players.

They planned to draft the best available local guy who could help them sell tickets. That’s what they did when they drafted Pitt’s Paul Martha in 1964 and West Virginia’s Dick Leftridge in 1966.

Terry Hanratty was from Butler and was the quarterback at Notre Dame. Slam dunk choice. Chuck Noll said no and picked Joe Greene.

That was the first move in what may have been the best coaching job in the history of American sports.

Every Steelers fan knows what happened in the ‘70s. The Steelers went from being the worst major professional sports team in American history to the almost universally acclaimed best pro football team in the history of the planet.

Noll undid 40 years of ineptitude and embarrassment in five years.

Drafting Joe Greene was the first sign that the team was going to be built differently.

Noll won the first game that he coached and then lost the next 13 in 1969. What did he do to shake up the team in his second training camp? He got rid of the Steelers’ best player. Roy Jefferson was a wide receiver and the Steelers’ only star. He was coming off back-to-back 1,000 yard seasons, something no other Steelers receiver would do until Hines Ward in 2001 and 2002.

Jefferson wasn’t going along with the program, so Noll traded him to Baltimore for a mediocre receiver named Willie Richardson. Keep in mind that Noll traded his only star player and one of the best wide receivers in the league after he had taken a quarterback named Terry Bradshaw with the first pick in the draft a few months earlier.

And the plan was to start Bradshaw in Week 1.

Bradshaw threw six touchdown passes and 24 interceptions his rookie year. He could have used Jefferson.

The NFL awards the Lombardi Trophy to its champion every year. The Chuck Noll Trophy might make more sense. Noll won more Super Bowls than any other coach and no NFL coach has ever done a better job than Noll did from 1969 to 1979.

Not Lombardi.

Not Shula.

Not Walsh.

All great coaches, but the teams they inherited were better than the one that Noll inherited and Noll won more Super Bowls than all of them. And he did it after his defenses had forced the NFL to change the rules to make it easier to complete a pass.

They took away his ability to totally dominate with defense, so he turned his quarterback loose and beat them with offense. And if there is another coach in a major sport who has won back-to-back championships with only players that he drafted or signed as free agents, as Noll did in 1978 and 1979, I don’t know who it is.

It would be nice if you could say that Chuck Noll’s numbers speak for themselves, but they don’t. They apparently don’t speak loud enough for him to be mentioned very often in discussions about the greatest NFL coaches.

The great thing about Noll is that he did let his accomplishments speak for themselves. He was not a self-promoter. He had no interest in having his own TV show or doing car commercials. When he retired, networks weren’t lined up to hire him as an analyst because he made it clear that he wasn’t interested.

So, Chuck Noll will probably never get the recognition that a guy with his accomplishments deserves.

And, you know what? He couldn’t care less.

What a great man.

KORDELL RETIRES A STEELER

Kordell Stewart came back to Pittsburgh so that he could retire a Steeler.

Despite being misunderstood and misused by several coaches here, including and especially Bill Cowher, he still has fond memories of his time as a Steeler.

If his former teammate Josh Miller said it once, he said it 10 times today on The Fan : The Steelers coaches didn’t know how to use him.

I started saying that in 1998 and became known as his number one apologist. And that’s basically all that I said and continue to say.

Miller also said several times that the coaching staff and some people in management didn’t have his back and that Stewart –considering what’s been happening with NFL quarterbacks lately — was ahead of his time.

Kevin Gilbride spent two years here trying to turn him into Eli Manning.

Stewart is the third best quarterback in Steelers history (Bobby Layne wasn’t here long enough) and ended up being a wasted talent.

And he’s one of the nicest guys ever to play in Pittsburgh.

Nice to see him have a little moment today.

TODD HALEY SHOULD BE CAREFUL WITH ROETHLISBERGER

How did we survive last year without OTAs?

One day into the Steelers’ 2012 OTAS  and we already have a QB – Offensive Coordinator controversy.

It seems pretty obvious that Ben Roethlisberger is doing the best he can to communicate to his bosses that he thinks hiring a new offensive coordinator was a bad idea and could end up being productive.

What he’s been saying might be called whining.

But he may also be right.

Especially about the counterproductive part.

Based on what he said yesterday, he is getting the message that he’s going to be expected to stay in the pocket more.

That could be the classic case of watching out what you wish for.

Ben Roethlisberger stuck in the pocket is Neil O’Donnell — capable of being a good NFL quarterback.

Outside of the pocket he’s one of the most dangerous and productive quarterbacks in NFL history.

Maybe it’s a matter of degrees and, by the time the season gets here, there will be a compromise that still gets Roetlisberger on the perimeter to make plays but also gets him to make a quick read, throw and avoid the rush.

If nothing else, the new coordinator makes training camp and the preseason games a lot more interesting.