The Essentials: The Pittsburgh Steelers

This post has nothing to do with Ike Taylor and Antonio Brown punching each other because who cares. Pirates baseball has distracted us from training camp and honestly there isn’t anything current worth talking about besides backup fullbacks.

This month, Yahoo” Sports’ hockey blog, Puck Daddy, is running a feature called “The Essentials” in which a blogger details the single most important player/coach/moment/game in their franchise’s history. Why not do that for the Steelers?

Presenting: The Pittsburgh Steelers Essentials!


“Mean” Joe Greene was the Steelers’ first draft pick in 1969, the first person Chuck Noll brought to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He was raw but talented. He had some very overt anger issues that led to him starting fights, playing dirty, and threatening to walk out on the hapless Steelers. But Chuck Noll molded him and taught him to turn that aggression into intensity on the field. He set a new standard of defense not only for the Steelers, but in the NFL. No one could run the ball against him. Quarterbacks couldn’t stay upright against him. He and his linemates were unblockable. He became the icon, the face of a franchise that had been meandering aimlessly through its own existence for forty years. The Steelers were built around the greatest defense football has every seen (or will ever see). The defense was built around the front 7. The front seven was built around it’s line. And the defensive line was built around Joe Greene. With all due respect to Dwight White, Ernie Holmes, and LC Greenwood, there was one defensive tackle who belongs atop the list of all-time greats in this city. Joe Greene is the greatest Steeler to have ever put on the pads.

Jump for the rest!


The 1976 Steelers are possibly the greatest single football team of all time, and certainly the greatest not to win the Superbowl. The ’85 Bears had that run, sure. But have you noticed they’re always referred to as “The ’85 Bears”? Not “The Bears of the 1980s”? That’s because they did their thing for one year. A flash in the pan. Insignificant in comparison to a decade of domination. The Steelers in the 70s were certainly the best collection of defensive players ever assembled. And 1976 was the defense’s finest season. After the Steelers sputtered to a 1-4 start with a primarily inept quarterback (be it Bradshaw or his nobody backup, Mike Kruczek), the defense right the ship and took control of the season. From that 1-4 start, it would take a miracle to make the playoffs. The Steel Curtain provided. From Week 6 through the end of the regular season, the Steelers surrendered 25 points. Or, to better quantify that, 2.78 points per game. Less than a field goal. Less than the smallest amount of points you can get on offense. That level of total dominance will never be seen in football again, and that makes this team the greatest the Steelers (or probably any other franchise) will ever put on the field.


The Steelers had been a bumbling, inept franchise for its entire existence. The most notable quarterbacks the Steelers had been connected to were Johnny Unitas (who they cut before taking a snap), Len Dawson (who they cut before taking a snap), and Bobby Layne (who was so irate at his trade to Pittsburgh that he famously cursed the Lions so hard that they were actually cursed). In 1969, Chuck Noll took over the sputtering Steelers. Over the next three years he would draft Joe Greene, Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, and Mel Blount, among others. In 1972, the defining game is Pittsburgh Steelers’ history was played on December 23rd against the Oakland Raiders. Take it away, John Facenda:

(Embedding youtube videos just doesn’t happen around here)


The 1974 Draft. In the first round, the Steelers took WR Lynn Swann. In the second, a golem made from gravel and rusty nails who played linebacker and called himself Jack Lambert. In the fourth round, WR John Stallworth joined the team. In the fifth, center Mike Webster. What do those four have in common? They are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It’s worth mentioning that Donnie Shell joined the team as an undrafted free agent that year.

(Honorable mention: Signing James Farrior) 

Unsung Hero

Given the context of this article, you could say the whole 2000s team is an unsung hero in comparison to the 70s team. A team’s unsung heroes are usually offensive linemen, but the Steelers have such a great tradition at center that it’s not really fair to list one of them. Defensive players actually get the accolades they deserve in this city. Even Kevin Colbert has been getting his due in past years as one of the best GMs in football.

So I’m going with my time-honored tradition of praising the greatest unsung hero of them all: Chidi Iwuoma.

(Seen here, probably downing a punt at the one-yard line) 

Franchise Villain

Not even bothering with the Ravens here. Instead, the feelings you get when seeing this image should explain perfectly what a franchise villain is:

Remember that time he dropped a 4th down pass from Joe Flacco to lose to the Steelers in the playoffs? Haha, those were good times. The fun thing about villains is that they always lose in the end.


You’d think this would be Chuck Noll, but no. His contributions to the Steelers are immeasurable, but if there’s one coach who could really personify this city and this team, it’s our very own Bill Cowher:

Cowher is from Pittsburgh. He was a linebacker. He was tough as nails, but his players loved him. If you took Pittsburgh’s image of itself and compressed it all into one person, you would get a football coach named Bill Cowher. He is the quintessential Pittsburgh coach, with the demeanor of an angry bear and an ability to motivate players rivaling that of Vince Lombardi. It was a hard day when Cowher retired, and I think we’re all harboring a secret hope that we see him coaching again somewhere someday.


The Penguins have Mike Lange, who gets really excited and yells bizarre stuff while calling hockey games. The Steelers had the late, great Myron Cope for that. His nasal, sandpaper voice was grating to outsiders who heard him speak, but Cope calling a Steeler game is music to any Steeler fan’s ears. Myron Cope wore his heart on his sleeve and he loved the Pittsburgh Steelers. All due respect to Bill Hilgrove, the day Cope retired was a sorry day for Steeler fans, and his death in 2008 was heartbreaking. Cope is in the Radio Hall of Fame, the first pro football announcer to receive the honor.

Stadium Behavior/Tradition/Trend

Myron Cope’s Terrible Towel.

We invented this. It is now prominently featured in every sports venue ever. Every time you see a group of sports fans waving towels, they’re only doing it because Myron Cope made it happen in 1975. If anyone denies this, they are provably wrong by documented fact. You’re welcome, sports.

(Honorable mention: Renegade)

There you have it. The essentials of the Pittsburgh Steelers. As far as we are concerned, the greatest franchise to grace professional football. This is how we define the Pittsburgh Steelers. With hard work and defense and being better than every other franchise.


About Brian Schaich

Brian studied computer engineering long enough to know he just wanted to talk about sports all day for a living, so that's what he does.