(Photo courtesy of Pittsburgh Steelers)
Talk of Fame Network
It’s not often people talk about ownership, instead of players, as the key to an organization’s success, but it’s not often people have the success of the Pittsburgh Steelers.
They won four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s and own more Lombardi Trophies (six) than any NFL team. They’ve had a litany of Hall-of-Fame players, but they’ve had Hall-of-Fame owners, too, with Art and Dan Rooney in Canton – and that, according to Hall-of-Fame player and Steelers’ defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau, is separated the Steelers from others.
“I think you’ve got the continuity there,” he said on last weekend’s Talk of Fame Network radio show. “The three coaches (over the last 45 years) … they have been outstanding, and the people who do the hiring recognize that. (But) the answer to your question (about what makes the organization special) is the Rooney family. They’re a single family-owned franchise from the beginning and they go back to almost the first Thanksgiving Day game. They’ve been a mainstay of the NFL, and that’s the big reason why they’ve been successful.”
LeBeau was part of one of the most memorable Thanksgiving Day games ever, Detroit’s 1962 upset of the then-undefeated Green Bay Packers — a game where quarterback Bart Starr was sacked a career-high 11 times. Former guard Jerry Kramer told the Talk of Fame Network that the Lions did “a lot of guessing” that day, and, basically, got lucky. But that’s not how LeBeau, a Hall-of-Fame cornerback, remembers it.
“Time has a way of eroding Jerry’s memory,” he said.
He explained how the Lions should have beaten Detroit earlier that season, losing 9-7 on a last-second field goal after Herb Adderley intercepted a pass intended for a receiver who had slipped and fallen.
“That game,” said LeBeau, “was the leading contributor to what happened that Thanksgiving Day. As a coach, player, whatever, I have never been in a locker room that was as ready to play football as we were that Thanksgiving Day to play Green Bay — because we thought we had beaten them up there and a quirkish thing happened.
“I do remember that game and the 11 sacks. I worked for Bart after playing, and he would have us over to his house on occasion. And down in his rec room, he had a huge picture of him sitting back there with about eight Lions draped over him. At the end of the game, as a defensive back, I don’t know that they even had to send my uniform to the laundry because the front seven just swarmed everything. It was a great day.”