So, Who’s On Your “Steelers Mt. Rushmore” List? ?
Recently a well-known football news blog started a “Mt. Rushmore” voting survey for every NFL franchise. The idea was to identify the four “ultimate” players (or coaches) from each team, glorifying them the same way the actual Mt. Rushmore does our most prominent U.S. presidents.
For the Stillers, voters chose these four all-time legends: Chuck Noll, Jack Lambert, Terry Bradshaw and Joe Greene.
Sorry voters, but you got it all wrong.
First and foremost, just how the hell do you leave off Art Rooney? “The Chief” is the George Washington of the team; in fact, he’s all of the founding fathers wrapped into one. Rooney stayed the course through decades of piss-poor football, until the team finally reached greatness in the ‘70s. (He may well have been the most long-suffering owner in the history of pro sports.) If it weren’t for Rooney, there is no Stillers franchise. Leaving him off the list is ridiculous, and simply a reflection of the many voters too young to remember him.
Noll, of course, is the right choice. An Emperor has to be included, and as still the only coach to win four big ones (not to mention having been the architect of the great Stillers dynasty) his place in team history is assured.
That leaves room for two players. The voters picked Bradshaw, Greene and Lambert, but I only agree that one of them is a must-include.
As the cornerstone on which the greatest dynasty in pro football history was built, Greene is the obvious choice. He’s also probably the best ever to play his position. “Mean Joe” personifies Stillers football, in all its nasty and intimidating glory. In my opinion, Stillers history can be divided into two eras: before Greene, when the team did nothing much besides losing, and after Greene, when the entire atmosphere changed to winning.
So much for the easy part. Now comes the real challenge. Who gets the last spot?
Does it go to Bradshaw? I’d normally give him the quarterback’s nod, but looking at those four Super Bowl wins, really only two were attributable to what the offense did. Only during the late ‘70s did Bradshaw come into his own; the first two wins were delivered by the Steel Curtain defense. Bradshaw’s tough to leave off, though, as his outgoing personality and media presence has made him the face of that era.
Then there’s Lambert, maybe the most popular player ever with Stillers fans. Lambert exemplified the intimidating Stillers style, but again, that’s already been covered by Greene. Lambert too, is a tough leave-off, but if you include him, you ignore all the great players the Stillers have had on the other side of the football.
The fact is, the Stillers, of all teams, might just be the hardest to narrow down to just four: there simply are too many all-time greats from which to choose. What about someone like Mel Blount, also possibly the best ever at his position? The rules changes made by the NFL in the late ‘70s are sometimes known as the “Mel Blount Rule,” and how many players can claim they actually caused their sport’s rules to change?
What about Mike Webster, another player considered possibly the best at his position to ever play – and who was the living symbol of the blue-collar Pittsburgh football image? Trouble is, he’s “just” an offensive linemen, and those guys are eternally underappreciated. What about Swann and Stallworth, acknowledged as the best receiving duo of all time? Trouble is, they come as a pair, and take up one too many spots on the mount.
What about Franco Harris? If the Immaculate Reception is not only the most celebrated play in Stillers history, but pro football’s too, then maybe his face should appear up there with the others. Franco’s a Hall of Famer to boot, but then again, so are three or four other guys on the offense he played for, alone.
What about the greats who played before the 1970s (and believe it or not, such guys did exist)? If you want to see what a football player looks like, go look up a pic of Ernie Stautner. Stautner made the Hall of Fame as a player, but could’ve gotten in as a coach, as he practically made Dallas’s defenses of the ‘70s. Should we ignore these guys just because most of us are too young to have seen them play?
Likewise, do you dare consider someone who played after the ‘70s? Rod Woodson says Blount is the Stillers’ best-ever corner, but, then again, Blount never possessed Woodson’s return skills. Dermontii Dawson is another Stiller mentioned in the all-time-greatest centers conversation. Had these guys played for Tampa Bay or Arizona, their faces are probably carved in granite by now.
One fan site tried to cheat the list, expanding the number to six, but that’s not Rushmore any more. There can be no more than four spots. The trouble is, picking the fourth is practically impossible. For instance, leaving either Bradshaw or Lambert off makes either group look lacking to me. Narrowing down to four is a nearly impossible task – or is it?
All things considered, let me give you the corrected list: Art Rooney, representing the Rooneys, one of the NFL’s royal families; Chuck Noll, whose face looks like it was carved out of granite anyway; Joe Greene, the man behind the Steel Curtain, and Franco Harris.
Franco?! Yes, Franco, and let me give you a few simple reasons why.
The NFL Network runs a show called “A Football Life,” featuring biographies of the greatest players in the game’s history. In December, for the first time ever, they ran an entire episode devoted to a play: yep, you guessed it, the Immaculate Reception. 40 years later, they just can’t stop talking about it.
Fly into the Pittsburgh airport, and you’ll be greeted by two life-like statues: one is of George Washington, looking all stately; the other is of Franco, reaching down to scoop up a football. I probably don’t have to tell you which one holds more historical significance in the minds of most local residents.
Go downtown to the sports museum, and every five minutes they replay what even Al Davis admitted was the greatest play in NFL History. That’s Al Davis, otherwise known the guy who owned the Oakland Raiders. Need I say more?
The Immaculate Reception is to Stillers’ plays what Greene is to Stillers’ players: the dividing line between years of constant failure, and a new era where suddenly everything started to go right. If you could put a play up there on the mount, I’d include the Immaculate Reception. Since you can’t, then you’ve got to use the player who represents it. That’s not Bradshaw, that’s not Lambert, that’s not anyone but Franco Harris.
And hey, why not ask the stone carvers for one small favor: do three facial close-ups, with Franco’s set back some to look just like the airport statue. That would get the point across – just call it my own little “cheat.”
One more point: including Franco also achieves something else. Now you have an owner, a coach, and players representing both offense and defense. The list may not be perfect, but it is balanced.
I’m sure a lot of you will disagree with my choice, so let’s leave it to the readers. Which four Stillers personalities do you say make up its Rushmore? I bet the answer is harder to reach than you think.