The last snap – The history of Iron Mike Webster
Pittsburgh, the Seventies.
It is difficult to describe a period unique in the history of a team and a city. We breathed iron and football. The city of the steelworks, the city's working class by definition. The city of blue collar workers, those who broke the back and the lungs in the foundries, in the hope that the children could climb the social ladder and become doctors and lawyers. Sunday was the day of rest and of recovery: pull out the Terrible Towel and we went to cheer for the team that until recently was the laughing stock of the league but with a new coach and a nice number of choices, definitely a well-aimed had found the true perfect storm.
It should be noted that in that period the AFC, just affrancatasi from the definition of an Alloy of Mickey mouse, had without a doubt the strongest teams in the NFL. The Steelers of Chuck Noll had to come to terms with the Dolphins of Don Shula and the Raiders of John Madden, so the competition was really heavy. The NFC sent as sacrificial victims are usually the Cowboys of Tom Landry, and the Vikings and Bud Grant, but in that decade, the numbers of the final were clear, pitiless, with eight titles to the teams in the AFC, two to the Dallas Cowboys.
He was a football different from the rain of balloons today. In two seasons, and even the total number of yards rushing surpassed yards on the launch (today, it would seem blasphemous). The shotgun formation was a declaration of intent that is crystal clear and you could see in the field with extreme rarity, while today is so much of a stir as the coin toss prior to the meeting.
And in that era of great teams the Steelers were, without a shadow of a doubt that the most dominant ever, over a continuous period and with the same core of key players. The Steelers won four titles in six years, a feat never accomplished before any other team. Have a team so strong in a city that was not one of the great cities had an obvious consequence: Pittsburgh and the football in that period were a single word.
This symbiosis, this golden age was palpable at every level: even the Pittsburgh Panthers were a good team in the NCAA. And the parents who went to see the boys of the high school could assist, perhaps, at a game between East Brady and Central Catholic. The names will not tell you anything, but in that period, the quarterback of the first was James Edward Kelly, the second answered to the name of Daniel Constantine Marino.
But back to the Steelers: under the enlightened leadership of Chuck Noll this is a team that dominated the league in that decade incontrovertible. Noll was also able to understand the evolution of the game, the transformation towards a football more open and more oriented to the launching. He won the first two titles when it was in the period in which they dominated the racing and defense, the last two when you started to put the ball in the air with greater frequency. Choosing well from the university of Pittsburgh debordava talent from both sides of the line of scrimmage: a front seven composed basically by monsters. A Bermuda triangle in the center: Mean Joe Greene is the best defensive tackle in the history of football (before Reggie White and Ernie Holmes, a sort of serial killer in the helmet and paraspalle. And a step behind them Jack Dracula Lambert, a faithful re-edition of Dick Butkus with some tooth less. But in the defence there was also a torque monster of a tight end, in the name of Dwight White and LC Greenwood.
But in that defense, there was also Jack Ham, possibly the only one that raged on the bodies after the tackle, surely the best cover linebackers ever seen in action. But in the defence there was also Mel Blount, one of the first shutdown corner ever. And Donnie Torpedo Shell, the flower of safety. Say that on eleven of these had eight probowler would not be a chance. For curiosity, going to see the list of the hundred best players ever are Joe Greene, Jack Lambert, Jack Ham and Mel Blount. Have them in the field at the same time leaves little room for the imagination.
Also the attack of the Steelers, found their nucleus of talent, became in those years a wonderful machine. Terry Bradshaw was the epitome of a perfect quarterback that served in those years. Had percentages as complete as Brees or Rodgers, but when there was to go for the big play, he knew it as few. He was the first quarterback of the modern era to win the final four, being named twice MVP. And behind him, the great Franco Harris, the runner's excellent even if it was delivered to the glory from the reception to be fortuitous. A pair of receivers of stars, such as John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. A strange tight end high 1.79, Randy Grossman.
And this wonderful machine is put in motion, always in the same way, action after action. The center broke out of the huddle by clapping their hands and running towards the line of scrimmage ready to lead the line for the next battle in the trenches. This is a player with a dark role, nerve and the complex, it was a real darling of the fans. It was a symbol recognized in a city where life is hard and work more. This player was the one that put in motion that wonderful machine. This player was number 52: Iron Mike Webster.
No, No. Do not sit down, stay standing. So I will be brief, I have not brought even a few in fact, I don't need the clipboard. Well, I know the seating of this man best of all. When Mike asked me if I wanted to present it I today, I was shocked. Really I thought I didn't deserve this honor. I just asked ‘Why?’. He said to me, ‘Who knows me better than you, the Blond Bomber?’ So I had to put together my thoughts on him, and I reflected on this: as a boy my dream, like so many great players that are in this place, was to play in a team of champions. My dream was to have a number 88 to throw the ball (Lynn Swann). And I wanted a tight end high so that each time you deliver on the field and saying to me ‘come on Terry, I'm free, I freed up a track inside the five-yard!’. I don't throw for five yards! Then give me a guard left who knows how to make good trap block, and I had Sam Davis, a tackle left, who liked the horses and I had Jon Cowboy Kolb, and behind me a runner from Penn State nicknamed the Italian stallion (Franco Harris). Then give me a defense that could stop this attack, and find a nickname because a defense the NFL has to have a nickname. I have had the Steel Curtain. Jack Lambert, Jack Ham, Donnie Shell, Mel Blount, etc, etc, etc, etc... then, If I needed someone who could spit in the face of a reporter, there was Mean Joe. And a great coach, and I had Chuck Noll. But a great car should have a great center. We had not only a good center, we had the best center in the history of football, and at that point my concern was that it was more beautiful than me. Fortunately this was not the case... And then I asked my dream to give me a winner, someone whom I can trust always, someone to help me during the game, someone that tells me to change the game watching the opposing defense. He has driven for years, really. There will never be no one else so loyal to a cause. There will never be another Mike Webster. Now I just have one last request. Appearance, this time from 1989. For the last time, I want to put my hands under the seats of Mike Webster!
(Terry Bradshaw, keynote presentation of Mike Webster, the Hall of Fame)
Terry Bradshaw was probably the quarterback right for the team, a working town. He has never claimed to be the alpha of the Steelers of the Seventies, there was too much competition and not only in defence. But did not hesitate for a moment when he was asked to push himself to his team-mate closer. Not only is the symbiosis between the quarterback and his center, is that Mike Webster was a truly dominant player in his role. Taking the list of the hundred best players, we find it at number 68. It was included in the team of the decade in the Seventies who, in the Eighties, even if in the second team: curiously, both times in the first team he found himself in front of the center of the Miami Dolphins, but not the same player: in the Seventies, Jim Langer, center of the perfect team, in the Eighties, Dwight Stephenson, center perfect.
Webster was a perfectionist, the intersection between the scientist of the role and the warrior. Do not miss an any aspect of the game, even those that may seem marginal. In the war of the trenches was the recognized leader of its line. Even under the snow he was playing quietly in short sleeves, to make it clear to the defender that in the struggle for survival would have really found bread for his teeth. It should be mentioned that the center position, especially in those years, was absolutely crucial. The centre is reading the front seven in the opposing, if necessary, changed him a diagram of the clamping, in-line, if something was not put right allertava the quarterback