Let The Games Begin
The moment we’ve all been waiting for has finally arrived, opening ceremonies for the 2014 NFL season will commence Sunday Sept. 7 at Heinz Field, Pittsburgh PA, and Steeler Nation can hardly wait. It’s an official ceremony as the Steelers organization will be honoring former Head Coach and Hall Of Fame legend Chuck Noll, who passed away June 13, 2014 at the age of 82. The ceremony itself will involve a Steelers Helmut being presented to Noll’s widow Marianne, and his Son Chris. The other tribute will continue throughout the season in the form of a special emblem that the players will wear on the back of their hemlmut, the emblem simply features the initials CHN, Charles Henry Noll.
There have been several unfortunate losses in recent years of former players and significant team staff. Most notably the loss of former Defensive Tackle LC Greenwood and former scout extraordinaire Bill Nunn. In an era where the media wants to usher every good player from retirement directly into the Hall Of Fame, it’s a complete travesty that LC Greenwood has not been inducted by now. Greenwood was the Steelers sack leader after he retired, his record stood for 20 years until linebacker Jason Gildon eclipsed it on November 9, 2003. Bare in mind LC was a defensive tackle playing on the best Defense in NFL History, in an era when teams ran the ball far more than they passed. Sacks were not Greenwoods only accolade, he deflected three passes in Super Bowl 9, one of which was intercepted by Joe Greene, he sacked Roger Staubach four times in Super Bowl 10. Those accomplishments were only a sprinkling of the talent and contributions this famed Steel Curtain member was known for.
Chuck Noll’s Steelers
I wanted to mention LC Greenwood because he was a guy I always used to see at a certain Nightclub in Pittsbursh when I visited. He was always known for his style and dress, LC would be laid back at the table with his wife, just chillin’. I always wanted to go up and speak to him, but he didn’t look very approachable and I respected his privacy. Just like many Pittsburghers, I got to meet several of those players from the ’70’s, Rocky Blier, Dwight White, Randy Grossman to name a few. Many of those players kept there homes in Pittsburgh and still live there. I reminisce because this is a special year, the Fortieth Anniversary of Super Bowl 9, the retiring of Joe Greene’s #75 Jersey, and of course the year long celebration of the man who started it all, Coach Chuck Noll. Couple all of this with optimism that this will be a good year for a team that, primarily as a result of transition, has sagged the last two seasons. With all the youth and additions to the team, it’s like a new beginning that will seemingly be propelled by the greatness of our past.
For many who grew up watching the Steelers in the 1970’s, Chuck Noll was a bit of an enigma. Clearly he was the man in charge, the Head Coach and the one who called the shots, but his personality was somewhat in stark contrast to the type of players that were on his team. Chuck was reserved and stoic, a very quiet and reserved man who rarely displayed emotion whether he won or lost. His main job on the sidelines was to console his Quarterback, Terry Bradshaw. Whenever there was a break in the game or a time out, Bradshaw reported directly to Noll, Chuck did all the talking and the conversations were in most cases very intense. In a flamboyant era of the 1970’s when you had garish Coach’s like Bum Phillips of the Houston Oilers, the ranting and raving of Oakland’s John Madden, and dynamic players like Jack Lambert and Lynn Swann, Noll always remained totally complacent and fixated. He was of course the mastermind behind the rise of a team that had wallowed in abject mediocrity for forty years.
The 2014 Pittsburgh Steelers
Once the melancholy ends and all the reminiscing is done, it’s time to get down to the business at hand, which is this current team and opening day against Division Rival Cleveland. Like most of Steeler Nation, there was a strong sense of optimism coming into this 2014 campaign, this years Draft Class seemed to be very promising and the free agent acquisitions seemed to fill much needed holes. Training camp by all reports seemed to be going very well, then came the Philadelphia debacle in game three of the Pre-Season. Not that anyone should be overly concerned about shortcomings in exhibition, as it is still part of team development and experimentation, as Coach Tomlin always so eloquently points out. However, seeing the first team Defense get shredded by the Eagles first and second team offenses, in addition to our own Offense being so out of sync, memories of last years inefficiency’s crept right back into our collectives consciousness. Seemed the same exact deficiencies were rearing their ugly head, giving up long drives was such a major part of what was wrong with last years teams, and there they were again. Well, you’ve just got to wonder, don’t you.
But let’s put aside paranoia for the time being, let’s assume the stars are aligning and the time and preparation put in from that third exhibition loss have all paid off and the 2014 Steelers are ready to take the field this Sunday and have a no nonsense business approach to going out and winning a football game. By all accounting we have the revised blessed union between Offensive Coordinator Todd Haley and marquee gun slinger Big Ben, they are now working in complete harmony, each side giving way for the betterment of the team and ready to move the ball and score double digit points per game. Haley has all the weapons now to run his quasi West Coast Offensive, featuring plenty of dump offs to newly acquired rookie Dri Archer, as well as multi talented power running backs Le’Veon Bell and LaGarrette Blount to compliment his arsenal. Antonio Brown is sure to dazzle, with a myriad of slick pass routes and deep balls, and sure handed veteran Heath Miller will be his reliable self both on third down and the red zone. There is still a question mark hanging over the head of second year wide receiver Markus Wheaton, simply by virtue of the fact he hasn’t been a starter and hasn’t proven himself on the team yet, now’s his chance. And who is going to be the third receiver? Time will tell…
Bring On The Brownies!