Undercover: 'Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Steelers, Then & Now'

“Their Life’s Work …” is a necessary read for anyone with an interest in the Steelers and professional football.



Watching the Pittsburgh Steelers this season has been an exercise in frustration. Injury after injury after injury. And that was just the first game! Is the team in a period of decline or one of rebuilding? Depending on the game you’re watching, it could be either.

It makes this writer long for the days of the legendary Steel Curtain. My earliest Steelers memories are of watching Mean Joe Greene smash through opposing linemen and, after the whistle blew, seeing Greene continue to stomp on his enemies. Will we ever see the likes of that team again? Listen to the music of the names — Jack Lambert, Frenchy Fuqua, John Stallworth, Franco Harris, Dwight White, Rocky Bleier, Ernie Holmes. That’s not a team; that’s more like Mount Rushmore. But as time continues to creep in its petty pace, the men who once looked as unbreakable as the steel for which they were named must succumb to age.

Chuck Noll, Steelers head coach from 1969-1992, had many sayings in the locker room. One that stuck over the years, which he often used when he felt the men were not playing up to their potential, was “your life’s work.” As Gary M. Pomerantz succinctly puts it in his excellent new book, “Noll was saying there would come a time, even for future Hall of Famers, when the game would end and the rest of their lives would begin. What will you do then?” “Their Life’s Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now” is the story of what happened next for these legends.

First Pomerantz provides the team’s history. Starting with The Chief and his acquisition of the squad in 1933, Pomerantz briefly takes the reader on a tour through the years of losing seasons until Noll’s 1969 arrival and the bedrock of the team’s wonder years. Pomerantz, once a sportswriter for “The Washington Post,” composes his prose in an unadorned, punchy style that fits the subject at hand. His coverage of the Super Bowl years — four championships in six seasons between 1974 and 1979 — puts the reader on the field and in the locker room.

While not quite the fly-on-the-wall team coverage outlined in Roy Blount Jr.’s seminal “About Three Bricks Shy of a Load,” Pomerantz’s book is every bit as essential — perhaps even more so because he takes us with team members after they walked away from football. It’s here that Pomerantz distinguishes himself.

For each success story examined, including John Stallworth’s multimillion-dollar contracting company and Franco Harris’ tireless charity work, there are also tragedies. The heart of the book, much like that of the team in its glory days, is Mike Webster. The indefatigable center was an unmovable rock on the field; however, once his football career ended, rootlessness and confusion took over his life because he suffered from a neurodegenerative brain disease after years of head-on collisions.

“Their Life’s Work …” is a necessary read for anyone with an interest in the Steelers and professional football. There are a great many pleasures to be had in the company of these men — in the tales of their youth and now in their later years. What may surprise you, as it did me, is just how moving the story of the 1970s Steelers remains.


Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

We scoured the region to bring you 53 items we’ve deemed this year’s “Best of the ’Burgh,” as well as 8 stellar local Instagram accounts you don’t want to miss.
See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

After writing for seven years about the city for Pittsburgh Magazine and pittsburghmagazine.com, Virginia Montanez is discontinuing her blog and column.
Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

The restaurant at Ace Hotel in East Liberty hits some high notes as it finds itself.
Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

During her final season of professional basketball, Cash remains ferocious on the court and selfless everywhere else.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Feeling Hot! Meteorologists Predict Sweaty Summer For Pittsburgh

Feeling Hot! Meteorologists Predict Sweaty Summer For Pittsburgh

Ready for 90-degree temperature weather? What you need to know about summer 2016.
Pittsburgh's Union Trust Building Renovated and Restored

Pittsburgh's Union Trust Building Renovated and Restored

The historic Downtown building reopens after a two-year, $100 million renovation.
The Section of Mystery: What’s behind the door?

The Section of Mystery: What’s behind the door?

The Carnegie Museum of Natural History opens new permanent exhibit featuring 3-D holograms.
Our JazzLive International Festival Cheat-Sheet

Our JazzLive International Festival Cheat-Sheet

We break down each day of the festival so you don’t have to improv your way through it.

Sign Up for the 412 e-Newsletter

 

Our new, daily e-newsletter is curated by the editors of Pittsburgh Magazine and is designed to give you the very best Pittsburgh has to offer -- delivered directly to your inbox.

Sign me up!
* Email
 First Name
 Last Name
  * = Required Field
 
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

Best of the 'Burgh 2016

We scoured the region to bring you 53 items we’ve deemed this year’s “Best of the ’Burgh,” as well as 8 stellar local Instagram accounts you don’t want to miss.
See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

See Yinz: PittGirl Says Goodbye

After writing for seven years about the city for Pittsburgh Magazine and pittsburghmagazine.com, Virginia Montanez is discontinuing her blog and column.
Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

Restaurant Review: Whitfield at Ace Hotel Pittsburgh

The restaurant at Ace Hotel in East Liberty hits some high notes as it finds itself.
Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

Pride of McKeesport: WNBA Star Swin Cash

During her final season of professional basketball, Cash remains ferocious on the court and selfless everywhere else.
Idol Find: Pittsburgh Rapper Teams Up with Dad Jimmy McNichol for New Show

Idol Find: Pittsburgh Rapper Teams Up with Dad Jimmy McNichol for New Show

Research led Kellee Maize to discover she is the daughter of the former teen singing sensation. Now she and McNichol are teaming up to develop a television series to help other parents and children find each other.
Daytripping: Rating the Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

Daytripping: Rating the Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

One day, 18 roller coasters, four queasy stomachs, two cheeseburgers, one fried dough … whew.
Edit Module

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

On the Blogs


Feeling Hot! Meteorologists Predict Sweaty Summer For Pittsburgh

Feeling Hot! Meteorologists Predict Sweaty Summer For Pittsburgh

Ready for 90-degree temperature weather? What you need to know about summer 2016.

Comments


Pittsburgh, only cooler
PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

PittGirl: How You Should Grade A Squishy Tongue

Kennywood Park opens soon and new this season is the return of the famed whale at the entrance of Noah’s Ark. In the name of science, PittGirl paid an early visit to test the squishiness quotient of the whale's all-important tongue.

Comments


All the foodie news that's fit to blog
James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Stops In Pittsburgh

James Beard Foundation Celebrity Chef Tour Stops In Pittsburgh

Justin Severino and Hilary Prescott Severino of Cure and Morcilla organized the event, which featured celebrated chefs from DC, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.

Comments


Not just good stuff. Great stuff.
The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

The Best 7 Spots in Pittsburgh to Watch the 2016 Euro Cup

Grab your kits, scarfs and get ready to watch the Euro 2016 Pittsburgh-style. We'll show you where to go to get your fan on.

Comments


Beer Cults and Brick Ovens: An Evening at Fuel & Fuddle

Beer Cults and Brick Ovens: An Evening at Fuel & Fuddle

The restaurant and bar in Oakland welcomes college students and locals alike.

Comments


Mike Prisuta's Sports Section

A weekly look at the games people are playing and the people who are playing them.
Perspective Accompanies Long-Awaited Second Crosby Cup

Perspective Accompanies Long-Awaited Second Crosby Cup

The Pittsburgh Penguins may be more poised to establish a dynasty in 2016 than they were in 2009.

Comments


Style. Design. Goods. Hide your credit card.
Add a Bygone Beacon to Your Living Room

Add a Bygone Beacon to Your Living Room

Vintage signs can add a pop of personality to your decor.

Comments


Sean Collier's Popcorn for Dinner

The movies that are playing in Pittsburgh –– and, more importantly, whether or not they're worth your time.
Demons, Orcs, Hipsters and More at the Multiplex

Demons, Orcs, Hipsters and More at the Multiplex

Reviews of "The Conjuring 2," "Warcraft," "Maggie's Plan," plus local movie news and notes.

Comments


Everything you need to know about getting married in Pittsburgh today.
Noah’s Ark Nuptials: One Couple’s Kennywood Wedding

Noah’s Ark Nuptials: One Couple’s Kennywood Wedding

The restoration of the iconic Noah’s Ark whale entrance came just in time to be the backdrop for this Pittsburgh couple’s wedding.

Comments


The latest tips and trends to refresh your home.
Purple Reign: PPG Paints Unveils 2017 Color of the Year

Purple Reign: PPG Paints Unveils 2017 Color of the Year

Violet Verbena’s grey-purple tones are playful, elegant and calming. Plus, get the history behind some of Pittsburgh's architectural wonders.

Comments


The hottest topics in higher education
Summer Robotics Camp Offered to High-School Students

Summer Robotics Camp Offered to High-School Students

The camp is a collaboration between two area universities and is open to students entering grades 9-12.

Comments