Steelers Legends Speak Out

Venerable Pittsburgh sports writer Jim O'Brien talked with several black-and-gold legends who sounded off about the state of the team.

"Today it’s important how much money you make and how that compares to the other players. It’s a status symbol. Then someone signs a contract for $80 million like Big Ben. What does that do to you? There’s a hierarchy in professional sports [today]. There are stars, there are wannabe stars, and there are average guys. It’s tough to be accepted by the average guys when you get put on a pedestal. You play in a different world. You become a phenom. It’s tough to be a phenom. You get lost in who you are and what you want to be."

-Four-time Super Bowl champion Rocky Bleier on being Big Ben

"Everything is fair game these days. But I do believe the players’ behavior is worse today. I think it’s symptomatic of our society, a microcosm of what’s gone wrong as regards to acceptable behavior. There’s been a diminishing of our values and standards."

 -Former Steelers PR man Joe Gordon on common decency

"In the old days you had to work, whether you were a player or an assistant coach. You weren’t going to spend the off-season on vacation. If you [are] busy, it eliminates a lot of potential problems. You’re not hanging out in bars. The Rooneys got us involved with a lot of nonprofit activities around town. You met some good people. The message was clear that you were expected to be a good citizen."

 -Steel Curtain founder Andy Russell on the old days

"You think you know everything when you’re young, but you’ve had such limited life experience. They should talk to me. Or Andy [Russell]. Maybe we could help them. … But, of course, my kids never wanted to hear that. Why should these Steelers?"

 -Bedrock tight-end Randy Grossman on being ignored

"[The Steelers] have the former players come in when the rookies report right after the college draft, and they have us talk to them. They don’t always want to hear what we have to say. Dwight White and I were talking to some new defensive linemen some time ago at one of these get-togethers at least 10 years ago. Dwight was talking and I was watching. One of the guys rolled his eyes and said, ‘That was then, and this is now.’ That’s what I don’t understand about these young players today. They don’t want to get wisdom."

 -Steel Curtain anchor L.C. Greenwood on being disrespected

"I see some of these young guys, and I have to shake my head sometimes. I still like them and admire their ability, mind you, but I don’t think there’s a respect for the history of the game or what went down before they got here. Because of the money they’re paid and the signing bonuses they receive, the rookies don’t feel too humble when they arrive nowadays."

-Offensive-lineman-turned-TV-personality Craig Wolfley on young players today 

Pittsburgh author Jim O’Brien has written 23 books, and the latest is Pittsburgh Proud: Celebrating the City’s Rich Sports History.