Malcolm Emmons-US PRESSWIRE
The Steelers Hall of Fame receiver spoke exclusively with Behind The Steel Curtain on his opinion of the status of the team's current receiving group as well as his upcoming Hometown Hall of Fame ceremony to be held Dec. 14 at his alma mater Junipero High School in San Mateo, Calif.
Young money isn't worth as much as experienced money.
Every receiver drops a pass. Some less often than others, and the difference oftentimes is focus. Concentrating on fundamentals each week lessens the chance of poor fundamentals displayed in games.
The self-titled Young Money receiving group of the Pittsburgh Steelers can take a few things away from Steelers Hall of Fame wide receiver Lynn Swann.
Focus and perspective, in particular.
Swann is a well-accomplished human being, but he didn't achieve the success he's had through luck. He's a member of both the Pro Football Hall of Fame as well as the College Football Hall of Fame. He has three touchdowns and 364 receiving yards in the Super Bowl (both marks are second-highest of all time).
Swann spoke to Behind The Steel Curtain about that focus. He revealed a calm frankness; the speaking control of someone with a PR degree and three decades of broadcasting and public appearance experience.
When asked about his lesser-talented doppleganger, Mike Wallace, Swann wasn't short on (fair) criticism. Speaking in reference to a pass from quarterback Ben Roethlisberger that slipped through his hands, creating a chorus of boos that could have been heard outside the stadium, Swann, who was in attendance for the Steelers' recent 34-24 loss to San Diego, said, "It's a tough catch, I think fans who may have booed are probably thinking 'boy, he's done this a lot this year.' No receiver likes to drop the ball, he has some capability and talent, but my general opinion, if you think you're good enough to hold out, that is a catch he needs to make. If he wants to make the kind of money the big time NFL receivers make, he needs to make that play."
Not to suggest Wallace isn't working hard in practice, or even that the dropped passes plaguing the Steelers in 2012 are exclusive to him. Antonio Brown dropped a first-half throw from Roethlisberger as well.
More like allowed the pass to ricochet off his chest like it was fired from a gun.
Failing to secure the ball has been an issue as well for the Steelers' receivers. Wallace, Brown and Emmanuel Sanders have all lost fumbles in big situations this year - Wallace against Baltimore in Week 11, Brown against Oakland in Week 3 and Sanders against Baltimore in Week 13.
The effort to make a play is understandable, but it's secondary to securing the ball, Swann said.
"Great receivers constantly think about making the catch. You do nothing unless you catch it. It looks like some of it may be a little lack of focus."
Swann, one of the most prolific receivers in NFL history, is also a key member of one of the most prolific dynasty in all of sports. The 1970s Steelers didn't earn four Super Bowl championships through coincidence. Swann said he and fellow Hall of Fame WR John Stallworth understood their respective roles on those teams.
"We practiced on the fundamentals, you hone those skills," Swann said. "We talked often about having a chance to make the play. From my days in high school, to USC (Swann's alma mater), We ran first and maybe second, to Pittsburgh, where we definitely ran first and threw second.
Stallworth and I always thought 'we have to make the catch. If it was easy, lot of guys would do it. There are good defensive backs, but you gotta come up with the ball. Use whatever skill set you have. Whether it's dance in your background, use everything you have to make the catch that's the important thing."
The dance background Swann mentioned illustrates his point. It also highlights Swann's charm and intelligence. He spoke fluidly, as if he rehearsed prior to the interview. He spoke seriously, but added in well-timed jokes and was able to transition the conversation naturally into different directions. He's as gifted a conversationalist as he was a football player.
It's no wonder why Swann is a relevant public figure 30 years after he retired from the NFL and 11 years since his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He's stayed true to his background, and that, coupled with his enormous level of success, is why Swann is being honored through the Hometown Hall of Famers program, jointly established by the Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate.
As if by design, he's being honored in a way that makes his image unique once again.
Allstate's famous spokesperson, actor Dennis Haysbert (of "Major League" and "24" fame) grew up a block away from Swann in San Mateo ("by looking at him, you'd think he should have played football, but he never did," Swann said).
Presenting Swann as a Hometown Hero will be his dance coach growing up, Les Williams.
Williams was one of the original Tuskegee Airmen - the first black military pilot's in the nation's history. It's rare when a presenter's legacy rivals the inductee's, but it seems like that's what Swann is aiming for. Williams, incidentally, sold his dance studio and ended up graduating from Stanford law school.
"I have lots of inspiration, especially today." Swann said of Williams. "I'm grateful to be honored here. The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate honoring Hometown Heroes, Hall of Famers, there are lots of people who could be recognized in this effort to give me this plaque so I get the chance to put the spotlight on someone extraordinary."
All those around him seem to turn as golden as he is. After all, NFL golden boy Tom Brady shares the same high school alma mater as Swann - Junipero in San Mateo.
Maybe not for everyone, though. Swann didn't make his school's varsity team as a sophomore running back for Junipero. A receiver on the team broke his arm, and the varsity coach called Swann up to play flanker - his first experience as a receiver.
"I was able to get the starting job, and I made All-League," Swann said. "You might be disappointed but you have to maintain your focus. That's when I started learning wide receiver. It's worked out well for me."
And the unfortunate individual who broke his arm?
"Let's just say, 'Drew Bledsoe and Tom Brady," Swann laughed.
Swann will be honored at Junipero High School, and the school will receive a plaque commemorating Swann's success, both on and off the field, Dec. 14.
"Number one, it's a terrific honor," Swann said. It's great with the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame Allstate lets us go back and recognize where it began."
What began four decades ago is still drawing attention for Swann.
"Sometimes its a little embarrassing," he said about the continuous honors he receives. "As an active player you're only good as you're last game, I haven't played since 1983. Sometimes feel a little awkward, but I feel really good about this."