Onward with Michael Uhlhorn's next entry in the (so-far) well received series titled '25 Memorable Games from 25 Steelers Legends'. The premise is to highlight individual games that Steeler Nation will always remember their career by. Not surprisingly, and just as Michael and I had hoped would happen, you all have offered some outstanding additions to the conversation. Our next addition to the list is a seven-time Pro Bowler with long list of memorable games to choose from. - Michael B. -
18) Andy Russell - Linebacker (1963-1976; took a two-year hiatus to serve in the U.S. Army from 1964-1965)
For those of your keeping track, Andy Russell is the second Steeler on this list to take time off to serve his country. Can you imagine Tom Brady or Mike Wallace taking time off now to serve in the U.S. Army in Afghanistan? The reason we as fans hold Pat Tillman in such reverence is because he is such a rare commodity. Few Americans realize what sacrifices professional athletes made during our previous wars, and I think it is important to remember those who gave up playing a game, to serve their country. Thank you to all who have, and those Americans serving now who don't have the NFL to come back to.
Andy Russell truly was the first in a nearly 50-year tradition of excellence at Linebacker for the Pittsburgh Steelers. As a younger Steelers fan, I missed out on the opportunity to watch the Steelers play in the 70's, but I know Andy Russell. He is still the favorite player of many members of my extended family, and has served as a measuring stick for me in regards to the play of linebackers.
Andy Russell won 2 Super Bowls; made the Pro Bowl 7 times; and was selected to 4 All-Pro teams.
Career Game: Divisional Playoff 1975 - Baltimore Colts vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (12/27/1975)
Statistics: 10 receptions for 156 yards (15.6 avg.) and 1 touchdown.
On a cold December day in 1975, the snow was only lightly floating down, but something was affecting the play of a dominant 12-2 regular season team. The Steelers had 5 turnovers by the end of the third quarter, and were trailing the Baltimore Colts 10-7 with little time left in the 3rd. Then, the Steelers clicked back on and put up a quick score with a Rocky Bleier 7 yard rush. As the Steelers moved to the 4th quarter, they led 14-10, but still had to put the Colts away if they wanted to defend their championship from the year before.
A short ways into the 4th, Mel Blount intercepted Marty Domres inside the Colts' 30 and set up another quick score. With time running out and the Steelers up 21-10, the Colts moved into scoring position and lined up on the Steelers' 7 yard line.
I'll let the writers from Steelers.com tell you what happened next:
""That play has been a source of embarrassment for me for years,' said Russell jokingly. ‘There have been so many jokes. Ray Mansfield was the one that said NBC cut to a commercial during the return and came back to catch me score the touchdown. Nonetheless, it was a memorable play in my career.'
To set the scene: The Steelers had rallied from a 10-7 deficit to regain a 21-10 advantage with fewer than 12 minutes left in the game. Despite the 11-point lead, the Colts were still in contention and had driven to the Steelers' three-yard line. With the entrance of quarterback Bert Jones, who missed the first half because of injury, the Colts remained a threat.
The Steelers' defense, however, eliminated any chance for a Colts comeback. With nearly seven minutes left in the game, Steelers linebacker Jack Ham nailed Jones for a sack, forcing the quarterback to fumble. Russell, who was known more for his intelligence and instincts than foot speed, picked up the fumble at the Steelers' seven-yard line and rambled 93 yards for a Steelers touchdown. Safety Donnie Shell and defensive end Dwight White both produced key blocks on the play to free Russell."*
* Taken from a great snippet from Steelers.com.
Sports Illustrated later called Russell's play the "longest, slowest touchdown ever witnessed." Watching the clip, I have to agree, but I am also reminded of the longest run-back in Super Bowl history. We are spoiled as Steelers fans to have had these moments, and as for our list, we still have 17 more to go.
Video: An episode of the series, "America's Game," about the 1975 Steelers from Hulu. The Colts game starts after the 4th commercial break. At 25:00, you will see Stallworth's catch and just before that an absurd catch from Lynn Swann.