clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The unfortunate numbers which have kept Donnie Shell out of the Pro Football Hall of Fame

With all the numbers in his favor which should matter, it is the ones Shell had little to do with which has kept him out of Canton

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Colts

14 seasons. Four Super Bowl wins. Five Pro Bowls. Three first-team All-Pro selections. 51 interceptions. 19 fumble recoveries.

These are the numbers which should matter when it comes to electing a player to the NFL Hall of Fame. Over his career, safety Donnie Shell has done more than enough to show he is worthy of enshrinement in Canton.

Unfortunately for Shell, it was other numbers which have kept him out of the Hall of Fame. What numbers have appeared to keep Shell from enshrinement? Here are just a few:


There are already nine players enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who played during the Steelers’ four Super Bowls in the 1970s. With so many players from the same era on the same team, the NFL has unofficially made the decision for some reason that there should be a cap on the number of players associated with a given franchise during a particular time period. While the entire notion of limiting the number of players in the Hall of Fame from certain teams is ridiculous, it also completely undermines the credibility of the Hall of Fame. After all, it’s supposed to be the best players in professional football who are represented regardless of what uniform they wore.


When Joe Greene was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1987, Donnie Shell was preparing to play his last season in the NFL. In playing so long, Shell saw Greene, Jack Ham, Terry Bradshaw, Mel Blount, and Jack Lambert all enshrined in Canton before he was even eligible to be on the ballot. Another future Hall of Famer in Lynn Swann was eligible for the Hall of Fame the year after Shell retired but was still waiting for his selection. With John Stallworth retiring the same season as Shell and being another player who seem destined for the Hall of Fame, the timing seemed difficult for Shell to stand out just among his teammates. It also didn’t help that Mike Webster was simply waiting for his time to be eligible for the Hall of Fame. If Shell had not had such a long NFL career and retired about three years sooner, their may have been a chance for him to get elected before the barrage other Steelers’ Hall of Famer‘s became eligible.


With the Pittsburgh Steelers already having 27 representatives enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame who were associated with the franchise for the majority of their career, they seem to be one of the teams whose players have to go above and beyond in order to get elected. As much as it seems total inductees shouldn’t be an issue, no players elected in 2019 were associated with an NFL franchise for the majority of their career who is in the top 10 for the number of representatives in the Hall of Fame. As stated before, players should be chosen based solely on their contributions to the game, not which franchise with which they were associated.

Perhaps I suffer as many fans do with constantly looking at everything with my black-and-gold glasses. Is it justifiable that Donnie Shell has not yet been elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame? I can’t see any reason why someone could make a case that he doesn’t belong. Hopefully, with 10 players being elected in the special 2020 class who are beyond modern-era candidacy, Shell will finally join his nine teammates. It has been 18 years since the last member of the 1970s Steelers was inducted into the Hall of Fame. It’s time for Shell to take his rightful place in Canton.

Next on the list: L.C. Greenwood