We spent the past two days with articles focusing on the play of the center position on the Steelers' offensive line the past season from Cody Wallace, compared to the likes of the play from Maurkice Pouncey.
So on this Thursday we chose to stick with the center position and highlight one of the best to ever do it in Dermontti Dawson.
While most would agree that Mike Webster from the 1970's was the best center in the history of the franchise, Dawson would be a close second based on his skills alone. We focused a ton of our last film room on Pouncey with his ability to work in space and pull as a center to be a lead blocker in a run or screen play. His athleticism makes part of what has him as an elite player in the modern NFL; just as Dawson's athleticism was part of what made him a Hall of Fame caliber center for Pittsburgh.
Let's take a look at some of the great things Dawson did on film.
Technique and Positioning
Watch how Dawson gets off the ball and perfectly shields off the inside linebacker on the play so that Barry Foster can run for the first down. Dawson was insanely quick for a lineman his size and had the power behind it to overpower anyone that he faced. Much like many of the other Steelers greats, you did not have to highlight just big plays when he becomes the center of attention to show his prowess in the game, instead a study of his fundamentals can show how consistent he was and why he was so reliable for 13 years.
Crushing people downfield:
Now comes the fun part. Old school Cowher football with Steelers offensive players putting the hurt defensive players downfield. Look at how Dawson is in position and turns up field to lead the charge for Pittsburgh on the screen. Then he and Yancey Thigpen absolutely level both their assignments for Pittsburgh to enter the red zone. This was midway into Dawson's career and arguably his prime. In 1993 he was in his sixth NFL season and was the last draft selection of Chuck Noll's that would make it to the Pro Football Hall of Fame (Rod Woodson was selected just one year prior to Dawson). Dawson would not lose much as he got older in the NFL, and became an instrumental piece to the early successes of Bill Cowher's tenure in Pittsburgh.
Plowing the road for Kordell Stewart in the AFC Championship
Remember the good times with Kordell? Ok, there were a lot of bad times, but remember the good times? Like this play in the AFC championship when he tied the game up early in the first quarter with a 32 yard touchdown run? Watch Dawson lead the charge an set the space for Stewart to jog into the end zone. Dawson's hit is classic Steelers football. He's not just going to block you, he is going to make sure he utterly destroys you and leaves no chance for you to make the play. It's the 1997 season (1998 when this game was played) and Dawson in his tenth year of his career is still pulling and blocking downfield to be the creator at the point of attack.
Salute to Dermontti.
Dawson is one of the many great Steelers in franchise history, but is often overlooked because he 1) played on the offensive line; and 2) never won a Super Bowl. In a franchise where several of its best ever players have been key contributors to four Super Bowl seasons, Dawson's career often does not stack up as high in the memory of fans because he was not surrounded by the talents of the 1970's or the 2000's. Despite this, he is still one of the team's best offensive linemen ever, let alone the NFL. He would be named to seven Pro Bowls and six All-Pro teams and would be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his seventh year of eligibility in 2012.
To this day, the Pittsburgh Steelers have not re-issued his no. 63 jersey to any player since Dawson's retirement. An honor he shares with several other Pittsburgh legends.