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Louis Lipps: My all-time favorite Steelers receiver

Many great Steelers receivers have come and gone over the years. But while I've been fortunate enough to watch Lynn Swann, John Stallworth and Hines Ward play in Super Bowls, the one who came along in my formidable years and never made it to that stage--Louis Lipps--was my all-time favorite.

When you're a kid, you're certainly more impressionable than at any other time in your life. And, for young sports fans, this may be especially the case when it comes to things like idolizing and worshiping professional athletes.

Yours truly was too young to really appreciate the Steelers' glory days of the 70s, and receivers like Lynn Swann and John Stallworth, who amazed with their ability to make crucial catches for critical scores in the biggest games imaginable.

I was obviously old enough to appreciate the Steelers' second Super Bowl era and the toughness and grit of an underdog like Hines Ward, who, perhaps remarkably, rose up and set team receiving marks in both catches and total yards, and like Swann did three decades before, was named MVP of a Super Bowl.

But there's just something about those professional athletes that you watched on a regular basis as a child, when nothing else really mattered other than your favorite team and your favorite players.

And that's why I count Louis Lipps, No. 83, the man who was affectionately known as "Louuuuuuu!" by the home crowd, as my favorite Steelers receiver of all-time.

Lipps was selected by Pittsburgh in the first round of the 1984 NFL Draft, and he began to dazzle almost immediately.

Lipps' first touchdown as a pro occurred in Week 1 against the Chiefs, when he pulled in an 80 yard bomb from David Woodley.

All-in-all, Lipps would total 45 catches for 860 yards and nine touchdown receptions in his rookie campaign.

Lipps would also prove to be a dual threat, as he set an NFL rookie mark for punt return yardage with 656 and scored on a 76 yard return in Week 12 against the Saints.

For his stellar accomplishments in just his first season, Lipps would be named the AP NFL Rookie of the Year.

The following season, Lipps racked-up 59 catches, his first 1000 yard season,  12 touchdown receptions, two more punt returns for scores, and a second straight trip to the Pro Bowl.

While the 1985 campaign would prove to be Lipps' best and quickly establish him as one of the top young receivers in the NFL, it unfortunately coincided with Pittsburgh's first losing season in 14 years (7-9).

The Steelers would finish 6-10 and 8-7 the following two seasons, as Lipps' contributions to the club fell off considerably due to injuries.

Thankfully, Lipps' career took off again, starting in 1988, and he rounded out his time in Pittsburgh by hauling in 205 passes over the next four years to finish with 358 for 6018 yards and 39 touchdowns in eight seasons.

In recent years, Mike Wallace came along, and with his speed quickly became one of the best deep threats in the NFL.

But while Lipps clearly didn't have Wallace's 4.2 speed, No. 83 certainly had a flair for the big play. In addition to his three aforementioned punt return scores of 62, 71 and 76 yards, nine of Lipps' 39 touchdown receptions were 60 yards or longer.

One night in Houston, late in the '88 season, with the Steelers well on their way to a forgettable 5-11 finish, Lipps pulled in bombs of 80 and 65 yards, as Pittsburgh upset the playoff-bound Oilers.

A few weeks earlier, I was in attendance at Three Rivers Stadium for my first Steelers game, as Lipps scored his career longest touchdown, when he gathered in an 89 yard pass from a scrambling Bubby Brister.

Lipps was one of the few bright spots during a Steelers period that wasn't so Super. But he was around for the team's only two playoff triumphs of the 1980s, catching a combined eight passes for 120 yards and a touchdown in improbable victories over the Broncos (1984) and Oilers (1989).

It's unfortunate that some players are victims of circumstance and come along before, after or in-between championship eras.

Lipps was a very good player who may have been even greater had he been on a Super Bowl-caliber roster.

But while Lipps' timing may have been unfortunate in the Lombardi department, he came along just in time for Yours truly, when I was an impressionable 12 year old and had plenty of room in my heart for an all-time favorite Steelers receiver.