In the day of the Steel Curtain defense of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 1970's teams, the franchise's roster was littered with hall of fame players. The secondary alone had one of the greatest cornerbacks of all-time in Mel Blount.
Lining up on the other side of the field from Blount however was another first round pick in J.T. Thomas from Florida State. Thomas was the first pick of the Steelers in the 1973 NFL Draft, the season after Pittsburgh's first ever playoff victory. He would don the jersey number 24, quickly become part of the Steelers' defense and a contributing member to a defense that would dominate the decade.
We take a look back at some old school film of a young Thomas making plays for the Steelers' secondary.
Thomas fit the bill of a tough cornerback
J.T. Thomas was only in his second year of his NFL career, but that didn't stop him from coming up to deliver big hits. In the 1974 AFC Championship game, the Pittsburgh Steelers would completely shut down the rushing game of the Oakland Raiders that was ranked at the top of the league all season, thanks in large part to having three future Hall of Fame offensive linemen.
That didn't stop the Steelers from absolutely demolishing the Raiders' offense, as seen when Thomas flew up to the line of scrimmage to lay out the running back with a big hit on a tackle for loss.
Continuing the theme of big hits, Thomas would deliver a huge blow in the 1975 AFC Championship game. Look at his perfect placement of his body and helmet right onto the football to force a fumble that Pittsburgh would recover just before the ball would reach out of bounds. Thomas' toughness was never in question.
Late interception 1974 AFC Championship
When the Steelers were holding onto their lead in the 1974 AFC Championship, the Oakland Raiders were on the move and trying to drive down the field. When the pressure got to the quarterback, an errant pass was thrown and Thomas was right there to return the ball back inside the Raiders' 25 yard line.
Thomas was not anywhere near the elite cornerback that Blount was for Pittsburgh, but he was certainly a solid role player in his career. He would even be named to the 1976 Pro Bowl when the Steelers' defense would shutout five teams during the regular season. Thomas would retire with 20 interceptions, two of which were returned for touchdowns.
Thomas' biggest accolade was his being on four Super Bowl championship teams during the 1970's with Pittsburgh. His heroics will rest in the shadows of giants like Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Lambert, Jack Hamm and others, but his accomplishments should always be recognized in Steelers history.