The Pittsburgh Steelers have a long history of tough players that were known to intimidate opponents and set the tone for the dominance of the team's physicaity. Names like James Harrison, Greg Lloyd, Hines Ward and Joey Porter all bring up memories as recent Steelers who were feared across the NFL as players who took no mess and delivered punishment.
In the Steelers' long history of tough and intimidating players, many from their dynasty days of the 1970's were the legends that carved out that identity for the franchise. Jack Lambert is one of those players at the top of the list that established that reputation for Pittsburgh. Not just for his play between the whistles and the many amazing moments he stepped up for his team to finish plays and stop drives, but for his demeanor against opponents.
This film room session gives a look back to some of the classic moments when Jack Lambert would set the tone in standing up for the Steelers.
"That'll cool your ass off!"
One of the more legendary mid-game quotes of Lambert are when he brought down the Dallas Cowboys' star running back Tony Dorsett. Dorsett gave many teams headaches in the late 1970's. Early in this game however, Lambert snuffed out Dorsett with a form tackle, stood up and shouted, "that'll cool your ass off!"
The statement was one of the earlier snippets NFL Films captured of audio from live action during a game that involved trash talk between two superstars and was easy to hear. Whenever there's a Jack Lambert tribute on the NFL Network or a montage of his best plays, this clip is usually included. Though it wouldn't be the most recognized Lambert moment against the Cowboys.
Lambert punks Cliff Harris
Early in Super Bowl X, the Steelers trailed the Cowboys and were struggling to set the tone. Cowboys' defensive back Cliff Harris had talked trash all week about Lynn Swann being scared to get hit, and tried to continue his trash talk when Roy Gerela missed an easy field goal.
Harris thought it would be funny to thank Gerela for missing the kick, but all his humor went away when Lambert came over and slung him to the ground to back him off Gerela. Harris didn't get up to come after Lambert after being thrown down, nor did any of his teammates rush to fight Lambert to defend his honor. It was the biggest intimidation move on the NFL's biggest stage and it changed the tone of the game. Defensive end Dwight White would later say that he was glad Lambert did that because it provided a spark for the Steelers that would lead them to their second consecutive Super Bowl victory.
Lambert stood up for his teammates
Let it never be said that Lambert did not stand up for his teammates whenever he felt it was necessary. In week six of the 1976 NFL season the Steelers stood with a 1-4 record and had to rely on rookie quarterback Mike Kruczek against the Cincinnati Bengals after Terry Bradshaw was injured from an illegal hit by the Cleveland Browns.
Kruczek did whatever he could to keep Pittsburgh in the game, but was the last line of hope the Steelers had at the quarterback position to manage the game so that the defense could carry the team.
So when Kruczek took a late hit out of bounds from the Bengals' defense, Lambert walked right up to the culprit and pushed him as a reminder of who the Bengals were dealing with whenever they thought it was a bright idea to throw late hits. Lambert's tone established early that Pittsburgh was not going to sit idly by and watch teams do whatever they wanted.
Pittsburgh would go on to win the next ten straight games that season, shutting out five opponents in the process and only allowing two of those opponents to score a touchdown. The 1976 Steelers defense was considered to be one of the best that ever set foot on a gridiron for its insane run of shutdown performance throughout the season, and much of it had to do with the talent and swagger that was brought by Lambert.
The legend of Lambert
Were it not for Mean Joe Greene, Lambert would probably be the face of the Steelers' franchise due to how amazing he was of a player and the attitude he brought to the team. Lambert wasn't always the friendliest of teammates, but he commanded their respect and was an undisputed leader on a team full of legends and all-stars.
Part of Lambert's legend came from his intimidation factor, a factor that has lingered over the Steelers' defenses in the decades since his retirement and has allowed for some of the more imposing and tough Steelers to fit a mold that he helped to create. When people talk about Lambert, they know they speak of one of the toughest players to ever play the game.