When thinking of Pittsburgh tight ends these days people will immediately picture the recently retired Heath Miller. Like the rest of football, the tight end position has seen the size and athleticism of players grow over the past few decades in the NFL. Today most tight ends are 6'5" or taller and add a vertical threat to the passing game added with the size to be able to block at the line of scrimmage and win tough jump ball battles against opponents.
Randy Grossman was only 6'1" and 218 lbs., but he still was contributor on the Steelers' offense in the 1970's. The undrafted graduate out of Temple University and Pennsylvania native joined the team in 1974 when the ta would already have drafted four players that would later be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He made the team and would remain with the Steelers for all eight seasons of his NFL career, which made him also part of all four Super Bowl champion teams of the decade.
Grossman had to compete with bigger players at the tight end position, including the converted tackle Larry Brown and the first round draft pick Benny Cunningham, but he always remained a reliable and tough target that was quiet and made plays when he was called upon. Today's Throwback Thursday goes to him.
Had good field awareness
In the fourth quarter against the Minnesota Vikings, Terry Bradshaw was leading a drive that would put the Steelers on top for the game when the team faced a crucial third and nine situation at midfield. Grossman had managed to work his way down the field and catch a pass thrown slightly behind him for the first down to continue the drive and get down to protect the ball but not before he made sure he was in bounds.
Made the plays in traffic
Grossman was not often Bradshaw's target, but when he was he made sure that no fear would get between him and making a play for his team. Here Pittsburgh needed just four yards to keep a drive going against the Oakland Raiders in the 1975 AFC Championship. Bradshaw found Grossman over the middle who converted the first down and took big hits from the hard hitting Raiders defense.
Took on all comers
Grossman wasn't particularly fast, big or unusually strong, but that didn't mean he ever feared anyone. In the same AFC Championship game he would catch a pass on a third down, turn up field knowing he needed to get the first down, lower his shoulder and take on three different Raiders before he would be brought down. He like many others on this team embodied the tough grit reputation of being a player for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
An Unsung Steeler
In a time when the team had several hall of fame players, other players who put up amazing statsitics like L.C. Greenwood's five sacks in the Super Bowl (most ever) or Donnie Shell's 51 interceptions, and other players with amazing stories like Rockey Bleier who would come back a war hero with a Purple Heart and start on all the Super Bowl championship teams, it's tough to squeeze in time to talk about Grossman.
Grossman would record 119 receptions for 1514 yards and five touchdowns during his career, as well as another 15 receptions for 186 yards and a touchdown in the playoffs. However his statistics could never show his value to the team the way Dan Rooney explained it years ago.
"He was one of those guys who was never viewed as one of the superstars, but he did everything you asked of him," Rooney said. "He caught the big touchdown pass in the Super Bowl. He was one of those guys who got you the first down when he would go in and play. He was just a real good competitor who really proved his value. He was just a good team man."
Grossman had to be all heart to tough it out in a competitive time for the NFL and make it on an extremely talented roster for Pittsburgh during that era. His toughness and attitude live on in the memories of fans from those days and the classic NFL Films that have been preserved.
Today the Steelers have a player whom wears number 84 and also catches everything thrown his way in Antonio Brown, who was recently ranked as the fourth best player in the NFL by his peers on the NFL Network's Top 100.
While Grossman was never the player that Brown has been and continues to be, he is another example in a long line of hard working men that make up the tradition of what it means to play for the Pittsburgh Steelers.