With six "sticky Lombardi's" in their trophy case, the Pittsburgh Steelers have proven they can walk the walk, but time has also shown that the Super Sunday staples can certainly talk the talk.
Along with a cornucopia of memorable games, plays and accomplishments, the history of the Black and Gold has given the annals of football history a slew of memorable quotes. These quips, and mostly off-the-cuff commentaries, certainly help to define the characters behind them, often serving the further purpose of helping to put historic events into greater perspective.
For example, anybody recalling the words whistling from between the two top teeth of Jack Lambert's mouth can certainly describe the linebacker's testimonies as reflecting his own "tough as nails" personality. In fact, Lambert appears on this list more than anyone; that's surprising, considering his mostly straightforward and determined personality.
I suppose that just proves a truism that's another great quote: "A fool speaks to say something. A wise man speaks when he has something to say."
So, what makes for a great Steelers quote?
Qualifications can include cleverness, but the best quotes are the ones that open the doorway to the soul of the football team and its members, whether having been actually said by Steelers themselves or not. Some are timeless and easily recognized, while others may have been forgotten but are incredibly clever or poignant.
Not included are team cheers or chants. Therefore, "Here we go, Steelers!" and other common favorites are not listed.
These are my selections for the top 20 Steelers (or Steelers-related) quotes of all time. If you recall a classic quotation, please share it in the comments section. After all, with the difficulty of accounting for so many years, so many words and so many mouths, there are sure to be a few long forgotten scintillating statements that didn't make the cut.
As the events described below happened mainly behind the scenes, the complete validity and accuracy of the comments made by Ben Roethlisberger to Jerome Bettis cannot be confirmed.
However, after a disappointing conclusion to the team's 15-1 season, the rumor mill began working overtime to make up for the steel mills no longer working in Pittsburgh. Murmurings of Bettis's impending retirement dominated the days after a devastating loss in the AFC championship to the Patriots, 41-27.
The reality of "the Bus" retiring ringless seemed more imminent following a team meeting that saw many athletes in tears, viewing their last game as a closure to the power back's career.
First, in the video above, Hines Ward responded to the melancholy events, ushering the words that pulled at the heartstrings of Steeler Nation, "He deserves to be a champion."
Next, Bettis announced he was coming back for one last ride toward a title in 2005.
In the days headed toward their shot at a fifth Lombardi Trophy, reports began to surface that Big Ben had promised Jerome a championship if he returned for another season. The exact words exchanged vary based on accounts, but the delivery can be paraphrased as such:
Just give me one more year. I'll get you that trophy.
In the 1950s, Fran Rogel played as the feature back (and then some) of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Drafted No. 100 overall in the eighth round of the 1950 NFL draft, the back played eight straight seasons without missing a game.
Conservative head coach Walt Kiesling, firmly regimented in his belief that running the football should be the exclusive strategy for the Steelers to start games, continually gave the ball to Fran Rogel early no matter the results.
At one point, Art Rooney suggested that the team should come out of the gates with a passing play instead to catch the opposition off-balance. Not wanting to hear "I told you so!," Kiesling had one of his lineman intentionally go offsides, so it would nullify the play in case of success.
Jim Finks' touchdown was called back, and an apparent lead against the Cleveland Browns didn't actually count.
Due to the stubborn nature of the coach, as well as the predictable play-calling, Steelers fans began to mock the strategy with a clever saying:
Hey diddle diddle. Rogel up the middle.
In fact, fans often chanted the saying at games.
John Elway enjoyed a sublime NFL career that included five AFC championships, two Super Bowl victories and enough comebacks to fill a cavern sinner a cabinet.
However, many players have said, in professional football, the first start is always the hardest. In the case of No. 7 (Denver's version, that is!), this certainly has a ring of truth.
After being knocked out of the game by Jack Lambert, Elway responded as follows:
He had no teethe,and he was slobbering all over himself. I'm thinking, you can have your money back, just get me out of here. Let me go be an accountant. I can't tell you how badly I wanted out of here!
I suppose having a "pad-to-pad" version of a heart-to-heart with Jack would solicit some initial concerns, no?
To hear John Facenda narrate an NFL Films production is like sitting in a warm bubble bath, being fed the most delicious steak you've ever eaten in your life by your own private sitter (whomever you choose) and having a note so soothing playing in the background that you're not sure if you're in a state of sedation or euphoria, but you're mostly sure it is some combination of both.
OK, perhaps, that's a bit vivid. However, nobody denies that listening to Facenda talk football is knowing that the perfect man for the job...is indeed talking football!
On the classic Super Bowl XIII highlight film, Terry Bradshaw hits John Stallworth with a beautiful throw, and the receiver kicks into another gear, spinning off of his coverage and weaving around defenders on a long touchdown jaunt.
Describing the action, the narrator of narrators puts the play of Stallworth into a very proper perspective:
Locals say John Stallworth is like a combination of sipping whiskey and white lightning—smooth, with a strong finishing kick.
You have to love just a classic, old-fashioned, "in your face" moment, and Myron Cope provided one of the most enjoyable "take that" jabs toward a member of the opposition.
Granted, this isn't a Steelers quote, nor is it directly symbolic of the franchise itself. However, it's so visceral and blunt, I could hardly resist including it on the list. If we all have our guilty pleasures, then consider this my "guilty exception."
During a 2000 contest against the Redskins, the Steelers' final home game at Three Rivers Stadium, announcer Cope continually referred to Washington as the "Red Faces."
Dan Snyder sent a representative to ask Cope to refrain from using the phrase. Cope, clearly not in the mood to keep the collaboration behind the scenes, made Snyder's effort quite well-known.
If that boy billionaire thinks he can shut me up, he should stick his head in a can of paint.
Needless to say, Snyder likely didn't send anyone back over to Cope's booth, avoiding having to wash off his own "red face," though, it was certainly crimson enough from sheer embarrassment.
In a constant war of words between the Pittsburgh Steelers and defending champion Baltimore Ravens during the 2001 season, tight end Shannon Sharpe focused his attack on receiver Plaxico Burress, referring to him as "Plaxi-glass."
Burress responded succinctly, stating that the last time he checked plexiglass would bend, but it didn't break.
After stiff-arming Rod Woodson to the turf and trotting in for the game-winning touchdown to end Baltimore's season in the playoffs, Burress's third straight game against the Ravens that season with a score, Plaxico had made his point both off and on the field.
One thing is certain: Greg Lloyd was never hired for his disposition.
Just ask Joe Namath. After broadcaster Namath accused Lloyd of being a dirty player early in his Steelers career, the linebacker fired back while fired up, saying, "Who is Joe Namath? This is a guy who, if he played in the league today, I'd probably just go hit him late and see what he did, just for the (bleep!) of it. Joe Namath can..."
For the sake of children's eyes, let's stop the commentary there.
His style of play was angry, and his personality matched his on-field intensity, making the 14th-greatest quote in team annals befitting of the man.
So, what was the quote? Check out the shirt in the caption above, friends!
I WASN'T HIRED FOR MY DISPOSITION.
It's the greatest play in the history of the Pittsburgh Steelers, if not the entire NFL.
Remembered for its controversy, high stakes setting, immediate impact and complete improbability, the classic series of events—from the desperate heave to the bone-jarring hit by Tatum to the Franco Harris's catch—became known as "The Immaculate Reception."
Without seeing a television screen or even being told any pertinent information, most Steelers fans could listen to the key sentence of the live call alone and be able to tell you exactly which play is being relived!
If you don't believe me, tell me, without watching the video above—do you recognize this and only this?
...and there's a collision. It's caught out of the air!
While a full call on a play hardly qualifies as a quote (thus costing this a higher ranking), those few words snipped from the entire commentary are one of the most recognizable series of words in team history, marking the exact moment of "divine intervention"—or at least stamping the time that the zaniest and most iconic play in team history occurred.
In that way, those nine universally recognized words in Steelers Country serve as a quote in my book.
Expanding to the full call by Steelers sports announcer Jack Fleming, one can sense the overwhelming joy and excitement of the moment:
Hang onto your hats! Here come the Steelers out of the huddle. Terry Bradshaw at the controls. Twenty-two seconds remaining, and this crowd is standing. Bradshaw, back and looking again. Bradshaw running out of the pocket, looking for somebody to throw to, fires it down field, and there's a collision! It's caught out of the air! The ball is pulled in by Franco Harris!! Harris is going for a touchdown for Pittsburgh!! Harris is going!! 5 seconds left on the clock!! Franco Harris pulled in the football, I don't even know where he came from!!
Iron Mike Webster anchored one of the greatest offensive lines in NFL history.
Behind him, Terry "Blonde Bomber" Bradshaw made a career of big plays, particularly in Super Bowls.
During his Hall of Fame induction speech, the quarterback showed his appreciation for the legendary center.
What I wouldn't give right now to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt just one more time! Thank you Mike!
Moments later, Terry had Webster come up with him on stage, and the two shared one final snap from fanny to fingertips!
Would a list of great Steelers quotes be complete without one of the quips offered by the highly articulate head coach Mike Tomlin?
Tomlin has been a wordsmith since his arrival in the Steel City, offering up such great quotability as "The standard is the standard."
Indeed, it is, Mr. Tomlin. Indeed, it is.
For my money, the best Tomlin quote—both for nipping a potential problem in the (bleep!) and reshifting the focus back on what was most important—came in response to Willie Parker's claims that the Steelers were not focusing their game plan enough around the running game (or, cough, him...).
The coach's response was succinct, showing both reverence for the team's history and optimism about its future without badgering his player:
Every day I walk by five Lombardi Trophies, not five rushing titles. Willie's comments could be construed as selfish, which he is not.
Class is class, am I right?
Many historians consider the 1976 Pittsburgh Steelers to be the finest team in franchise history. After a 1-4 start, the club won nine straight games, and the defense surrendered a total of 28 points over the winning stretch.
As the hottest team in football, the Black and Gold began their playoffs by beating down Bert Jones and the red-hot Baltimore Colts in their own backyard, 40-14. However, the victory came at high cost as both running backs Franco Harris and Rocky Bleier were injured.
Minus their two star rushers, the Steelers' offensive attack was effectively neutered. Facing off against the Oakland Raiders, a team that had fallen to the Men of Steel in each of the previous two AFC championship games, Pittsburgh lost 24-7.
Angry and dismayed, Jack Lambert lamented the loss, which ended the Steelers' opportunity to extend their status as two-time consecutive NFL champions for another season.
Unyielding, Lambert defiantly said after the game, "Just give me a six-pack and 30 minutes to rest and lets go out and play 'em again!"
Naturally, it was this heart of the champion, a commonality amongst all players on the dynasty roster, which resulted in four Lombardi Trophies, as opposed to one or two.
During the stretch run of 2008, the Pittsburgh Steelers served notice to the rest of the NFL that they didn't care who their opponent was in any given week.
Facing one of the hardest schedules ever devised, the Men of Steel continued to find ways to win, even against the toughest teams the league had to offer.
Over four straight weeks during the stretch run of '08, the Steelers faced Dallas, New England, Baltimore, and Tennessee—this after facing Indianapolis, San Diego and the New York Giants in three of the previous five weeks.
As a rallying cry for overcoming the odds, the Steelers served notice to everyone that the status of the opponent didn't matter; the outcome would be theirs to settle and theirs alone. And, for anyone who had any remaining questions about why they were watching the games, Black and Gold players could often be heard reminding them.
In the team's installment of the series America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, James Farrior can be heard amongst others making the season's defining quote in a team huddle.
It's a five star matchup because we're in it!
Five-star matches became five-star wins more often than not in 2008, all the way through to a sixth Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XLIII!
It's a phrase now heard constantly, uttered by football traditionalists and frustrated fans of teams on defense throughout America every NFL Sunday.
"Quarterbacks should wear a dress."
However, before the quote became part of the popular armchair football vernacular, Jack Lambert created the wave by saying it for the first time.
In three separate seasons, Lambert hit Cleveland quarterback Brian Sipe as he was releasing the football. Each time, the Browns' bench cleared in attack of Lambert.
After the first incident in 1978, the linebacker met with commissioner Pete Rozelle.
"I asked him, 'How about the guys who came off the bench and mobbed me? Were they fined?' He said, 'No, but they got very strong warnings.'"
Howard Cosell interviewed Lambert on Monday Night Football, being sure to address the red button issue. Jack Lambert responded with the words that many angry football fans have spewed in mass:
Quarterbacks should wear dresses.
This was not the last time Lambert would be brazen in response to the issue of protecting quarterbacks.
After a 1981 hit on quarterback Brian Sipe of the Browns, Jack Lambert answered reporters' questions in the locker room.
"Dreith (the official calling the penalty) said I hit Sipe too hard," Lambert said.
"I hit him as hard as I could."
Classic Jack, jack.
The following quote came from a hated opponent regarding the Steelers. Ranking among the finest quotes in team history for how thoroughly the designated target put the speaker in his place, the Blonde Bomber's response to Thomas Henderson's assessment of his mentality proved that Bradshaw was no dummy between the white lines.
"It's football, not rocket science," said Terry Bradshaw years after putting Hollywood Henderson in his place.
The linebacker ridiculed the Steelers quarterback in the days heading toward Super Bowl XIII, claiming the quarterback "couldn't spell cat if you spotted him the C and the A."
Instead of responding verbally, the Steelers quarterback simply offered Henderson the letters L,O,S and E in his own way:
Seventeen of 30. 318 yards. Four touchdowns.
After an MVP performance, it was the goofy quarterback from the Steel City who had the last laugh.
Bradshaw isn't the only one who was annoyed by Hollywood's antics. In fact, during the game, Franco Harris and Henderson are seen having a brief skirmish.
In the huddle, the Steelers running back looked fiercely at his teammates and asked for the football. Behind great blocking by the Black and Gold and White and Black (a referee obstructed the Dallas defense from a potential tackle on the play), Harris burst through the line and into the end zone.
The Cowboys trailed 28-17. Then, to cap an All-Star performance, Bradshaw hit Lynn Swann with another highlight aerial catch—a touchdown that seemingly put the game away, 35-17.
While he attempted to rally the troops, Roger Staubach ran out of time, and the Steelers won a third championship, 35-31.
In Super Bowl X, the Steelers trailed the Cowboys, 10-7. Roy Gerela missed a game-tying field goal attempt.
Who knows what Cliff Harris was thinking? The jubilant Cowboy walked over to Gerela, patting him on the helmet and clearly taunting the Pittsburgh kicker. Jack Lambert saw the events transpiring, and he inserted himself into the situation.
Tough guy Cliff vs. the little kicker became Jack Lambert vs. the little Cliff. Lambert tossed Harris to the ground—a thunderous gesture whose purpose he described after the game:
No one can be allowed to intimidate us. We’re supposed to be the intimidators.
Years later, this event remains a profound illustration of the Steelers, representing everything from standing up for others to defense and toughness to physicality.
With the adrenaline from Harris' foolish antics, the Steelers defense took control of the game, slamming the door shut on Staubach and the Cowboys almost the rest of the way.
The most unique voice in all of sports radio left Steelers fans with a plentiful number of great quotes, ranging from music videos to off-the-cuff reactionary comments on the air during games.
Two of those quotes stand out among the rest, tying for the fifth spot on the countdown.
The reactionary words that were commonly used by color commentator Myron Cope to describe the emotional highs and lows of Steelers games for generations of fans are universally adored by all in Steeler Nation:
Yoi and double yoi!
The most iconic creation from the cranium of Cope was the "Terrible Towel," a device that the colorful commentator insisted could be used to increase the odds of the Steelers winning while striking down on the opposition.
Prior to the towel's unveiling during a 1975 divisional playoff match with the Baltimore Colts, Cope said the prophetic words that have since haunted the likes of T.J. Houshmandzadeh and the entire Tennessee Titans.
The Terrible Towel is poised to strike!
Struck it has, friends. Struck it has!
If a shoddy carpenter isn't to blame his tools, he must make sure first that he has the right tools. Chuck Noll had no desire for becoming a shoddy carpenter. And, sadly, the tools at his disposal when he arrived in Pittsburgh weren't going to get the job done.
In assessing the team, Noll pulled no punches.
Recounting one of Noll's early speeches to the team creates a distinctive portrait of the psychology and business-like demeanor of the man, a demeanor that would result in a dynasty.
Or, as I'll call it, a dynastic demeanor!
On America's Game: The Super Bowl Champions, Andy Russell is interviewed regarding the 1974 squad. During a segment regarding Noll's arrival, he recalls the coach's words, paraphrasing:
We get to training camp, and the first speech to the team he says, 'I've been watching the game film since I took the job, and I can tell you the reason you've been losing is not because of your attitude or your psyche or any of that stuff. The problem is you're not good enough. You can't run fast enough, you can't jump high enough, you're not quick enough, your techniques are just abysmal. I'm going to probably have to get rid of most of you and we're going to move on.' Five of us made it from that room to the '74 Super Bowl.
As the NFL hyped its "Armageddon" playoff affair on the west coast, the east coast quietly hosted O.J. Simpson and the Buffalo Bills. The Steelers dealt the overmatched Bills a resounding defeat, 32-14, at a lively Three Rivers Stadium. It was only the second playoff win in team history.
So, in that manner of speaking, who could blame the Raiders, whose "Commitment to Excellence" had consistently resulted in excellence, or the Dolphins, fresh off back-to-back titles, for viewing themselves as the NFL's two best teams?
“The two best teams in football played today,” said Dolphins guard Larry Little.
Raiders coach John Madden agreed, stating, “When the best plays the best, anything can happen.
In an epic postseason clash, the Raiders won the acclaimed and legendary "Sea of Hands" game- one of the finest contests in NFL history, in miraculous fashion. With so many focused on the hysteria of Oakland's huge win, the Black and Gold quietly bubbled in Pittsburgh, awaiting their shot at the team that had allegedly won "Super Bowl 8... and a half!"
Hell... the cover of Sports Illustrated even called the game as such on its front cover.
With an uncharacteristically impassioned and confident tone, Noll told his players what would turn out to be practical gospel in the coming days:
"You know, the coach of the Raiders said the two best teams in football played yesterday, and that was the Super Bowl. Well, the Super Bowl is three weeks from now, and the best team in pro football is sitting right here in this room."
The Steelers blasted the Raiders in the fourth quarter of the AFC Championship Game, outscoring the "best team in football" 21-3 during the most important moments of the contest.
Make-believe Super Bowls are reserved for want-to-be champions. The real Super Bowl IX saw Pittsburgh bully the Vikings, 16-6, earning a shining silver trophy for the Steel City.
As if from the pages of a Hollywood script, Jerome Bettis returned for one final season in an effort to win a Super Bowl, ultimately returning to his home town of Detroit for the victory.
As confetti rained down on Ford Field, flickering through the lights that basked over the victorious Steelers, Bettis went atop the championship podium for his final live interview in pads.
Steelers fans were touched when Hines Ward retired with class and dignity, but how many players get to give their retirement speech on the Super Bowl stage?
It's been an incredible ride and there's always a time when you have to call it quits. I played this game to win a championship. I'm a champion and I think the Bus... the Bus's last stop is here in Detroit.
With that, Steelers fans got to have a truly bittersweet (well, mostly sweet, right?!) moment, reveling in the glory of a fifth Lombardi Trophy but knowing that their time watching one of the most beloved and iconic players in team history was over.
Trade a Coca-Cola for a game-worn NFL jersey off the back of one of the league's greatest all-time players?
Gee, let me think.
Monetarily, is it worth it? Check.
Would the moment be memorable? Check.
Well, consider me in!
One of the Pittsburgh Steelers great players also starred in one of the most memorable Super Bowl spots of all time—a commercial that played on the heartstrings of Americans who truly only knew Joe Greene by his nickname of "Mean."
Mean Joe: "Hey, kid. Catch!"
Kid: "Wow! Thanks, Mean Joe!"
I wonder if the creative forces behind this marketing strategy knew the pure gold they were producing before the commercial became a timeless sensation.
The advertisement ran during the 1980 Super Bowl—the last of four championship wins by Greene's Steelers (over the L.A. Rams). The commercial would win a Clio Award for ad of the year.
Who knew that "Count Dracula in Cleats" was also a vocabulary vamp?
So, what's Pittsburgh pride?
While it can't be put into any particular words, Jack Lambert likely came closest during his Hall of Fame induction speech. Though a man of few words, the passionate Lambert's chosen few had power.
If I could live my life over, I'd be a football player, and you damn well better believe I'd be a Pittsburgh Steeler!
A roar from the Pittsburgh faithful echoed through the valleys of Canton, where arguably the finest player in team history was enshrined among magnificent peers.
If any quote defines the pride and passion of playing for the Pittsburgh Steelers, it belongs to Lambert as he received football's highest honors in 1990.