All Time Favorite Team: The 1979 Pittsburgh Steelers

Andrew Tonge@@lwsportsnewsAnalyst IIMay 28, 2009

We are all well aware of the success the Pittsburgh Steelers have enjoyed for 30-plus years now.  It is really a testament to their management and unchanging philosophy, even in the times we are in.

The Falcons would do well to emulate their model of success, because there are no substitutes for it, or shortcuts. 

The Steelers of 1979 didn’t dominate like their teams earlier in the 1970’s, but with many of their Pro Bowlers on the other side of 30, they served notice that they would not relinquish their title without a fight.

Their coach, Chuck Noll, was a no-nonsense man who played for the Browns and began coaching the Steelers in 1969. 

He never wanted or desired attention for himself, and as good as his teams were we always told them they could be better, even after Super Bowl victories.

His first year they finished 1-13 in 1969, but the Rooney’s stuck with him and knew they had the right man to coach their team all along.  Noll was a disciplinarian who had the full attention of his team.

The Falcons did well when they hired Mike Smith as their coach.  He seems to know exactly the type of team he wants, and if management allows him to put things together and get his type of players, Atlanta could be special for years to come.

Noll and the Rooney’s built the Steelers into a hard-nosed, physical, run oriented team that took on the personality of the city they represented.  Their defense, littered with hall of farmers, was all home grown.

The drafting of their talent shows that without a good front office that can evaluate talent, an organization will still be lost and spinning their wheels.  Their front office is the main reason they have been as successful as they have.

They drafted Jack Lambert, John Stallworth, Mike Webster, and Lynn Swann in 1974.  They got Mel Blount and Terry Bradshaw in 1970.  Joe Greene and L.C. Greenwood were drafted in 1969, Greenwood being a 10th-round pick.

Jack Ham and Dwight White were brought into the fold in 1971.  You don’t get lucky this many times.  The Steelers front office never gets into the hype.  They are looking for their type of player, and that is what they focus on.

All you have to do is look at the other front offices around the league to realize how important is to know what you need, evaluate the talent, and make it happen through the draft, and or free agency. 

Detroit, Cincinnati, Washington, Oakland, and San Francisco to name a few, are some of the franchises that have suffered recently because of some of the decisions their front offices have made.

What made the 1979 team special in my eyes is that they were coming off of a Super Bowl year, and many of their key personnel were aging.  They could have packed it in but didn’t.  Noll wouldn’t let them.

They won early in the 70’s with a dominating defense and a powerful running game.  By 1979 they were not quite as dominant, but still finished No. 1 in scoring defense.  Their offense became very prolific in the passing game, and they had become a big play offense.

Their personnel didn’t change a whole lot, but the way they won games did.  Pittsburgh didn’t need Bradshaw to come up big for their first two Super Bowl wins, but they needed him to come up big in 1978 and 1979.

Their system and tendencies didn’t change, but they raised their level of play to hold on to their Super Bowl championship they won the previous year, even with the bull’s eye on their back.  That team was versatile enough to win any way they had to.

If they had to outscore you they did, if they had to grind you into the ground using their trap-blocking running scheme, they would do that. 

As the Steelers showed in the Super Bowl versus the Rams, when they needed a big play on defense, they had the players on that side of the ball to get the job done.

Lambert’s interception was the biggest defensive play of that game.

It was the second time they won back to back Super Bowls, and we may never see that repeated again.  The commitment to excellence was there from the front office, to the head coach, to the stars and leaders of team, and to the other players.

Another reason those Steelers were my favorite (and some other players in previous years).  They had the best nick-names.  Mean Joe Greene, Earnie (Fats) Holmes, L.C. (Bags) Greenwood, Dwight (Mad Dog) White, Dennis (Dirt) Winston, Donnie (Torpedo) Shell.

Holmes wasn’t on the roster in 1979, but his nick-name is worthy of mention.  Glen Edwards, a defensive back on their teams teams earlier in the decade was known as the head hunter as well (for good reason).

Pittsburgh traditionally plays a physical style of football, which is the way the game is meant to be played.  The Falcons would be well served to do the same, and to build their franchise the way the Steelers have built theirs.