Robinson: Steelers' bad start jars unpleasant thoughts
By Alan Robinson
Published: Saturday, Sept. 21, 2013, 10:42 p.m.
Steelers fans recall the seasons as readily and easily as they do the birth years of their children: 1974, 1975, 1978, 1979, 2005 and 2008, the franchise's six Super Bowl-winning seasons.
But the current-day Steelers' poor start (0-2 record, 75 yards rushing, no turnovers created) is bringing back memories — none of them good — about the worst teams in franchise history.
Don't think there haven't been many? Remember, this is a franchise that didn't experience a winning season until nine years after Jap Douds coached them to a 3-6-2 record in 1933.
The Steelers waited 40 years to play in the postseason, and they've had a losing record in 33 of their 80 seasons.
So instead of reciting the best of the best, here are the worst of the worst:
1944 (0-10): With World War II ongoing, the Steelers merged with the Chicago Cardinals to form the Car-Pitts (nicknamed because everyone walked all over them). There was nearly a rebellion when three players were fined $200 each for indifferent play; running back John Grigas finally got fed up and quit, yet was named All-Pro by a New York newspaper after rushing for 610 yards. The 32.7-yards-per-punt average was the NFL's all-time worst, and the pass completion percentage (31.7) was even lower.
1939 (1-9-1): This season marked the first of Walt Kiesling's five appearances as head coach during a much-interrupted run that lasted 17 seasons. The star from the season before, running back Byron “Whizzer” White quit football to become a Rhodes Scholar and, after World War II broke out and he returned from England, a Yale law student. With the national unemployment rate at 17.2 percent, the Pirates' five home games — they had yet to be named the Steelers — drew only 58,686. The only win came in the final game.
1941 (1-9-1): So the Steelers have had only three head coaches since 1969? This team had three alone, including Aldo “Buff” Donelli, who coached them in the morning and Duquesne in the afternoon, and three names: the Pirates, the Iron Men (briefly) and the Steelers. Donelli became the only NFL coach banished when commissioner Elmer Layden tossed him out of the league for missing a West Coast game; he stayed behind to coach the Dukes. The strange season began with Pittsburgh and Philadelphia swapping franchises so Art Rooney could return to ownership after briefly selling the team to Alexis Thompson.
1969 (1-13): New coach Chuck Noll won his opener, but the Steelers wouldn't win again until the fourth game of 1970. An awful season that began with Noll shedding many of the players from 1968 had a payoff: The Steelers drafted Terry Bradshaw No. 1 overall in 1970.
1965 (2-12): Veteran coach Buddy Parker quit just before the season opened, and assistant Mike Nixon took over. Nixon wasn't the one. The team's three quarterbacks combined to throw 10 touchdown passes and 35 interceptions (the turnover margin was minus-30), and Nixon was fired. His career coaching record, including two seasons in Washington, was 6-30-2.
Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.
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