Book unveils new tales about Steelers
The Steelers knew the fire was going out. Their dynasty was ending as they played out the 1979 National Football League season and trudged into the playoffs.
What started with Franco Harris' "Immaculate Reception" ran out almost a decade later amid twirling Terrible Towels. The Super Steelers of the 1970s earned their final ring in Super Bowl XIV in Pasadena's Rose Bowl.
In his first book, author Jim Wexell lets the Steelers tell their tales about that memorable season. It's full of stuff you never knew about the Steelers' last Super Bowl triumph -- the one that put the indelible stamp on their legend.
After four Super Bowl rings in six seasons, the parade to Canton's Pro Football Hall of Fame could begin. However, as the book illustrates, it almost never happened.
The book provides a new look into the sub-culture of a team you thought you knew. It's obvious from the 120 separate tales that winning the last ring wasn't easy, even if the Steelers made it look that way.
What emerges from the pages is a portrait of a team that was mentally and physically exhausted by a decade of making Pittsburgh and NFL sports history.
It's the tale of a quarterback, Terry Bradshaw, who cranked out so many points that fans overlooked a Steel Curtain defense in steep decline.
Wexell, a former sports editor of the Irwin Standard Observer, can't resist a good behind-the-scenes story. He includes a dozen interesting tales that didn't happen during the 1979 season, but still offer insight into the players who shared the same Three Rivers Stadium locker room.
Former Steelers defensive end Dwight "Mad Dog" White, the blindside rusher of the Steel Curtain, offers a host of controversial opinions as he looks back 25 years later. Quarterback Terry Bradshaw's shares some surprising opinions of coach Chuck Noll.
From pumping iron in the boiler room of Three Rivers Stadium, to pumping anabolic steroids, Wexell wades through the Steelers' mystique as a tough team that captured the imagination of millworkers and beer drinkers across town.
More than any other player, Steelers fans identified with Hall of Fame middle linebacker Jack Lambert. Wexell devotes more pages to Lambert than any other individual except Noll.
During the 1979 season, Lambert was involved in two know barroom brawls, including one at the Happy Landing Lounge near Market Square. Lambert got into it after someone approached him from behind and hit him on the head with a beer mug. Police were called, no charges were filed, and Lambert was left in the Divine Providence Hospital emergency room getting a pair of stitches in his ear.
The book pretty much settles the issue of who was the most popular of all Steelers. It was Lambert, the ultimate tough guy. He couldn't go into a bar without someone trying to get his attention, or targeting him.
Wexell, an Irwin resident, currently handles the Steelers beat for the Uniontown Herald-Standard and the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat and contributes pregame, postgame and draft reports to the Steelers Radio Network. His Steelers articles have appeared in Pro Football Weekly, Game Day Magazine and Steelers Digest. He is the lead writer for SteelCitySports.com.