View Full Version : Jon Kolb reminisces about Steeler championship team of 1970s

06-11-2011, 10:12 PM
CRESSON - The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were among the most formidable groups ever to play in the National Football League.

And they built a dynasty.

There were NFL Hall-of-Famers at virtually every position for the Steelers in that decade, and the team won four Super Bowl titles from 1975 to 1980.

Jon Kolb, who started at offensive tackle for all four of those Super Bowl champion teams, is soft-spoken and unassuming. But Kolb, who was on hand at the Summit Country Club Friday morning as the special guest for the 2011 Mount Aloysius College Golf Tournament, has no qualms about expressing just how good those Steelers' teams were.

"Position-by-position, those were great teams,'' Kolb, now 63, said. "You can go across the board. How many teams back then had a quarterback who was better than Terry Bradshaw? Or a running back who was better than Franco Harris? Or a better cornerback than Mel Blount or J.T. Thomas?''

The Steelers were also dominant in the trenches on both sides of the line of scrimmage.

"How many other teams in the league had a defensive lineman that could have started for us?'' Kolb wondered. "And I'm prejudiced, but I don't think an offensive lineman from any other team could have started on those [Steelers] teams.''

The consistency of those Steelers teams was as eye-opening as the extraordinary success they enjoyed.

"A lot of teams win one Super Bowl, then don't make the playoffs the next year,'' Kolb said. "But that group of guys was in the playoffs nine straight years, and won four Super Bowls. With the way free agency is in the game today, I don't think there will ever be anything like it again.''

The current group of Steelers has won two Super Bowls since 2006, and appeared in last February's big game and lost.

Kolb sees a common thread among the Steelers of the 1970s and the Steelers of today - the steady ownership hand of the Rooney family. The late Art Rooney Sr. built the 1970s Steelers and started the team's championship tradition, and his sons, Art Jr., and Dan, have admirably carried on their father's legacy.

"They're smart owners and good businessmen, but they're also good, upright people who do things the right way,'' Kolb said of the Rooneys. "When you make decisions the right way and you do things the right way, good things happen.''

Kolb - who was also a member of the Steelers' coaching staff from 1982-91 - thinks the current NFL lockout between the players and owners will be resolved before September, and he believes the standoff could even be a good thing for this upcoming season.

"There's too much money involved for everybody to just walk away from it,'' Kolb said. "It's a business, and it's a lucrative business. With all the mini-camps and those sorts of things today, the players will come in prepared. They're probably just happy that they're not going to be spending all that time in summer camp. When the season does get underway, it may be a better season because the players are fresher and ready to go.''

One of the NFL's physically strongest players during his career with the Steelers from 1969 to 1981, Kolb - who lives in Sharon, Pa. and is married (wife Deborah), with three grown sons and three grandchildren - currently works as the director of wellness and sports medicine programs at Specialty Orthopedics, a facility in Hermitage, Pa.

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06-11-2011, 10:58 PM
Kolb sees a common thread among the Steelers of the 1970s and the Steelers of today - the steady ownership hand of the Rooney family. The late Art Rooney Sr. built the 1970s Steelers and started the team's championship tradition, and his sons, Art Jr., and Dan, have admirably carried on their father's legacy.

I wouldn't exactly say that the Chief was the one primarily responsible for building the Steeler teams of the 70's. While Dan didn't officially take over as president of the team until 1975, he was heavily involved in personnel decisions way before then (Dan had been director of personnel since 1960, with his brother Art Jr. as scouting director in the late 60's and early 70's, when all those tremendous drafts that built the dynasty took place). While the Chief himself was certainly a legend in his own right, it was his sons that really built those teams (in the early years, the Steelers were notorious for selling off high picks in exchange for veteran players...it wasn't until his sons finally emphasized the importance of the draft process that this team finally experienced success, and we have been building our team that way ever since).

06-12-2011, 09:52 AM
Good read! From the looks of the photo, it still looks like he can kick some tail @ 63 years old. I remember back in the early 80's and every so often on ABC's Wide World of Sports, they would have power lifting competitions involving NFL players & he would always participate. :tt2

06-12-2011, 11:55 AM
The 70's are becoming a distant memory. It is getting hard to remember details from that era. There was no where the widespread coverage of the team that there is now with the internet and the MB/s etc.

But, one thing I do remember was Jon Kolb. As a matter of fact, I had always wondered why of all the HOF players that came from that team he was never seriously considered. Frankly, he was one of my favorite players. And, since he was a OLT which the way everyone talks nowadays is one of the most important positions on the team, it still puzzles me.

I was not the type of fan that went into great detail or depth at that time. But, what I clearly remember is reports that in those big games against Dallas Jon Kolb played a near perfect flawless game against the great Dallas DE. IIRC, DE's were one of the Cowboy's huge strengths. Negating this weapon of the also great Dallas team certainly had to be really big in the outcome of those games. Yeah, I often wondered why Jon Kolb did not get more mention as a possible HOF player. Of course, AFAIC he of course is one and is my own personal HOF.

06-12-2011, 03:55 PM
Can I visit your own personal Hall of Fame? :wink:

06-12-2011, 05:15 PM

I don't know how to embed videos. I found this recent clip of Kolb on YouTube and was impressed by what I found. Remember, he is 63!

06-13-2011, 07:21 AM
RuthlessBurgher said "Can I visit your own personal Hall of Fame? ":wink:

Actually, you probably already do regularly. Since, it includes about 90% of all Steeler players. The other half er I mean 10% are pending. :)

06-13-2011, 10:03 AM
RuthlessBurgher said "Can I visit your own personal Hall of Fame? ":wink:

Actually, you probably already do regularly. Since, it includes about 90% of all Steeler players. The other half er I mean 10% are pending. :)

Are the "pending" ones guys like Ricardo Colclough, Bruce Davis, Alonzo Jackson, and Scott Shields? :lol:

06-13-2011, 01:38 PM
RuthlessBurgher said "Are the "pending" ones guys like Ricardo Colclough, Bruce Davis, Alonzo Jackson, and Scott Shields? :lol:

That's just about right. A couple more I had in mind, going back to the late 80's and early nineties were Harvey Clayton and Aaron Jones. These were a couple of favorites that also had a story.

Prior to your post, I was going to post in anticipation of replies these players and then post something I remembered about them. I think it might have been Cope who told a story about him that was kind of funny.

Clayton had a surprisingly effective game one night. Even though the plays were a bit flukey, like the interception and return bounced off the back of his head, slipped through the WR's hands. hit someones foot and then managed to fall into his arms while on the ground. Nonetheless a big INT and it contributed to a win. The entire night seemed to go like this. The story was:

The next morning a handful of FO guys and a couple coaches were in AR Sr's office. There was a knock on the door and it was Clayton. He was going to leave cause there was a small group there but was told it was okay and what was on his mind. Clayton said something like, well, I've been here a while now and I was thinking it was about time for me to get a raise. The entire place broke out in laughter. Someone said AR Sr nearly swallowed his cigar. It was so funny because he was on thin ice for quite some time now and it was really just a matter of time when he was going to be replaced.

Of the players you mentioned, it's going to be a big challenge to get Alonzo Jackson in. Although, believe this or not, indirectly it could be said that he contributed to the Steelers winning the WC in 2005. This was the season he was cut. But, there were so many humorous threads concerning him thoughout the TC, it could be that was the reason the Steelers went into the season so loose and the players and fans all in such a real positive mood. :)

Anyone else have any personal favorites not necessarily perennial pro bowl types who maybe have contributed in some way anyhow?

06-21-2011, 06:06 PM
Ed: Thirty years of the 3-4 for the Steelers


Good morning,

Coach Chuck Noll made a bold move when he switched to the 3-4 defense for the 1982 season. Little did he know how long-lasting a move it would be.

The Steelers helped make the 4-3 defense famous in the 1970s with their Steel Curtain defensive line of Dwight White, Joe Greene, Ernie Holmes and LC Greenwood. It was the defense most teams had played for years and what was not to like about it for the Steelers of the '70s? Four Super Bowls in six seasons.

But to open the '82 season, Noll decided a change was necessary. White, Greene, Holmes and Greenwood were long gone. Jack Ham was in his final season and really not built in the mold of a 3-4 outside linebacker. Here's a piece of trivia: Ham had three sacks during his 12-year career and all three came in his final season of 1982, when he played in the 3-4 defense and they came in just eight games.

Ham played left outside linebacker in the debut of the 3-4 by the Steelers at Dallas on Sept. 13, 1982. He started seven of the remaining eight games of that strike-shortened season.

Here is the starting lineup from that historic game in Dallas, won by the Steelers, 36-28:

LDE John Goodman, NT Gary Dunn, RDE Tom Beasley, LOLB Ham, ILB Jack Lambert and Loren Towes, ROLB Robin Cole, LCB Dwayne Woodruff, RCB Mel Blount, SS Donnie Shell, FS Ron Johnson.

That game began a run of 29 consecutive years for the Steelers using the 3-4 as its base defense with No. 30 coming up if they play the season. No team has played a 3-4 without a break longer. During that period, a number of teams have switched from the 3-4 to the 4-3 and back to the 3-4.

What is often surprising are the number of fans, and even some in the media, who pine for the return of the 4-man front by the Steelers. Why fix something that isn't broken? The Steelers defense consistently ranks near the top of the league in many categories, not to mention championships. Perhaps it is merely a romantic view, harking back to the days of the Steel Curtain.

But Noll may have been ahead of his time and it probably was no coincidence that the switch came after defensive coordinator George Perles left the team following the 1981 season to join the new USFL (although he never coached a game, jumping quickly to Michigan State before this team, the Philadelphia Stars, could play.)

The fascinating part is that through these 30 seasons, the 3-4 defense has survived three head coaches and innumerable defensive coordinators including Woody Widenhofer, Tony Dungy, Rod Rust, Dave Brazil, Dom Capers, D!ck LeBeau, Jim Haslett, Tim Lewis and LeBeau again.

There was a time when the Steelers were alone playing the 3-4 and were one of only several defenses using that formation for a number of years. That made it easier for them to find outside linebackers to play that defense; most of them came as undersized college defensive linemen with exceptional athletic ability to convert to outside linebackers who had to rush the passer, stop the run and cover receivers.

Those linebackers have accumulated far more Pro Bowls than any other position on the team and that goes back to the 1960s with a tradition that began with Myron Pottios and Andy Russell.

The team has had three glory eras for linebackers. The 1970s with Ham and Lambert, the middle 1990s with Greg Lloyd, Kevin Greene, Chad Brown (briefly) and Levon Kirkland. And today with James Harrison, James Farrior, LaMarr Woodley and Lawrence Timmons.

The 3-4 defense prides speed over size, although that big guy at nose tackle can make or break it. You need athletes everywhere, guys who can move. The most difficult job of all may be the defensive ends, who have to be strong enough to push the pocket and stop the run, yet nimble enough to get after the quarterback. Aaron Smith is closest to the perfect 3-4 end I have ever seen and Brett Keisel is underrated for what he does, although he finally made a Pro Bowl.

It's been a long, continuous mostly successful career for the 3-4 defense in Pittsburgh with no end in sight (although, at the moment, no beginning in sight for 2011 either).

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