A gathering of the best of the best

It was a gathering of the best of the best, some of the most legendary players who have ever worn the black and gold.

"This is what Steelers football is all about," said Jerome Bettis.

The Steelers inaugural Hall of Honor class was honored on Saturday night at Heinz Field.

That, is a fact. Because on Saturday night at Heinz Field, the members of the inaugural class of the Steelers Hall of Honor were honored at a dinner as part of the team's alumni weekend.

"You think about all the great players who played in Steelers history," said Dermontti Dawson. "To be in that first inaugural class, it's a big honor."

The inaugural class of the Hall of Honor is made up of 27 individuals, a list that includes players, coaches and contributors, many of them already members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

And when you get them all together, well you have one special evening filled with sharing stories and making memories.

"Some guys you have seen, and some you don't see because of where they live," said Donnie Shell. "You get a chance to catch up on different things, how they are, how the family is doing. It's a great time, a great event.

"And the stories, they get a little longer as time goes by. And they add a little more to them. I am like, oh, so that is how it happened. It's all good. It's all fun. You are remembering the great time you had not only on the football field, but off the field too."

The idea for the Hall of Honor came from Steelers President Art Rooney II, along with late Chairman Dan Rooney. The Hall of Honor was established to recognize former players, coaches, and front office personnel who played an integral role in the success of the franchise, from the beginning in 1933 until now. To be considered, a player must be retired at least three years and played a minimum of three seasons for the Steelers. Former coaches and contributors had to make significant contributions to the team and community.

"It is special that they created the Hall of Honor," said Bettis. "There are so many guys that deserve being honored that maybe didn't reach the Hall of Fame, but did some incredible things. From an organizational standpoint, they should be recognized. I think it's a great thing the Steelers are doing."

The class includes in alphabetical order: Bettis, Mel Blount, Terry Bradshaw, Jack Butler, Dawson, Bill Dudley, Joe Greene, Kevin Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Ham, Franco Harris, Dick Hoak, John Henry Johnson, Walt Keisling, Jack Lambert, Bobby Layne, John McNally, Chuck Noll, Arthur J. Rooney, Sr., Daniel M. Rooney, Andy Russell, Shell, John Stallworth, Ernie Stautner, Lynn Swann, Mike Webster, and Rod Woodson.

"It means a great deal to be considered with a lot of those players who are in it," said Hoak, "Coach Noll and people like that. It's a great honor. I wasn't expecting it. There are four of us who aren't in the Hall of Fame, so it's something special. It's an honor I really appreciate. I stayed there for so long, I played there, coached there. I had chances to leave but I never left. It means a lot to me.

"To go in with some of the individuals, not just the players I coached, Franco and Jerome. But there were different players at other positions I got to know. There were just different players Joe Greene, I played a little with him and then was a coach when they took off in the 70s. There are a lot of great players. I was a player, but not a great player."

The dinner was just the beginning of a weekend celebrating the Hall of Honor. On Sunday, the Hall of Honor will be unveiled prior to the Steelers game against the Green Bay Packers and at halftime the inaugural class will be honored during a special celebration.

"It always makes me feel special when I come back to Pittsburgh," said Shell. "They always recognize who you are. My wife is always astounded. She will be like, wow, you played back in the 1970s and we will arrive and people will say that is Donnie Shell. I only get that when I come to Pittsburgh. It's real nice."

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