The Steelers currently have 23 former players, coaches or contributors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that number will increase to 24 later this summer when Kevin Greene is inducted as a member of the Class of 2016. In advance of his induction Steelers.com will share the stories of the 23 Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1988
The Steelers selected Jack Ham in the second round of the 1971 NFL Draft and the consistent, steady linebacker played his entire 12-year career in the black and gold.
Ham earned a starting job right out of the gate at left outside linebacker as a rookie after picking off three passes in the preseason finale that year. He held onto the starting role through his entire career, showing his durability by missing only four games in his first 10 seasons.
Ham was named the Football News Defensive Player of the Year in 1975, and was selected to eight straight Pro Bowls. He was named All-Pro six times and All-AFC seven times.
The intelligent linebacker who changed the way the position was played outside, was a key component in the Steelers run to their first championship in Super Bowl IX when he returned an interception 19 yards to the Oakland nine-yard line in the 1974 AFC Championship game to put the Steelers in position to score the go-ahead touchdown and advance to the Super Bowl.
Ham, who played in five AFC Championship games, was a key component during the team's Super Bowl years, and while he played in Super Bowl IX, X and XIII, he missed Super Bowl XIV because of injuries.
He retired after the 1982 season with 25 sacks, 21 fumble recoveries and 32 interceptions to his credit. The combined 53 takeaways are the most ever by a non-defensive back. Ham was All-Pro six times, All-AFC seven times and selected to the Pro Bowl eight time. * *
Take a look at a collection of photos of Jack Ham, In one of 22 galleries featuring all Steelers Hall of Famers.
He was also named to the NFL's 75th Anniversary Team, the NFL All-Time Team, the Steelers 75th Anniversary Team and the NFL's Team of the Decade for the 1970s.
Ham also earned a spot on the coveted Hall of Fame 50th Anniversary Team alongside linebacker Lawrence Taylor.
Andy Russell, who occupied the middle linebacker spot while Jack Lambert held down the other outside spot, wrote about Ham and a game against the San Diego Chargers in 1975. The Steelers had a comfortable lead, when both players were substituted for to give them a rest. As they stood on the sidelines talking about Ham's involvement in the coal business, the Chargers intercepted and returned the ball to the three-yard. Ham was sent back into the game to try and secure a shutout.
"The first play the Chargers ran was a sweep to the right," wrote Russell. "Bad idea. Ham took their giant tight end, threw him aside, speared the runner behind the line of scrimmage causing him to fumble, which of course Jack recovered. As he slowly walked off the field, he casually flipped the ball to the ref. Returning to our position on the sideline, Jack turned to me smiling and said, 'Where was I?'"
The Steelers won the game, 37-0. The rest, as they say, is history.