'Iron Mike' anchored the Steelers line


*The Steelers currently have 22 former players, coaches or contributors in the Pro Football Hall of Fame, and that number will increase to 23 later this summer when Jerome Bettis is inducted as a member of the Class of 2015. In advance of his induction Steelers.com will share the stories of the 22 Steelers in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

*Mike Webster
Center (1974-88)
Elected to Pro Football Hall of Fame: 1997

When you talk about the center position for the Pittsburgh Steelers, the conversation always starts with Mike Webster. A fifth-round draft pick by the team in the 1974 NFL Draft, Webster anchored the Steelers line throughout his career.

Check out photos of Steelers' Hall of Famer Mike Webster

Webster started 150 consecutive games, beginning at the end of the 1975 season and lasting until 1986, when a dislocated elbow sidelined him for four games.

Webster played 15 seasons and 200 games with the Steelers, more than any other player in team history. He spent his last two seasons (1989-90) with the Kansas City Chiefs.

He was the Steelers offensive captain for nine seasons, a strong leader off the field and the strongest player on the field, earning him the nickname "Iron Mike."

"Mike wasn't tall enough, he didn't weigh enough, but the thing he had that made the difference was he had great playing strength," said late Hall of Fame Coach Chuck Noll. "You could see it on the field. He would come off the ball with great quickness. I can remember having some films of him against I think it was UCLA, which had these huge, huge tackles. He just destroyed him. Wisconsin moved the ball up and down the field. He not only blocked well on the run, but he also pass protected well."

Webster, a member of the Steelers four Super Bowl championship teams in the 1970s, played in nine Pro Bowls, and was selected All-Pro seven times.

Webster led the way for Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris, and kept quarterback Terry Bradshaw safe. It was Bradshaw who would be Webster's Hall of Fame presenter, and the two shared a special moment on the steps in Canton, Ohio.

As Bradshaw talked about a dream he had as a kid to play on a championship team, he rattled off the Steelers players that helped him achieve that. When he got to center, he spoke of Webster.

"What good is a machine if you ain't got a center? And, oh, did I get a center," said Bradshaw. "I just didn't get any center. I got the best to ever play the game, to ever put his hands on a football. And I said `Make sure he ain't as pretty as me,' and he ain't."

And then Bradshaw fulfilled another dream, the one he had the day he was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1989, when he said, "Oh, what I would give to put my hands under Mike Webster's butt one more time."

So on the day Webster was inducted, Bradshaw pulled a football from underneath the podium and as the moment happened, Steelers fans, fellow Hall of Famers, and everyone in Canton erupted. Bradshaw took one last snap from Webster.

"Do not be afraid to fail," Webster told the gathered crowd that day. "You're going to fail, believe me. No one's keeping score. All we have to do is finish the game. Then we'll all be winners."

Five years after his induction, Webster died at the age of 50.

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