Labriola On

Labriola on 1967, Media Day, contributors

Ready or not, here it comes:

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Green Bay Packers played against each other in 1967. The Steelers defeated the Packers 24-17.

  • No matter what happens on Sunday, it will come to pass that the Steelers will play the defending Super Bowl champions as part of their 2015 regular season schedule. And because the Steelers' games against both the Seahawks and the Patriots are on the road, there is a chance for them to be the opponent on the opening Thursday night of the regular season.
  • The Steelers have had 23 previous games against the defending Super Bowl champions, and their record in those is 7-16. Three of those seven victories came vs. the defending champion Ravens, but the most improbable win came in 1967 against the Green Bay Packers.
  • The Packers had won the 1965 NFL Championship, and then in 1966 they defeated Kansas City in Super Bowl I. And so it was on Dec. 17, 1967, the 3-9-1 Steelers coached by Bill Austin traveled to Lambeau Field to face the 8-3-1 Packers coached by Vince Lombardi. In light of an earlier, 41-27, loss by Pittsburgh to the 3-8-3 Minnesota Vikings, it seemed as though the Steelers had no chance to defeat the Packers in the regular season finale.
  • There were eight Hall of Fame players on the field that day for the Packers – QB Bart Starr, OT Forrest Gregg, DE Willie Davis, DT Henry Jordan, MLB Ray Nitschke, OLB Dave Robinson, CB Herb Adderley, FS Willie Wood – and a Hall of Fame coach working their sideline.
  • The Steelers still were 13 months away from Chuck Noll getting hired and telling them that winning the Super Bowl had become the team's only goal and that most of them weren't good enough to be around what it happened.
  • Maybe a mismatch on paper, but Lombardi treated this regular season finale as a preseason opener. He played all three quarterbacks, with No. 3 Don Horn seeing the most action, and he turned kick returner Travis Williams into his primary offensive weapon because FBs Jim Grabowski and Ben Wilson, plus HB Donny Anderson all made only token appearances. The Steelers won, 24-17, when one of their defensive linemen (Ben McGee) returned an interception for a touchdown, and another of their defensive linemen (Chuck Hinton) returned a fumble for a touchdown.
  • Imagine Lombardi watching that mess. Now, cue his sound bite from that famous NFL Films clip of him stomping the sideline and yelling, "What the hell's going on out there?!"
  • But come the playoffs, the Packers first defeated the 11-1-2 Los Angeles Rams by 28-7, then it was the 9-5 Dallas Cowboys in The Ice Bowl by 21-17, and then the AFL's 13-1 Oakland Raiders in Super Bowl II by 33-14.
  • When the Ravens cut Terrence Cody a week ago, they were left with only one player from their 2010 draft class – Dennis Pitta, and he's coming off a second serious hip injury in as many seasons. Proof that all General Managers – even someone with Ozzie Newsome's resume – don't get it right in every draft.
  • In that draft, Newsome traded the Ravens' first-round pick – 25th overall – to Denver, which used it to pick Tim Tebow. In return, the Ravens got three choices – one in each of the second, third, and fourth rounds – and they used those to pick Sergio Kindle, Ed Dickson, and Pitta. Also in that 2010 "haul" for the Ravens: Cody, WR David Reed, DT Arthur Jones, and OT Ramon Harewood.
  • Another Super Bowl Media Day is in the books, and the NFL once again championed the integrity of freedom of the press by forcing Marshawn Lynch to "participate" under the threat of a $500,000 fine. And so it came to pass that a Seahawks running back with no interest in revealing anything of himself to the public was forced to engage with some "reporters" who came dressed in costume for the occasion.
  • If Thomas Jefferson had been transported three hundred years into the future to get a glimpse of a Super Bowl Media Day, he never would have said, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."
  • Speaking of history, a bit is going to be made on the night before the game, when the Pro Football Hall of Fame Board of Selectors meets to decide on a Class of 2015. The history comes from the first-time inclusion of a "contributors" category. Contributors had been eligible in the past, but because there was an opinion that not enough of them were being elected, there was a procedure put in place that's similar to the one used to boost the number of old-timers in Canton.
  • That's how Dick LeBeau was elected, via the Seniors Committee, which presents individuals to the Board to be voted upon – yay or nay – to be elected. But the Contributors Committee whiffed on the two men it has presented to the Hall of Fame Board of Selectors in this inaugural year of this procedure.
  • An inaugural group to be honored in something like a Hall of Fame should be historically significant. Not just worthy candidates, but historically significant candidates. Ron Wolf and Bill Polian may be worthy, but they aren't as historically significant as George Young and Paul Tagliabue.
  • For all you youngsters, George Young did what Wolf and Polian did, only better. Young was an assistant coach for the Baltimore Colts when they lost Super Bowl III and won Super Bowl V, and he built the New York Giants teams that won Super Bowls XXI and XXV. Five times he was voted NFL Executive of the Year.
  • The way Ron Wolf is credited for resurrecting the Green Bay Packers in the 1990s, George Young did the same for the New York Giants in the 1980s and won more championships along the way. And let's be honest, Bill Polian's candidacy is enhanced by his visibility as a result of his role at ESPN.
  • As for Paul Tagliabue, he is the only eligible NFL Commissioner not to be enshrined in Canton, and his role in ushering the NFL into free agency with the implementation of a salary cap tied to shared revenues is what has continued to allow a small market like Green Bay to compete on a level field with New York and Dallas and New England, etc.
  • And despite Tagliabue's perceived prickliness, he handled a very difficult job with grace, class and an even-handedness that never was in dispute.
  • Sometimes, you don't know what you have until it's gone. And sometimes you don't know how well someone did a job until his replacement takes over.
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