Mike Wagner: 'It was all about The Chief'

**During the weekend of Nov. 29-30, the Steelers will celebrate the 40th anniversary of Super Bowl IX in conjunction with their game against the New Orleans Saints at Heinz Field. In Super Bowl IX, which was played at Tulane Stadium in New Orleans, the Steelers won the first championship in franchise history by defeating the Minnesota Vikings, 16-6. Throughout this week, Steelers.com will be focusing on that championship team.


Time has passed, things have changed, but the memories will never fade. It was a magical time for the Pittsburgh Steelers in 1974. It was the year they would win their first championship, defeating the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl IX. It was the year the dynasty would officially begin, with four Super Bowl championships in six years.

It was 40 years ago. But for some Steelers, the memories make it seem like it was just yesterday.

"It's difficult to think it," said cornerback J.T. Thomas. "It doesn't seem like 40 years because it's still alive. That dynasty, that legacy, the 70s has become the focal point of defining the Steelers. Until that is surpassed, it will live on."

Safety Mike Wagner, who like many of his former teammates enjoys recalling the great memories, also can't believe that much time has passed.

"It does go quickly," said Wagner. "As we get older now, 40 years is a long time. It's a lot of good memories. There is a lot of 'I didn't remember that; oh, that did happen.' It's nice to visit that."

There is emotion, though, that comes with the memories. Some key members of that 1974 team have passed, including three members of the Steel Curtain, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie Holmes and Dwight White. The recollection of what was, and what is no longer, holds a special place in their hearts.

"You go wow, 40 years," said running back Rocky Bleier, tears welling up. "A lot of things have passed in those 40 years. The players that have gone. The Chief (Art Rooney Sr.) is not here, Chuck (Noll) is gone. Our great defense. It's 40 years of good memories."

The memories Steelers players have of Super Bowl IX are lasting, with the excitement afterwards being among the most cherished ones as shared below.


Rocky Bleier on the excitement of the game and afterwards:**

"You were there. Nobody else was there. You were there. It was everything it is set out to be. If you want to know what it was like, think about it, that's what it was like and even better.

"As the clock was ticking down I was inching towards the exit. I didn't know what to expect but I wasn't going to get caught up in the fans coming down on the field. As soon as the game was over I was out ahead of everybody else as we ran off the field.

"I came into the locker room and was the first one. As I walked into the locker room Mr. (Art) Rooney was standing in there as he did every game, his back was turned to me, and as I came in he turned around and in my world it was just the two of us. I walked up to him and gave him a hug and said thank you and he said no, thank you Rock. To be in that locker room with everything and finally Mr. Rooney standing there, it was special."

Andy Russell on presenting Art Rooney Sr. (The Chief) the game ball:

"I loved that. I made him come up on the stage. He was standing in the background like an onlooker. I told him 'Chief come up, it's your team.' He came up and we all hugged him. It was a great moment.

"It was very sweet. He was such an amazing guy. He would come out rain or snow and be out there watching practice. He would be right out there in the cold with us. After practice he would be in locker room talking to players. It was like a family and he was the best."

Mike Wagner on Art Rooney Sr. being presented the Lombardi Trophy:
"The highlight was watching The Chief get the trophy. The Chief was known as the good guy owner, a wonderful man. He would try and touch every player in a personal way. He always had something good to say, he was interested in you. We knew the number of years the team had been a loser. The move to bring Dan (Rooney) in and hire Chuck (Noll) and let Dan run the day to day business was great. I don't think we would have been the team we were without Dan and Chuck.

"But at the end of the day it was all about The Chief, it was his dream, his vision. To be part of that was so rewarding. It's a tremendous memory."



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