Shell among Seniors finalists for HOF

The Hall of Fame is having a special Centennial Class for 2020 that will be comprised of 20 members. The group will include five modern-era players, 10 seniors (a player who has been retired for more than 25 seasons), three contributors and two coaches who last coached more than five seasons ago.

A special 25-person Centennial 'Blue Ribbon' panel will select the group that will be a part of the Centennial Class of 2020 and will include a 15 member Centennial Slate group.

The Centennial Slate Finalists were announced on Thursday, and Donnie Shell is among the Seniors players, (which are players who have played more than 25 seasons ago), while Bill Cowher and Buddy Parker are among the coaches who are eligible.

The Centennial Slate Finalists will be trimmed down to the 15 members who make the Class of 2020.

Donnie Shell
Safety (1974-87)

He didn't earn the nickname 'Torpedo' for nothing. Not even close.

Donnie Shell could hit. And when he made contact, opponents would feel it as he would come at an unsuspecting running back or receiver like a torpedo, flying at them with no fear at all.

Just ask Earl Campbell, who was the victim of one of Shell's notorious hits. Campbell, a 233-pound running back for the Houston Oilers, was having a career season in 1978 with 1,450 yards and 13 touchdowns. But against the Steelers on Dec. 3, with the AFC Central title at stake, Shell imposed his will. In the first quarter, Campbell was escaping a tackle for extra yards when Shell came flying up to the line of scrimmage and delivered a huge hit. Campbell left the game with a broken rib, and the Steelers beat the Oilers, 13-3, in a season that ended with the third Super Bowl championship in team history.

"There was a game in Houston and Donnie came up and hit Earl Campbell before he had a chance to turn up the field, caught Earl in the ribs. I don't want to say I was glad he got hurt, but I was glad he left the game," said Joe Greene. "We had some knock down drag outs with the Oilers. Donnie was the hitman. He gave muscle to our football team. That is what we were known for on our defense, contact. And we had some contact people back there and Donnie didn't take a backseat to anyone.

"Donnie was an all-around player. He gave us flexibility versus the offense. We didn't have to change our personnel group when the offense went from standard to three wide or four wide receivers. Donnie would line up in the slot and cover the slot, which is what teams try to do all of the time. Offenses want to get out in a mismatch in coverage, and because we had Donnie they couldn't do that to us. We could play all of our coverages and defenses because of Donnie Shell.

"He was a linebacker in college. We called him Torpedo. Donnie got started on special teams. He wasn't supposed to be the fastest guy, but he was always the first guy down. He made collisions. When he got into the starting lineup, he made an impact in the running game. He would always talk about guards who were pulling and getting up field on him. They were 250 pounds he was 215. He asked how do I deal with them? Chuck (Noll) said when they are running parallel with the line, you hit them. Hit them before they see you. He got that down well. He had a lot of collisions on the line with those guys and he won."

Shell was part of the Steelers 1974 rookie class, the one that produced four Hall of Famers in the draft. But he wasn't even drafted. He signed with the team as an undrafted rookie, coming in as a linebacker but making the successful switch to strong safety.

His numbers speak for themselves. Shell finished his career with 51 career interceptions, still the most in NFL history for a strong safety and had 19 fumble recoveries. Let's just say that number again – 51 career interceptions.

"Fifty one career interceptions. 51," said Tony Dungy after he selected Shell to be his presenter at the Hall of Fame enshrinement ceremony. "He deserves to be in the Hall of Fame."

He was a five-time Pro Bowl selection who had a least one interception in each of his 14 seasons.

"Donnie came into the league and I saw him work on being a free agent, to special teams, to a starter and his approach to that," said John Stallworth. "He became a valuable component of what I think was the best defense in the National Football League. Donnie had tremendous value. You had the guys up front and linebackers, but Donnie anchored that. His ability to come up and hit folks and stop them in the run game at a time when the run game was very important. Donnie was a player that did that. If you look at the number of interceptions he has at a time when the strong safety was looked at as just being a strong safety and doing run support and not a splash player kind of guy, Donnie was a splash player kind of guy. Then you give him the ability to come up with the interception, Donnie was that guy.

"He was a force on our defense. One of the reasons we were so strong."

Bill Cowher
Head Coach – 1992-2006

On Jan. 21, 1992, Bill Cowher became the 15th coach in Steelers history when he was hired to replace Chuck Noll as the second man to hold that job since the 1970 NFL-AFL merger. Dan Rooney's search for Noll's successor came down to two finalists, but he selected Cowher over Dave Wannstedt, a decision that yielded immediate dividends.

In Cowher's rookie season as coach, he took what had been a talented team that finished a disappointing 7-9 in 1991 and turned it into an 11-5 AFC Central Division champion that entered those playoffs as the AFC's No. 1 seed. In Cowher's 15 seasons as coach, the Steelers won eight division titles, made the playoffs 10 times during which they participated in 21 playoff games. Those 21 playoff games included six appearances in AFC Championship Games and two trips to the Super Bowl, in which the Steelers were 1-1.

Cowher finished his career as one of only six coaches in NFL history with at least seven division titles, and he joined Paul Brown as the only coaches in history to take their teams to the playoffs in each of their first six years as coach.

Known for his fiery style, and of course the chin, Cowher brought energy and enthusiasm every time he was on the sidelines and was respected by those who played for him.

"Bill Cowher, he continually challenged me throughout my career," said Hall of Fame running back Jerome Bettis, a member of the Hall of Honor. "He is the guy that kept me going and always kept me motivated when things were up and down."

Buddy Parker
Head Coach – 1957-64

Buddy Parker coached the Steelers from 1957-64, with a record of 51-47-6 in eight season. His time with the Steelers wrapped up a long coaching career that began in 1949 as Co-Head Coach of the Chicago Cardinals and Coach of the Detroit Lions from 1951-56.

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