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Stallworth: 'I am very proud of that'

Legends Series: John Stallworth
Wide Receiver

If any former Steelers' player still has his finger on the pulse of what is happening with the current Steelers' team, it's Hall of Fame receiver John Stallworth. Stallworth, who was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame as a member of the Class of 2002, is part of the Steelers ownership group, keeping him close to the team he loves so much.

"It's neat to see things from the other side," said Stallworth. "I think there is an appreciation of what I bring to the table and have that point of view.

"I enjoy watching them play. I am an offensive minded guy, they throw the football. I am a receiver so all of that plays into the way I like to see football played. I believe in defense. I got a chance to see one of the greatest defenses of all time play. And I got a chance to see them play day in and day out and how they did things, and when things were rough how they came up and did things to win football games. I got to see defense at its best. I like what's happening with our defense. I like the young players and I see great potential there. I enjoy watching them, reading about them. It's fun."

Stallworth, the Steelers fourth-round selection in the historic Steelers 1974 NFL Draft class, caught 537 passes for 8,723 yards and 63 touchdowns, all Steelers team records at the time of his retirement. He also scored one rushing touchdown.

He played in six AFC championship games and was a part of the Steelers four Super Bowl championships and was named team MVP twice. Stallworth was named All-Pro in 1979, All-AFC in 1979 and 1984 and played in four Pro Bowls. He had 12 postseason touchdown catches and 17-consecutive postseason games with a reception.

Stallworth scored the game winning touchdown on a 73-yard reception in Super Bowl XIV against the Los Angeles Rams. Stallworth still holds the Super Bowl record for average yard per catch with 24.4 yards. 

Some of those catches are still vivid memories for Stallworth, as are some other special times he enjoyed with his teammates.

"Those Super Bowl catches certainly stand out in my mind," said Stallworth. "There were others too. We played championship games here in Pittsburgh. My second year we played the Raiders here and beat them and went to our second Super Bowl. I had a touchdown catch in that game, that last two minutes of the game. That stands out in my mind.

"More than anything, it's the personal relationships that stand out in my mind, those with teammates, friends, those are the big moments. When I think back over 14 years in Pittsburgh, those are the things that come to mind."

Stallworth also weighed in on a variety of other topics in this exclusive interview:

What did it mean to you to play for the Steelers?
"I grew up with the Steelers. I came out of college not wise to the goings on in the world. I came to Pittsburgh and grew up. I grew from being a young kid to manhood in Pittsburgh. That experience and the relationships I formed over the years with the players I played with, the Rooney family, people in the community, helped me to mature, to find my way in life. It meant a lot in that regard."

Is there a lot of pride in playing with the same team for all 14 years of your career?
"I am very proud of that. When I look back over 14 years my body says ouch now. Being a part of this organization and feeling like they felt my talents were worthy enough to keep me around for 14 years is certainly a good feeling. You form those relationship with folks, you get a chance to do that. Those bonds that came with you all of your life. In today's game with free agency you don't get a chance to do that. You might have a 13 year career but you spend it with three or four different groups of folks."

What lead to the success of the Steelers of the 1970s? Was it talent, was it chemistry?
"It was a combination of both. The chemistry was there. We were able to bond. I often ask myself and I even ask other guys I played with about the Steelers type player. Did we draft that type of player or did they come into the environment and become immersed in it and it becomes a part of them. I don't know which one it was, but I think the fact that we blended as a team that when we went through some difficult times as a team it helped us. We had issues. We were just tight enough, close enough to get through that. We had the leadership on the field and in the coaching staff to get over that, get through those difficult situations."

Did you realize how special the group you played with was at the time?
"We came in our rookie year, it was a strike year. We had just rookies in training camp. We had 14 rookies that made the team that year. Maybe because of that strike. We didn't know a whole lot about professional football but we came in and became part of the team and helped us go to that first Super Bowl. When you play, you don't think about history. You think about today. What you have to do today. You don't think about what is going to happen after you are gone, how you are going to be perceived. How this team is going to be looked at or how you are going to be looked at years from now. You think about today and doing the job you have to do today and being the best you can possibly be today."

Who had the biggest impact on your playing career?
"Different people for different reasons. The first receiver coach when I got to Pittsburgh was Lionel Taylor. Lionel was a guy from a small school so he knew what I was going through and where I needed to be built up and how to handle me. Tom Moore, who came in after that, taught me about the X's and O's of the game.

"I think Chuck (Noll) in a lot of ways was good for me. We didn't have a whole lot of interaction, but the times we had were good. I learned a lot more about Chuck and what he felt about other folks rather than learning that from Chuck. The confidence he had in me played a big part in that.

"I learned from Dan Rooney, just a whole lot about how you treat folks. I was impacted by a lot by guys I played with, Donnie Shell, Lynn Swann, guys who were in my draft class who spurred me on in the competitive nature of how we do things. Donnie finding solace in life when things go haywire and bringing that to the field."

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