LATROBE, Pa. — Used to be, the hallways and dorms at tiny St. Vincent College, here in the hills of Western Pennsylvania, were haunted by the ghosts of linebackers of yore. Ham. Lambert. Greene. Lloyd. Kirkland. Porter. They came to training camp angry and menacing, frothing for their first big hit of the summer.
football and the first imagine conjured was of a bloodied, occasionally toothless, linebacker brutalizing a ball carrier or crushing a quarterback. The blue-collar people of Pittsburgh, at a time when coal still fueled the local economy, loved their football black and (yellow and) blue. They rode a physical run game and the occasional big play to an explosive wideout on offense (Stallworth and Swann), but their dynastic lifeblood ran through the heart of that defense.
Not so much anymore.
The Steelers still produce some quality linebackers —
is the best and brightest of the current crop, and an ageless
is still the most intimidating — and remain an annual Super Bowl threat. But the days of a constant pipeline of Hall of Fame linebackers or All-Pros are over. And they’ve been replaced by a position group on the opposite end of the spectrum, one stereotyped in general by flamboyant divas, me-first guys who talk big and are known to sport $100,000 diamond earrings.
If the Steelers are to get back to the top of the AFC, if they are to find a way to get by the
New England Patriots
in the postseason and…
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