The decade is the 1970’s and the Pittsburgh Steelers are just an incredible dominant force that rules the NFL. The Steelers won four Super Bowl championships within the decade in the 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 seasons. The franchise accomplished this feat on the back of a legendary defense known as the “Steel Curtain.”
For Steelers fans, this time frame is just the start of the success that would continue decades later and start the trend of relying on impressive defensive play to win Super Bowl championships. For others, like former Cincinnati Bengals QB Ken Anderson, it’s a reminder of what his team could’ve been if not playing in the same division as the “Steel Curtain.”
The impact of the “Steel Curtain” on defenses throughout NFL history can’t be understated. The impact is still being felt today, especially within the Steelers organization.
In a recent article published by CBS Sports, the company interviewed Anderson about him being a senior finalist for the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Class of 2023. However, Anderson seems to still have trouble steering away from questions about the Steelers and arguably the greatest defense in NFL history in the “Steel Curtain.”
Anderson brought up the Steelers, himself, before questions about the team even came.
“When you look back in the seventies, particularly between 1973-76, we were as good as any team in the National Football League,” Anderson stated about his former team. “We just unfortunately happened to have one of the great teams of all-time in our division with the Pittsburgh Steelers. But we were really a good football team and had a lot of good football players. It’s nice to see those names getting brought up and those guys being remembered as well.”
There’s no doubt about it, rival or not, Anderson respects the greatness of those Steelers in the 1970’s. Very few players, if any, could escape the tackling machine of “Mean” Joe Greene.
Anderson was then asked about his experiences playing against the dominant “Steel Curtain” unit.
“The challenge was great,” Anderson stated in the interview. “You got to know those guys. I became good friends with Andy Russell, Jack Ham, Joe Greene, Mike Wagner and some those great players. I remember one year, it was ’79 and we were awful. We were 0-6 and they were 5-1, and they came to Cincinnati and I think we beat them 34-10. I think if you look back during my years as the starting quarterback, we had the best record in the league against the Steelers of any team. We played them tough, but it was one of respect.”
Anderson went on to tell an interesting story about a particular invitation he received after being sacked by a “Steel Curtain” member.
“I’ll tell you one quick story,” Anderson prefaced. “That ’79 season, we went back up to Pittsburgh, and we’re getting killed. It’s in the fourth quarter and Joe Greene sacks me again. He’s laying on top of me and he says, ‘Kenny, why don’t you stop in the locker room for a beer after the game?’ The locker rooms at the old stadium were close together, so I showered and went next door quickly.”
“[Terry] Bradshaw sees me, stops his interviews and takes me to the back. They turned off their sauna and had a garbage can full of beer. He clears off a couple spots, have two of three beers and I’m feeling better about life until I go out to catch the buses to go to the airport and they’d left. I’m thinking, ‘How am I going to explain how I got fined and had to buy a plane ticket from Pittsburgh to Cincinnati because I’m in the Steelers’ locker room drinking beer?’
Anderson was worried about the Bengals’ finding out and how it was going to look. Still to this day, he thinks his teammates may have been giving him the cold shoulder as they were preparing to leave the city.
“I’m looking for a cab to go the airport, and there goes the equipment truck,” Anderson remembered. “I go running down the street, flag it down and ride out to the airport. For some reason, the plane is late getting in, and we pulled up to the gate, the guy lets me in through the side door and everybody is standing around. At first I’m a little upset; the starting quarterback is not there and they don’t know? Then I started to think, maybe they know and they just don’t care.”