Steelers Hall of Famer and legendary LB Jack Ham credits teammate Andy Russell for success
Originally posted on Steeler Nation, by Matt Tristan, and from YardBarker.com/www.yardbarker.com
The Pittsburgh Steelers have had a long list of players that made it into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. One of these players is former linebacker Jack Ham. The Steelers were blessed to have Ham wreak havoc on opposing offenses for 12 seasons, and on the 50th anniversary of his retirement, we look back at his legendary career.
Symbol of Stability
From being drafted 34th overall in the 1971 NFL Draft to his final game in 1982, there was something that you knew about Jack Ham. He would show up on gameday ready to play four quarters of football. Ham would become a steady presence at the linebacker position as he missed just four total games over the course of his 12 years in the league. I’m sure that many fans would have loved to have someone like Ham play on the 2022 defense for not only his longevity, but also what he brought to the position.
Ham was a brilliant combination of speed and strength. A fast runner and hard hitter, Ham truly was one of a kind. Steelers former head coach, Chuck Noll even commented on Ham’s quickness, saying,
“Ham was the fastest Steeler in the first 10 yards.”
While Ham was gifted with great physical traits, he also had a sharp football mind, cultivated over the years by many people, but it was former Steelers linebacker and teammate Andy Russell that played the biggest part in shaping his mental success on the field.
Ham expressed this in his Hall of Fame speech:
“He taught me more about football, more about the mental part of the game, made me just a great player only because of the mental part he taught me for many years. Andy was known as the thinking man’s linebacker.”
Thanks to Russell, Ham had a distinct advantage when it came to playing defense. Maxie Baughan, a fellow linebacker and NFL journeyman, spoke highly of Ham and his ability to read the opponents schemes.
“He was one of the more intelligent players to ever play that position, said Baughan. He was able to diagnose plays. You couldn’t ever fool him.”
Ham had the complete package that any football player, and any football team, would love to have. Ham’s performance during his entire tenure with the black and gold was reflected both in his personal awards closet, as well as the Steelers’ trophy case.
Awards and Accolades
As previously stated, Ham was a rare talent. It should come as no surprise that Ham’s legendary career includes many individual awards. In college, he was a Consensus All-American in 1970 while attending Penn State University. Fast forward to 2014 where Ham was voted by fans onto the “Mount Rushmore of Penn State Football.”
Moving onto his professional career, Ham won numerous accolades, including but not limited to being named to the NFL’s All-Pro team a total of eight times — six first-team selections, two second-team selections — and being an eight-time Pro Bowler. Of course, the biggest honors are the four Super Bowl rings he collected as a member of the vaunted “Steel Curtain” defense of the 1970’s.
Aside from Pro Bowls, All-Pro selections and championships, there are still plenty more achievements which Ham accomplished. He was a member of the NFL 1970’s All Decade Team, as well as the NFL’s All-Time Team for both the league’s 75th and 100-year anniversary. As it pertains to the Steelers specifically, Ham is a member of the Steelers All-Time Team and has been inducted into the Steelers Hall of Honor. Ham was also inducted into the Pittsburgh Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Whether you were fortunate enough to watch Ham play in person, or if you watch his highlights on social media, one thing is clear. The Steelers were very lucky to have drafted him and had him on their roster for 12 years. Without him, Pittsburgh wouldn’t have those four championships in the 1970’s, and Steeler Nation wouldn’t be as big as it is today.
What do you remember most about Jack Ham?