Gold Jacket Spotlight: John Stallworth ‘turned passing patterns into art’

When the Pittsburgh Steelers drafted JOHN STALLWORTH In the fourth round of the 1974 NFL Draft, Art Rooney Jr., the Steelers’ chief scout, said, “We felt we got two draft picks in the first round.”

Rich Emert of the Beaver County Times wrote, “The Steelers drafted him in the fourth round in what looks like the steal of the decade.”

John’s NFL career and entry into the Pro Football Hall of Fame supports both prospects and lands John in this week’s Gold Jacket Spotlight.

The Steelers’ 1974 draft included future Hall of Famers LYNN SWANN (Class of 2001), JACQUES LAMBERT (1990) and MIKE WEBSTER (1997) with John. Additionally, Pittsburgh signed an undrafted free agent. SHELL DONNIÉ the same year. Shell was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2020.

John credited the Steelers veteran receiving Frank Lewis as a respected mentor in his development, saying, “Frank really taught me a lot. We used to talk, and since Frank was a polite veteran, he kind of took me under his wing. He showed me how to ride routes and was just a friend.

While running was certainly essential to John’s success, his ability to focus on catching the ball was equally remarkable.

“When he’s on the field, it’s just him and the football,” observed Pittsburgh offensive coordinator Tom Moore.

John’s desire to make every catch throughout his career caught the attention of Steelers head coach Chuck Noll during training camp in 1985.

“Stallworth probably led the Steelers in ‘intraceptions,'” Noll said. “Sometimes he catches balls meant for other receivers. He thinks every ball in the air belongs to him.

Elton Alexander of the Plain Dealer once wrote, “If Carl Lewis (Olympic Gold Medalist) was born to run and George Brett (Baseball Hall of Famer 1999) was born to hit, then Johnny Lee Stallworth was born to catch a ball. of football.

John’s reaction to the comment about this capture ability was simply, “It just came naturally. I reached out to catch the ball, and it stuck. It has always been a God-given talent that I possess.

John and fellow receiver Swann became – many consider – the NFL’s greatest receiving tandem while playing together. They were members of four Steelers Super Bowl championship teams: IX, X, XIII and XIV.

“The Steelers’ two starting receivers should be listed as starters 1 and 1A,” wrote longtime NFL reporter Vito Stellino. “They’re the best pass receiving duo in the game right now.”

The competitive nature of the receivers pushed them to surpass themselves.

“It’s a great respect for everyone’s talents, personalities and goals,” Swann said.

“I think we both have big egos,” John said, “but we’re able to overpower them a bit for the team effort.” Before Super Bowl XIV, he said, “They might be able to stop one of us, but they can’t stop both of us.”

Hall of Fame John’s 73-yard touchdown reception TERRY BRADSHAW (Class of ’89) provided the winning score in the Steelers’ 31-19 win over the Los Angeles Rams.

“I could name you hundreds of John Stallworth captures,” Bradshaw said. “He did spectacular catches, big catches, one-handed catches. He was amazing.

Later, Bradshaw added, “John Stallworth should have been the Super Bowl XIV MVP, not me.”

Steelers defensive back and Hall of Famer MEL BLOUN called John “the most complete receiver we’ve had on this team.”

John’s career continued for five seasons after Swann’s retirement.

“Steelers star Stallworth is getting better without getting older,” Steve Love observed in an Akron Beacon Journal article. “He makes it all easier than it is. A well-timed header, a stutter step, a last-second stretch, and the defender is left with the bag as Stallworth holds the ball.

The pass lane craftsman concluded his 14-year playing career in 1985 and posed with sculptor Blair Buswell for his Pro Football Hall of Fame bust in 2002.