On Saturday we learned that former Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Bill Cowher will be one of the two head coaches that will be officially inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2020 in Canton, OH later this summer. On Wednesday, we’ll find out if former Steelers safety Donnie Shell will be one of the 10 senior players chosen this year by the blue-ribbon panel to also be part of the Centennial Slate Class of 2020. On Monday, Steelers team president Art Rooney II was asked by Stan Savran of 970 ESPN Radio to give his opinion on Shell’s chances of being announced as a new member Pro Football Hall of Fame on Wednesday.
“I talked to Coach [Dick] LeBeau last week and he was in the room up at Canton last week and he felt like the discussion with both Donnie and Bill Cowher went well and he felt good about it,” Rooney told Savran. “So, hopefully, we’ll get good news here again on Wednesday as far as Donnie’s concerned.”
Part of the main reason why Shell is likely still waiting to get elected into the Pro Football Hall of Fame could be related to voter bias against players from the Steelers teams of the 1970s due to so many already having their busts in Canton, OH. At the very least, Rooney said on Monday that could be the case when it comes Shell not yet being voted into the pro Football Hall of Fame after all these years and tries.
“I do think it is the number of Steelers from the 70s that are already in, I do think it has hurt Donnie’s chances and that’s why I’m glad the NFL came up with this kind of a special process this year,” Rooney told Savran. “It’s almost like a makeup class for guys. You know, the league’s been around a hundred years now and this is kind of recognizing that there are more guys that deserve to be in there than are in. And so, I think it’s great. And, again, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that Donnie’s gonna get in there.”
As far as there possibly being bias against Shell for being a member of the Steelers teams of the 70s that ultimately won four Super Bowls, there really shouldn’t be because of all that the safety accomplished long after the fourth Lombardi Trophy was won in Super Bowl. In fact, for those who might be biased against Shell for playing on the Steelers 70s dynasty defense, from 1980-87 when the team posted a combined record of 63-57, the safety registered 37 interceptions and only three other players, Everson Walls (42), John Harris (41), Ronnie Lott (38) had more during that span.
While we’re on the subject about Shell being more than worthy of being voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year, during his 14-year NFL career (1974-1987) only one player recorded more interceptions (51) than he did and that was cornerback Dave Brown (53), who just so happened to be the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1975.
While Rooney made it point to say on Monday that he’ll certainly have his fingers and toes crossed that Shell, and possibly even Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca, will join Cowher as members of the 2020 Hall of Fame class in the coming weeks, he said he’s hesitant to do too much lobbying to panel or committee voters for fear that such tactics might not be deemed favorable ones.
“I would say that I’ve always tried to walk a little bit of a line there of not being too much of a lobbyist,” Rooney told Savran on Monday. “I think some of them [Hall of Fame voters] don’t really respect that I think they see a lot of campaigns down through the years and they don’t put a lot of weight on that. So, you know, I think we try to be cautious about how far we go with it and really just try to make sure that if the right opportunity arises, you put in a good word for somebody, but you don’t overdo it. Sometimes that can backfire.”
Nothing said or written at this point will matter when it comes to Shell this year because the blue-ribbon panel has already made their decision as to his Hall of Fame fate for 2020. All we can do at this point is hope that the special blue-ribbon panel, of which former Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau was a member of, made the right choice when it comes to putting Shell in the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. If they didn’t, Shell might not ever get voted in.