The long and unnecessary wait for former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell to get into the Pro Football Hall of Fame has finally ended. Shell, who played 14 seasons in the NFL with the Steelers from 1974 to 1987, has been voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame by the special Blue-Ribbon Panel as part of the NFL’s Centennial Slate process for the 2020 class. Shell is one of 10 senior players, two head coaches and three contributors voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year by Centennial Slate Blue-Ribbon Panel.
Shell, who had previously been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist for induction only once before in 2002, entered the NFL in 1974 with the Steelers as an undrafted free agent out of South Carolina State. A member of the famed “Steel Curtain” defense that helped lead the Steelers to four Super Bowl titles in 1970s, Shell registered 51 interceptions and 19 fumble recoveries during his long career. Shell’s 51 interceptions are still the most in NFL history for a strong safety. He also had at least one interception in each of his 14 NFL seasons.
Shell played in 201 regular season games for the Steelers during his career and in 19 total playoff games. He was a five-time Pro Bowl player in consecutive seasons from 1978-1982 and voted First-Team All-Pro in 1979, 1980 and 1982. He was a vital member of the four Steelers teams that won Super Bowls in the 1970s.
After the Steelers won their last of four 70s Super Bowl championships in January of 1980, Shell continued to be an integral part of the team’s defense as the members of the Steel Curtain began to retire. From 1980-1987, when the Steelers posted a combined record of 63-57, Shell registered 37 total interceptions and only three other players, Everson Walls (42), John Harris (41) and Ronnie Lott (38), had more during that span of years.
Only one player has ever recorded more consecutive seasons with five or more interceptions than Shell’s six (1979-1984, tied with 7 other players); Emlen Tunnell had 10 consecutive seasons. Shell is the only player to have done it since 1972. During Shell’s entire 14-year NFL career, only one player recorded more interceptions (51) than he did and that was Seattle Seahawks cornerback Dave Brown (53), who just so happened to be the Steelers first-round draft pick in 1975.
Shell will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, OH later this summer along with former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. Those two could also be joined in the 2020 class by former Steelers safety Troy Polamalu and guard Alan Faneca as both are modern-era finalists for the Pro Football Hall of Fame this year. The five modern-era selections will be announced the night before Super Bowl LIV takes place in Miami.
— Pro Football Hall of Fame (@ProFootballHOF) January 15, 2020
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 15, 2019