Arguably the most overlooked Pittsburgh Steelers player of the Super Bowl era is Donnie Shell. This year, he has another chance, and perhaps his best, to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The safety is one of 20 Senior Committee finalists for this year’s centennial class, of which 10 will get through. Normally, there are only two finalists, who are either voted in or not.
He is looking to become the second Steelers defensive back to make it in as a senior candidate, which Jack Butler also managed to do several years ago. He was fortunately still alive to participate in the honor, but sadly passed away a short time later. It would be a great shame if Shell were to not live to see himself enshrined.
There have been those who have been making a push for him to get in for years. Two Hall of Famers with Steelers ties have campaigned for him during their speeches, including Tony Dungy, who both played with and then coached Shell before moving on to defensive coordinator and head coaching jobs.
The Steelers themselves have been trying to pump up his candidacy as well, publishing a series of interview snippets with former teammates discussing what he meant to their Super Bowl dynasty of the 70s, of which he was a part of all four championship teams, though only a full-time starter in the latter two.
They didn’t play on the same side of the ball, but Franco Harris watched Shell in practice regularly, and saw him from the sidelines, understanding the impact that his play would have on the game on a weekly basis.
“We had a tough defense all the way around. We know about Mel Blount on that corner, but people need to start looking at Donnie Shell”, he told Stan Savran. “Incredible safety. Incredible, not only with interceptions, but his tackling, his hits. His tackling and hits really made a different in games. And it’s interceptions, of course, but he was a force out there, and he was a game-changer. And Donnie Shell absolutely should be in the Hall of Fame”.
We won’t know if he gets in for a few more weeks yet, as the class will be voted on the day before the Super Bowl, and we’ve only just completed the Wildcard Round. If he does get in this year, and that he does so among a group of Steelers, joined by Troy Polamalu and Alan Faneca as modern candidates.