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Mel Blount: ‘It’s Almost A Sin’ That Donnie Shell Isn’t Already In Hall Of Fame

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s were defined by the Steel Curtain, their stellar defensive line helmed by Joe Greene, as well as L.C. Greenwood, among others in a bit of a rotating cast over the years. At the second level, you had all-time great linebackers in Jack Ham and Jack Lambert.

Less known and acknowledged are the defensive backs, but at least Mel Blount is typically recognized. They had a number of quality defensive backs at the time, including Mike Wagner, Glen Edwards, and J.T. Thomas.

And then there was Donnie Shell, who came in during the same year as the historic draft class of 1974—as a college free agent. He may not have instantly come in as a starter—his first season as a starter was in 1977—but he was and became a major contributor to a great defense, and then carried over greatness in his own right in leaner years during most of the 1980s.

Shell would retire with 51 interceptions after the 1987 season. By then, only 20 players in NFL history had recorded that many, including Blount and Jack Butler, but they were typically cornerbacks, not a safety like Shell.

Shell’s greatness, as recognized by his teammates, continues to baffle his supporters pertaining to his absence from the Pro Football Hall of Fame, considering the fact that he has been eligible for so many years that he is long past his eligibility as a modern candidate.

This year, he is once again nominated by the senior committee, amid a large group as part of the league’s 100th-year anniversary, and quite frankly it would be a massive shame if he still fails to get in. we should know in a month or so whether or not that is the case.

Personally, I’ve been lobbying for Donnie. If there is any such thing as a Hall of Famer, Donnie is a Hall of Famer”, Blount told Stan Savran of his former teammate. “When you look at guys who going into the Hall of Fame that played his position, it’s almost a sin. I think Donnie should be there. It’s unfortunate that he hasn’t gotten in there, but I’m hopeful that it’s coming, and it’s coming very soon”.

If he does enter the Hall of Fame this year, he may not be alone. Troy Polamalu is in his first year of eligibility, and though he didn’t put up near the same interception numbers, he is widely regarded as having been a special and unique talent, and the best of his era, along with first-ballot Hall of Famer Ed Reed.

In a way, it would be fitting to see Shell and Polamalu go into Canton together, as arguably the most underrated defender in the team’s history, as well as the most celebrated of the most recent generation. Here’s to hoping that actually happens.

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