Donnie Shell was long overdue to be enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The former Pittsburgh Steelers safety played on four Super Bowl teams and won numerous post-season awards over the course of his career, racking up the interceptions. And yet it took a special centennial class for the Hall of Fame to finally get him in as part of the class of 2020.
Hard as it was for that to happen, it could be difficult to imagine anybody else from that era sneaking through. Really, it’s not clear who amongst anybody who might already be eligible could possibly get in, looking over the Steelers’ history. But Shell had a couple of ideas when he was in town this past weekend with other alumni.
He was asked about his feelings on the prospects of more Steelers joining him in the Hall and if he agreed with sentiments that he may be, maybe even should be, the last ‘legacy’ enshrine. “Not really”, he said, via transcript. “You all haven’t seen my shoes. L.C. Greenwood and Hines Ward. We have a bunch of guys who are capable and had great careers and need to be in the Hall of Fame”.
Those are, of course, two different eras. Shell played with Greenwood in the 1970s, the latter one of the Steelers’ defensive ends on that dominant Steel Curtain front. Ward was a wide receiver who played in the late 90s to the early 2010s.
It’s not clear to me, quite frankly, which of them might stand a better chance of eventually getting in, though Greenwood’s candidacy has lain dormant far longer. He is no longer eligible to be inducted as a modern candidate, and would have to be elected by the senior committee.
Shell was asked what he might say to the committee on behalf of Greenwood as to why he would be deserving. “I think he played during the years where they weren’t recording sacks if I am correct”, he said, but emphasized that didn’t define his game.
“The thing about L.C., as great as a pass rusher as he was, he was a great run defender because I was on his side, Jack Ham in the middle, I was on the outside and L.C. was on the inside”, he went on. “So, he played the run extremely well. A lot of people don’t give him credit for that because he was this Olympic pass rusher, but he played the run from the 4-3 defense, from the in perspective, quite well”.
According to Pro Football Focus, who recently undertook a project to tally sack numbers from years beyond the official tracking that began in 1982, Greenwood recorded 78 sacks during his regular-season career with the Steelers. But he had another 12.5 sacks in 18 career post-season games as well. That included four in Super Bowl X against the Dallas Cowboys in 1975.