Hot takes are a good way to bring attention to yourself, whether there is a purpose behind doing so or not. I believe Doug Whaley was conscious of the absurdity of his comment he recently made regarding Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame linebacker Jack Ham. What I don’t know is what the purpose of it was, beyond simply manufacturing spectacle.
In case you somehow missed it, Whaley, while appearing on 93.7 The Fan, said of Ham that he would be a backup special teams player in today’s game because of the manner in which athletes have evolved in both their physical profile and their training regimen.
Evidently this all eventually got back to Ham, who went on to text with some of the radio outlet’s hosts, Ron Cook and Joe Starkey, wondering why he was being discussed so much all of a sudden—he hadn’t done anything in a while, after all.
One point that Whaley kept making was calling upon Ham’s listed playing weight, which he frankly got wrong. After having had it pointed out that he was actually listed at 6’1”, 220 pounds, he said that that was his ‘yearbook’ numbers, insisting that he must have played lighter.
Ham confirmed his listed measurements, but told Cook and company that he was actually 6’2” and played at 228 pounds during his career. That weight is certainly much more in line with what we would typically expect to see from today’s linebackers.
“The one thing that I did have, that I think it transcends any era, I had quickness out there and I actually studied the game quite a bit”, he said, according to Andrew Limberg, and was sure to give a shoutout to one of his peers, crediting “a great mentor in Andy Russell”.
Ham and Russell, along with Jack Lambert, were the linebacker trio on the first incarnation of the Steel Curtain defense of the early- to mid-70s, but Russell was older, and retired after the 1976 season. He was succeeded by Loren Toews in 77-78, then Dirt Winston and Robin Cole.
Ham was a second-round draft pick by the Steelers in 1971. He was an eight-time Pro Bowler and a six-time first-team All-Pro selection, finishing his career with 32 interceptions, 21 fumble recoveries, and 25.5 sacks. He recorded another eight takeaways in 16 postseason games played for Pittsburgh. He has the most takeaways in NFL history by a non-defensive back. He was enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1988, five years after he retired in his first year of eligibility.
He has, in my opinion, the leading case as the greatest defender in Steelers history not named Joe Greene. Truly a remarkable player, and I don’t even need to reiterate how absurd Whaley’s comment was. I wonder if he’ll acknowledge that he was being intentionally hyperbolic the next time he’s on the radio. I have a feeling he won’t be getting the team’s general manager job.