Former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver and Pro Football Hall of Famer Lynn Swann joined the National Football Foundation on Tuesday for a Black History Month Q&A session.
Swann discussed a number of topics, including his life as a Black athlete, current players embarking on social justice initiatives and the importance football has played in his life.
Swann detailed an experience early in his career when he, his brothers and cousin had a negative experience with the police. While they had done nothing wrong, Swann said that the situation tarnished his reputation, stacking the odds against him just has he was beginning his Steeler career.
“My career as a professional started out on kind of shaky ground. The day I got drafted, I took my two brothers and cousin out to dinner in San Francisco to celebrate,” he said. “After we left the restaurant, we got stopped by the police. To make a long story short, and what is typical in a lot of young Black men’s lives, we were stopped by the police, beaten up and thrown in jail for nothing. I spent the next two years fighting the San Francisco police in court. We won the case and the lawsuit. Again, that was right after I was drafted by the Steelers. So, the media had the stories all over the front page, saying, oh my, who did we draft here. So, it was trying to fight through that reputation and what was said about me at that particular time to find a place on the football team. It was a challenge, but at the end of the day, for the most part, it worked out. But it would not be the last time something of that nature would happen.”
Swann, his brothers and cousin were eventually awarded $40,000 each in a lawsuit. While Swann was unfairly characterized by the situation at first, he allowed his work in the community and play on the field speak for themselves.
“I let who I was as a person speak,” Swann said. “I let my involvement in different things around Pittsburgh in the community speak for who I am. And then I let football decide what kind of a player I was in terms of performance, ability and talent and things of that nature.”
Swann also shared his thoughts on the growing number of athletes using their platforms to help enact change. While he is all for athletes doing their part, he does not believe it is the time or place to do so on the field.
“I think every individual player who is concerned about something that is not related to football, not related to sports, spends their time, spends their money, spends their energy and effort to making that better by becoming involved on that particular platform,” Swann said. “But I think we stand on very thin ice when we start to believe that because we played a sport, because we’re an entertainer, that we should tell people how they should think and what they should believe in and how to act. I think people are better off seeing examples of people who care about certain things. But they have to understand that when people go watch you play football: they’re going to watch your team play. They’re not going for a discourse in politics, or even in social justice. But the fact that, there are examples of social justice, and people working together from all kinds of backgrounds and races and so forth is a lesson in and of itself.”
Swann also discussed the important role football has played in his life.
“Football has been huge for me from my start as a 12-year-old playing Pop Warner football for the Peninsula San Bruno Jets in California and the Bay Area,” he said. “It was my first involvement in real competitive sports, finding out I didn’t necessarily have all the assets to be very good. It was the beginning of a process that was an important base for me in self-realization and having a new experience and not having success. Football is an amazing place to find out about yourself and to test yourself. It’s a crucible. It’s either going to spit you out, or it’s going to shape you and make you.”
Selected in the first round of the 1974 NFL Draft, Swann played his entire nine-year career in Pittsburgh. He tallied 336 career receptions, 5,462 yards and 51 touchdowns. He was selected to three Pro Bowls and named First-Team All-Pro in 1978, Swann was also named Walter Payton Man of the Year in 1981.
A four-time Super Bowl champion, Swann was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2001.
Read the entire conversation between Swann and the National Football Foundation here.
Rooney: Steelers Plan to Return to St. Vincent for 2021 Training Camp
There is plenty that remains up in the air about the 2021 NFL offseason, but the Pittsburgh Steelers still have plans to resume one of their enduring traditions that was broken by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.
The Steelers were forced to forgo their trip to the campus of St. Vincent College near Latrobe, Pennsylvania in 2020 due to the NFL’s rules regarding keeping players isolated during the coronavirus pandemic.
It’s unclear how much those restrictions will change for the NFL teams this summer, but as things stand as of today, the Steelers are still making plans to return to the Laurel Highlands for the team’s annual training camp this summer.
“As we sit here today, our plan is to have training camp in Latrobe,” team president Art Rooney II said to Steelers.com on Friday. “We still have a ways to go to get there, but I think there’s a pretty good chance that’s going to be able to happen. We’re still hopeful we’re going to have some form of offseason program, and it’s probably not going to start on time but I think it’s important particularly for the young players that we get back to having an offseason program and then a full training camp and preseason games. I think we need to have that to help the young players continue to develop.”
Displaced from their usual bucolic summer home and from UPMC Rooney Sports Complex on the South Side due to capacity limitations, the Steelers spent the 2020 training camp and preseason at Heinz Field.
NFL Network Analysts Call Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger 3rd-Best in AFC North
It appears that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is likely to return to the Pittsburgh Steelers, with both Roethlisberger’s agent and team president Art Rooney II making public statements that each party desires a return for 2021 this week.
But how much of a difference-maker will Roethlisberger be? That depends on his level of play this coming season.
NFL Network analysts and former NFL players Willie McGinest and LaDainian Tomlinson each ranked the quarterbacks of the AFC North and both said they think Roethlisberger is the third-best quarterback in the division, behind Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson and Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield.
“I’m not taking anything away from Ben,” McGinest said. “Lamar Jackson is special and I put Baker in front of Ben because of what we’ve seen in the progression of Baker the last couple of years. … I see him getting better and Ben fighting father time, with the skills diminishing just a little bit.”
— NFL Network (@nflnetwork) February 25, 2021
“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish,” Tomlinson said. “We’ve seen, in spurts, Big Ben play well. He started out hot. But he didn’t finish so well. … He looked old and beat up toward the end of the season. I’m just not sure that improves.”
Statistically, Roethlisberger finished first amongst the four AFC North passers in completion percentage, but he was fourth in yards per attempt and third in passer rating and QBR. Pro Football Focus ranked Roethlisberger last of the division’s four starters in 2020.
NFL Head Coach: Bud Dupree’s Injury Cause for Uncertainty Entering Free Agency
Pittsburgh Steelers outside linebacker Bud Dupree is set to hit free agency in a matter of weeks, but one head coach believes he could be waiting a while to sign.
Speaking with FanSided’s Matt Lombardo, an NFL head coach, speaking anonymously, said Dupree’s season-ending knee injury has made his free agency outlook uncertain.
“Bud Dupree is someone that is a real question mark for me,” the head coach told FanSided. “If he was healthy, he’s easily the top pass-rusher hitting the open market, and teams would pay a king’s ransom to sign him. But, with him coming off a torn ACL, what exactly are you committing to? Does he want to go back to Pittsburgh? Who knows, but he’s someone that I think will wind up having to wait a while to sign.”
Lombardo compares Dupree’s situation to Tennessee Titans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney last offseason.
While he had not suffered a significant injury the season prior with the Houston Texans and Seattle Seahawks, Clowney signed with Tennessee on just a one-year, $12-million deal. He had been expected to be paid handsomely on a lengthier contract, which obviously did not come to fruition.
Clowney was virtually invisible for the Titans, recording no sacks in eight games before being placed on injured reserve in November.
Due to his torn ACL, Dupree could find himself having to settle on a cheaper, one-year “prove it” deal as well. Ideally he would then cash in during the 2022 free agency period is all goes as planned.
Dupree was having another stellar season before tearing his ACL in the Steelers’ Week 12 win over the Baltimore Ravens. He had eight sacks, eight tackles for loss, 15 quarterback hits and a pair of forced fumbles through eleven games.
After playing last season under the franchise tag, which paid Dupree $15.828 million, the Steelers’ dire salary cap situation will most likely prevent them from bringing him back. Still, the brass of the organization has expressed their desire to do so if circumstances were different.
While the knee injury remains a concern, Dupree shared he was ahead of schedule in his recovery when he joined NFL Network’s Good Morning Football late last month.