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Steelers Lost an All-Pro LB in the 1990s Because of Tampering

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Steelers HC Bill Cowher

In a recent interview with The Hawks Nest, former Seattle Seahawks executive Randy Mueller told the story of how Seattle landed former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Chad Brown in free agency in 1997.

Brown starred on the “Blitzburgh” Steelers defenses of the 1990s at linebacker. He played inside linebacker with Levon Kirkland, while Greg Lloyd and Kevin Greene were the outside linebackers.

Brown was looking to cash in after his rookie contract was up with Pittsburgh, and a $7 million check from Seattle persuaded him to head to the Pacific Northwest.

“We actually picked Chad up in a jet at midnight when free agency started in Denver, and his agent, Peter Schaffer. Brought them to Seattle, thinking that we had to be first, we had to throw our biggest offer at him, and if he left, it was going to be for risky for him to get that somewhere else,” Mueller recalled.

“Mickey Loomis was our contract and cap guy, the longtime GM of the Saints. Mickey and I were working on this deal with Peter, and we actually slid a check for $7 million across the table in front of Chad. He was scheduled to go to Carolina the next day to make a visit there, and we said, ‘That’s fine, you can go to Carolina, but you’re gonna be walking away from $7 million on this check’, and it was a legitimate check, it was gonna be his signing bonus.”

Mueller essentially admitted to tampering, which really wasn’t enforced in 1997 like it is today. If that happened in 2024, suspensions and the loss of draft picks would definitely occur.

Brown was named first-team All-Pro with the Steelers in 1996, recording 13.0 sacks at outside linebacker. Brown switched from inside linebacker to the outside that season. Brown was an edge rusher in Seattle as well and was named first-team All-Pro again in 1998. He also earned Pro Bowl honors in 1998 and 1999.

Brown didn’t have the overall team success in Seattle like he did with the Steelers in the 1990s, but it was still a solid 15-year career for him. I mean, 79.0 career sacks is not bad at all.

Regardless of Seattle’s activities, the Steelers most likely wouldn’t have given Brown a $7 million bonus. If they weren’t going to sign Rod Woodson to a long-term deal, they surely weren’t going to do it for Brown. Woodson ended up leaving the Steelers that offseason as well due to a contract dispute, and signed with the San Francisco 49ers.

 

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