Welcome to our new rivalry edition of Steelers Interviews. Throughout the year, our Ron Lippock will be speaking with players you loved to hate from some of the Steelers’ biggest rivals.
Ron caught up with Cincinnati Bengals Hall of Fame tackle Anthony Muñoz. Muñoz made it to 11 Pro Bowls in his 13-year NFL career from 1980-92.
First, let us know what you’re doing with yourself since you retired from the NFL?
So this is my 27th year out of the league. My first seven years, I did broadcasting for the NFL then became an analyst for college football games and went on to ESPN. I retired from the NFL when my kids were nine and 11. When the first went to college at Tennessee, I retired from broadcasting so I could go and see every home and away game he played. Now, I do broadcasting for the Bengals preseason games.
I also started the Anthony Munoz Foundation and have a couple of small businesses I help manage, including a corporate apparel company.
I also work with the NFL’s Hall of Fame programs and do a lot of public speaking as well. I enjoy that. Plus, I have nine grandchildren!
So, you’re busy! Tell us more about your foundation. I know that’s a big initiative for you?
I started the Anthony Munoz Foundation 19 years ago. I started it only when I knew I could really devote the time to it. It serves the tri-state area around Cincinnati — we work with kids mentally, physically, and spiritually. We have a mentoring program where we do a lot of teambuilding, we get some football in o course with our camps, and bring in motivational speakers to work with them, then have breakout sessions where they have challenges to come up with their own community service programs. We have about 90 to 100 high schools and 1,000 to 1,300 students attend and give out 18 one-time scholarships, and four to eight $20,000 scholarships for high school seniors going to college.
Jumping into the Steelers-Bengals rivalry – what memories stand out most to you about those games?
The easiest one is in my rookie season in 1980. This was right after the Steelers won their fourth Super Bowl, they just beat the Rams in Pasadena. I lineup on the line of scrimmage and I’m looking at Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Dwight White and Jack Lambert, Jack Ham — they were all still there. I tell people still, I didn’t know then if I should ask for their autograph or not? Knowing who they were then and now playing them, being on the same field and same division as they were!
My second year, I remember going into Three Rivers looking to clinch the division and beating Pittsburgh. We were 6-10 the year before and had some bad seasons before that. If it were the mid-70’s I don’t know if we beat them, but it was a great experience going to Pittsburgh and winning the division there.
Pittsburgh was always a great rivalry. We had Houston and the interstate rivalry with Cleveland, but we always enjoyed going into Pittsburgh. We knew how important those games were.
Who were the guys you remember going up against most?
I wasn’t a big talker and I think guys saw that. Those games were tough enough — we didn’t need to give them more fuel by talking more. When Wednesdays came and we played the Steelers next, we called it Steelers week. We never said those words about any other team. We never needed more motivation when it was Steelers week. They were always physical, tough games.
Any fun stories that stand out to you from those games?
One story does yes. For six or seven years, I’d always go to Geneva College in Beaver Falls to help with their football camp there. It just happened to be run by the Steelers and there were a lot of Steelers players that would be there as well. I got to know those guys and we became friendly. Keith Willis was one of those guys.
Well, I remember when we played the Steelers, Keith lined up as the left end over our right tackle, so I didn’t face him often. But on one play we all followed a run play to the other side of the field, and after the play Keith was laying down on the field and extended his hand to me for me to help him up. I just looked at him and walked by him. I never did that — that’s not how I rolled!
Well he yelled out to me “So that’s how it is? So we’re buddies at youth camps over the Summer but you can’t help me up during games?” I just said, “You got that right!”
I was just glad I didn’t have to line up across from him after that and have to deal with him!
What do you think of the Bengals-Steelers rivalry today?
Well you know what, I could do without all of the talking. I’m not a talker. I get it, but I think both sides can go too far. I remember watching an interview with Chuck Noll well after he retired, and they asked him what the difference was between those 70’s teams and the teams today. He said that when those 70’s team players made great plays, they’d just go back to the huddle and not say anything. Now, they may make a great play once in a while, but after every play they make they constantly let everyone know about it.
That’s it for me. Of course, they’d get emotional once in a while, but not all the time like it is today. I just want to see it get back to the physicality – we didn’t have to try and do it verbally like they do now. That’s what I’d like to see it get back to. I want to see football – not that other stuff. That’s where I get frustrated with it. Just dominate the other guy and get back to the huddle. I loved how he described that about how we all played then. Now, guys point at each other and celebrate after every play.
And I get the branding and the marketing, that the game has changed. But I wish it was less of that and more like it was as Noll described it.