In God’s Coach, his 1990 tell-all history of the Tom Landry-era Dallas Cowboys, Skip Bayless wrote that Randy White, the Cowboys’ Hall of Fame defensive lineman, started bulking up on steroids in the mid to late 1970s. He quotes White as saying he started using them after lining up against the Pittsburgh Steelers’ hulking offensive linemen. “Man”, White said, “I’d look across the line at those Steelers with their sleeves rolled up on those huge arms, and well, I had to do something. I figured they were using steroids too.”
Former Buffalo Bills linebacker Jim Haslett, who’s now head coach of the New Orleans Saints said yesterday that it was actually the Steelers of the 1970s that introduced the rage for ‘roids into the NFL:
New Orleans Saints coach Jim Haslett says he used steroids when he starred as a linebacker in the early 1980s, and claims the Pittsburgh Steelers’ use of the drugs during Super Bowl championship seasons in the 1970s brought steroids into vogue around the NFL.
Haslett, the Steelers’ defensive coordinator from 1997-99, made the comments Wednesday in Hawaii, where the league is holding its annual meeting. They were published in Thursday’s editions of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Los Angeles Times.
Steelers owner Dan Rooney, who ran the team during the 1970s, denied the Steelers pioneered steroid use in the NFL.
Haslett played in Buffalo from 1979 to 1985, and finished his career in 1987 with the New York Jets. He said he used steroids for one season early in his career.
“It started, really, in Pittsburgh. They got an advantage on a lot of football teams. They were so much stronger (in the) ’70s, late ’70s, early ’80s,” Haslett said. “They’re the ones who kind of started it.”
Rooney rejected Haslett’s claims, noting the Steelers were known for smaller, quicker linemen who ran trap plays that required they be agile, not bulky.
“This is totally false when he says it started with the Steelers in the ’70s,” Rooney told the Post-Gazette. “(Then-coach) Chuck Noll was totally against it. He looked into it, examined it, talked to people. Haslett, maybe it affected his mind.
“Chuck Noll told the players, ‘Hey, this stuff doesn’t do you any good. If you just do the work, lift, things like that, you’ll be all right,”’ Rooney said.
At least one Steelers player from that era has admitted using steroids. Steve Courson, a part-time starter on Pittsburgh’s last Super Bowl title team in 1979, has blamed a heart condition on steroid use. Courson has also said that teammates such as Jack Ham and Jack Lambert adamantly refused to use them.
Haslett estimated half the league’s players, and all its linemen, took steroids in the 1980s before they were banned by the league. The league began testing for steroids in 1987, but players weren’t suspended for using them until 1989. The league started using random, year-round drug testing in 1990.
Like Claude Rains in Casablanca, I’m shocked–shocked!–that the Steelers helped introduce steroids into the NFL.
Oh, and for a bit of incidental irony, it’s probably worth noting that these days, the NFL encourages an entirely different kind of drug use amongst its largely male fan base.