Pittsburgh Steelers fans have seen this story before- one of the black and gold’s all-time greats being enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
However the latest class of enshrinees into Canton had more of a Pittsburgh feel to it than just one former Steelers player walking into the hallowed halls that represents football immortality.
The Class of 2012 featured the enshrinement of running back Curtis Martin, tackle Willie Roaf, center Dermontti Dawson, defensive end Chris Doleman, defensive tackle Cortez Kennedy and cornerback Jack Butler.
Dawson of course was one of the greatest Steelers’ offensive linemen in history but the Steelers were also represented by Butler, who played cornerback for the black and gold from 1951-59, intercepting 52 passes in that span and making four Pro Bowls.
But that wasn’t it, as the University of Pittsburgh was well represented as well.
Martin played at Pitt from 1991-94 and while his career as a Panther was marred by injuries, he will still go down as one of the better backs in Pitt history. As a pro though, Martin became one of the best ever, finishing his 11-year career for the New England Patriots and New York Jets with 14,101 rushing yards and 90 touchdowns while joining Barry Sanders as the only players in history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in each of their first 10 seasons.
Doleman was also a former Pitt product, from 1981 to 1984. He ended his career at Pitt with 25 sacks which was good for third all-time at the time of his departure. He went on to become the No. 4 overall pick in the 1985 NFL Draft and In 15 seasons with the Vikings, Atlanta Falcons and San Francisco 49ers, he played 232 games and eight Pro Bowls and totaled 150.5 sacks, fourth most in league history when he retired. Doleman had a career-high 21 sacks in 1989 and was the defensive player of the year in 1992 when he had 14.5 sacks and six forced fumbles.
That brings us to Dawson, the highlight of the class for Steelers fans.
He had the pressure of having to follow another Hall of Famer in Mike Webster at center after being selected in the second round of the 1988 draft. But in 13 seasons, Dawson played 184 games (170 consecutive) and went to seven Pro Bowls. He was as consistent of a lineman as there was in the game and during his tenure; Dawson was the best at his position in the league.
If you get the opportunity to watch each new member of the Hall of Fame speeches, it’s worth doing. Especially in the case of Martin, who gave one of the most emotional speeches that I can recall in Hall of Fame history.