PITTSBURGH – Bud Carson helped the Pittsburgh Steelers win their first two Super Bowl championships as the architect of the “Steel Curtain.” He almost prevented the fourth championship as the defensive coordinator of the Los Angeles Rams.
Carson, who had been fighting emphysema, died Wednesday at his home in Sarasota, Fla. He was 75.
“He was a great, great coach here,” said Steelers chairman Dan Rooney. “In fact, I might say that he coached the best defense that ever played in the National Football League.”
Carson was the defensive coordinator under Chuck Noll from 1972 to 1975. Carson took the same position with the Rams in 1978 and coached the Rams to a 10-7 win over the Steelers that year.
The teams met in the Super Bowl following the 1979 season. The Rams led the Steelers, 19-17, after three quarters, but, with Lynn Swann out with an injury, John Stallworth caught fourth-quarter bombs of 73 and 45 yards on the same pattern, out of the same formation, to score a touchdown and set up another. The Steelers won, 31-19.
“Now they had an outstanding team,” Carson said in a 2004 interview. “But once Swann went down, I thought: We’re going to jump all over this. Unfortunately, we blew the call and it cost us.”
Carson, a native of nearby Freeport, became defensive coordinator of the New York Jets in 1985 and head coach of the Cleveland Browns in 1989. He won a division title his first year, but a 2-7 start in 1990 got him fired.
“He knew what kind of players he wanted,” said Rooney. “At the time, people were getting the big guys who were just jamming up things and he always wanted the fast players, the athletic players who could run up the side and really rush the passer with great speed. And then they had great linebackers. I think Jack Ham may have been the best outside linebacker that ever played this game.
“It takes a combination and that’s what I think [Carson] had. He was able to take the players and talk to Chuck Noll and some of the other people on our staff about what we should do and how we should do it and what players we should use. It lasted a number of years.”
Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger wouldn’t discuss the details of his injured right thumb, but wouldn’t rule out post-season surgery.
“We don’t know yet,” he said. “If it doesn’t get any better, we may have to.”
Roethlisberger played Sunday with a splint on the thumb, but played well. He threw three touchdowns and was harassed into three interceptions. He had a passer rating of 94.2 and led the Steelers to 31 points. Roethlisberger aggravated the injury by bracing a fall with his hand after being hit.
“When I talked to the hand doctor he said ‘Whatever you do, don’t fall. If you’re going to fall, fall on your shoulder, go all the way down. Don’t put your hand down.’ That’s kind of hard to tell someone to do. I put my hand down. It made it pretty painful and then obviously the next throw was an interception. I’ve just got to be more careful not to injure it.”
The affect on his passes?
”I can’t put much pressure on my thumb,” he said. “It makes the ball wobble more and have not quite as tight a spiral. If we have a windy day, we’re going to have to find a way to get a tight spiral. The one I threw to Ced (Wilson), I told him, ‘Sorry about that, I threw it as far as I could.’”
The ball traveled 47 yards in the air for a 41-yard gain. Later, Roethlisberger fired a tight spiral to Hines Ward for a 6-yard touchdown.
“Sometimes adrenaline takes over,” Roethlisberger explained.
RANDLE EL MAN OF YEAR
Antwaan Randle El was named the Steelers’ 2005 Walter Payton Man of the Year for his off-the-field contributions to the community.
Randle El makes numerous charitable appearances throughout the year. He’s raised money for the Starzl Transplantation Institute at UPMC and the Cancer Caring Center, participates in the Steelers’ Project Bundle-Up program, works with The Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank and donates much of his free time visiting schools and youth football groups to speak about the synergy between academics and sports.
Randle El is one of 32 NFL team Man of the Year winners who qualifies for the national 2005 Walter Payton Man of the Year award. The winner will be announced during Super Bowl week in Detroit.
Left tackle Marvel Smith has been ruled out of Sunday’s game with his ankle injury. The other starting tackle, Max Starks, missed a portion of practice with a shoulder injury. He’s questionable for Sunday. Also missing at least a portion of practice were LB Joey Porter (elbow/probable) and RB Jerome Bettis (knee/probable). … For the Chicago Bears, RB Cedric Benson (knee) and starting safety Chris Harris (knee) are doubtful and missed Wednesday’s practice. Guard Terrence Metcalf (shoulder) is questionable and eight Bears are probable.