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The Steelers 1979 season begins here>>>

J.T. Thomas back after a year’s absence through Boeck’s Sarcoid

Side-lined for the whole of the 1978 season with a rare illness, J.T. Thomas was showing in training camp that he was ready to return to the football field. It was although he had never left.

“I’ve never been a doubting Thomas,” he said. “I never doubt myself. I’m not that kind of person. There’s always hope. I live in a world of hope. I can do anything I want if I want to do it bad enough.

Some people think that if one bad thing happens, they’ve had a bad day. I feel that if one good thing happens, it’s been a good day. When I wake up in the morning, that’s my definition of a good day.”

Thomas told reporters that he is like the kid who has been away from the circus for a while and missed his favourite ride. “I’m back on my ride again.” After his long absence from football, Thomas is now even enjoying the boredom that training camp can produce. “It’s the old story about not missing water until the well runs dry.”

Having shown he can still play football at the top level; his next goal is to win back his left corner position from Ron Johnson who had done well in his rookie year. “Ron had a fantastic year and I’m sure he wants to start, and I do too,” observed Thomas.

“I’m sure I wouldn’t be content (as a backup), but I never found contentment even in just starting. I’ve always had goals to do more things, but I’ll be satisfied to be with the club. Whatever my role is, I’ll be contributing the best I have to give.”

Steelers rich in wide receivers

With their veterans Lynn Swann, John Stallworth, Jim Smith and Theo Bell still delivering for the team, the Steelers didn’t make adding more receivers a priority. Their fourth-round pick Calvin Sweeny arrived in camp with a broken foot so it appeared their final draft pick, Mike Almond was left to make an impression.

Almond was joined in camp by free agents Larry Douglas of Southern University, Jerry Taylor of Tulsa and Carlos Lee of Concord. The Steelers receiver coach, Tom Moore, was enthusiastic about his new recruits. “The best group I’ve had in the three years I’ve been here.”

At his stage of camp. Moore rated the four players about even. Taylor helped his chances with a 60-yard reception from Cliff Stoudt. “It gives a rookie a little bit of confidence,” a smiling Taylor admitted after making the play.

Johnny Unitas enrolled into the Pro Football Hall of Fame

Johnny Unitas wearing 14 as a SteelerThe Steelers used their 1954 ninth round draft pick on quarterback Johnny Unitas. They cut him near the end of that year’s training camp. “Johnny Unitas was a miracle,” noted Dan Rooney. “George Shaw had to get hurt for the Colts to call him. They had a habit in those days of bringing in other teams’ late cuts and giving them tryouts. And here Unitas was playing sandlot football at the time. It’s incredible.”

Unitas was working on a construction crew during the day and playing quarterback for the Bloomfield Rams by night for about $5 a game. Unitas went on to play pro football for eighteen years. First with the Baltimore Colts before a final season with the San Diego Chargers.

He completed 2,830 passes from 5,186 attempts for 40,239 yards and 290 touchdowns.

When Unitas was in the 1955 Steelers training camp, his biggest fans were John and Pat Rooney. The youngest phones their father, Art Rooney, and told him they were catching passes on the sideline during practice with the best quarterback in the camp. They had heard that coach was going to Walt Kiesling to cut him so warned their father that it would be a mistake.

Art Rooney didn’t interfere, and the team lost an early opportunity to lose their same old Steelers image. Coach Noll who played against Unitas as a linebacker for the Cleveland Browns, said of the player, “He was a strong-willed guy. He just believed in himself and felt he could get the job done. And he did, more often than not. He wanted to move the ball. He wanted to throw it; he ran it as a change-up.”




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The Steelers 1979 season updated September 16th 2019.

Ben's early Steelers games.

The Steelers 1977 season in full.
The Steelers 1976 season in full.

The Steelers 1975 season in full.
The Steelers 1974 season in full.

The first NFL champions the 1902 Pittsburgh Stars added June 2016

The Pittsburgh Americans added August 2015.

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