For Gary Dunn,
pleasant and well-bred, a grandson of the founder of the University of Miami,
the workout surely cannot end too soon. He is the seventh and last defensive
lineman on the Steeler payroll. Insecure, he cannot afford to give less than
his utmost to Defensive Line Coach George Perles as Perles runs his men through
a contact drill against the offensive line.
snaps an offensive lineman, regarding the rookie's hustle as a union hod
carrier might disapprove of an apprentice who has not learned to jake it.
"You come full speed once more, we're gonna break both your legs."
"I can't help
it," Dunn whispers, plaintively. "George is making me do it."
Dunn is Perles'
catalyst, setting a full-speed pace for the others. Now Perles, a squat buffalo
of a man, is whooping at the offensive linemen, "We beat you! We beat you!
That's a Coke!" The offensive linemen, certain they have held back the
charge a creditable five seconds, are retorting with foul language, convinced
Perles will flat-out lie to claim victory for his men.
field generals out there!" says Ray Mansfield, a 14-year NFL center who
this season has retired to a comfortable insurance business. "They don't
care if the whole practice is screwed up, long as their outfit looks
Perles, like the
other assistants, actually is coaching a series of miniature football games
throughout the week, striving determinedly to win each one. Defensive and
offensive linemen, once they have clapped on their helmets, dislike one
another, simply because nobody enjoys being on the receiving end of a blow or
being made to look foolish by a deceptive maneuver. So Perles is going to feed
the low fire that flashes when the helmets go on, to keep sharp his famous
front four—L. C. Greenwood, Joe Greene, Ernie (Fats) Holmes and Dwight White.
That their small victories of penetration are won at the expense of the
offensive line is no concern of Perles.
assistant coach," Mansfield muses, "says, 'The hell with those guys,
let's do our job.' "
Not the least bit
humorously, Mansfield remembers a critical week in the Steelers' rise to NFL
prominence. As they headed into their final regular-season game of 1972, at San
Diego, a victory would give them the first divisional title in the club's
40-year history. Noll therefore decided to encamp his team for the week at Palm
Springs in order to be assured of salubrious practice weather. His offensive
linemen, all but four of them seriously hurting, looked forward to the desert
sun. "Moon Mullins," says Mansfield, "was coming off a pop in the
head and still didn't know where he was."
Bused to a
baseball field, the players went to work, the offensive line out in left field
going through the motions in a pass-protection drill against Perles' front
four. At half speed, Mullins moved into a block on Fats Holmes, whereupon the
massive Holmes, in Mansfield's words, "unloaded on Moon like to kill
only got four healthy guys!" shouted Mansfield.