There are statistical oddities and then there are incredibly troubling statistical trends. This story falls under the latter, and it’s sure to put a damper on Pittsburgh optimism heading into Sunday’s Super Bowl. Even if they win, they’re sure to lose many of their heroes to an relatively early death, if the trends inspected in this story from the SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL continue.
According to research by SUN-SENTINEL Sports Columnist David Hyde, a whopping 21 former Steelers have died in the past 12 years, and all were younger than 60. Some have come of natural causes. Some have come from freak accidents — the strangest has to be Steve Courson, who was felled by a tree, literally — and some have come from causes that may have been brought on by football — Steve Furness’s heart attack primary among them — but all of the deaths have been startling.
Hyde was sparked to the story by the untimely death of former Dolphin quarterback David Woodley, the predecessor to Dan Marino who was shipped to the Steel City after Marino’s arrival - despite leading Miami to the 1983 Super Bowl. (Woodley was only 44 when he passed away in 2003.)
The deaths span every position from quarterback to defensive line, with two members of the team’s famed “Steel Curtain” defense already in coffins.
Are the deaths an isolated group of statistical oddities? The more they mount, the harder it is to make that case. Still, it’s troubling to think that so many players from one proud organization are passing at such a rampant rate. At a certain point, it’s hard not to feel as if it’s some horrible twist of karmic fate, albeit an almost certainly undeserved one.
(Terry Bradshaw and Lynn Swann are still kicking. Teammates aren’t.)
Luckily, there aren’t any stories about other teams losing players at this clip … yet. If we find out that Cowboys and Vikings are hitting the deck in spades, the NFL Players Association really will have to do some work on that. After it replaces its own, early-deceased chief, that is.
Is anyone else really bummed out about this? Isn’t Super Bowl week supposed to be about good PR for the NFL? Yikes.