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The Steelers 1977 season begins here>>>


Following their first two Super Bowl victories, the Steelers still retained a reputation for being fiscally frugal. The team’s preparation for the 1977 season had been disturbed by the holdout of Mel Blount and Jack Ham for higher salaries while other players within the organisation also voiced their unhappiness with their remuneration.

Some of the players’ discord was due to them feeling their salaries had not kept pace with the team’s achievements. After years of the same old Steelers, some on the team felt the recent success of the team had failed to benefit the players.

Dan Rooney defended the franchise. “That reputation existed in the past and you never live it down,” he stated. Mr. Rooney insisted the club’s salaries were fair. “I don’t think we are cheap,” he reasoned. “I don’t think we have a reputation for being cheap even among players. Any time you have problems, you have people saying things. Some agents might say it.”

The last time the Steelers paid a player the highest salary in the league was in 1938 when they signed Whizzer White to a one-year contract.

The new TV contract negotiated by the NFL in 1977 would see each team’s revenue climb from $2 million to $5 million a year producing more income than from ticket sales.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette intimated that football players were being paid less than baseball, ice hockey or basketball players, but added with 45 players on each roster the total payroll for each team would be the highest in pro sport.

The ’77 Steelers still made the playoffs, but with their worst record since 1971. Some players blamed their under performance on the discontent at training camp over money while there was a suggestion the Steelers poor draft of 1974 contributed to a decrease in the squad’s depth.

Despite the impression Steelers salaries were not high, they were improving. When Joe Greene was drafted in 1969, he signed a five year contract with a $50,000 signing bonus and a $43,000 salary in his fifth year. It was estimated that his salary in 1977 was above $100,000. In today’s terms, that would be a defensive lineman salary of a piffling $414,000.

Lynn Swann, who was drafted five years later, signed a three year contract with a $120,000 bonus and a $60,000 salary in the third season.

Although the perception was of a team low on salaries, the Steelers were viewed as high on player support. “Others might pay more, but it might be just a nice place to work for a lot of reasons,” offered one agent. “One of them I guess, is that the team exhibits a concern for its personnel. If a player has a personal problem or a sickness in the family, there is concern. If people are satisfied where they’re working, that’s the thing that really counts.”

Another agent added, “I’ve had fellows tell me they want to stay with the Steelers because they’ve been good to them. Maybe a player can make a few more dollars working for Oakland, but maybe they don’t want to play there.”

One player with a positive attitude to the Steelers at the time was Terry Bradshaw. “They’re a wonderful organisation,” he said. “I don’t ever want to go anywhere else. Plus we’ve got a winning team here.”

According to the NFL figures in 1975, the top eight franchises for the year had average gross revenue of $7.9 million with a net profit of $800,000. The Steelers were in the middle of the eight teams, but Mr. Rooney suggested they had slipped to break-even point through increased expenses.

Because of their small stadium (50,000 seats), the Steelers would only be above Green Bay in ticket revenue if all teams sold out. The Steelers revenue was reduced because they didn’t get to keep any of the concession or parking revue.




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This site last updated May 19th 2017.

Ben's early games with the Steelers.

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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