Pittsburgh's Success Makes It a Good Year To Revisit Classic Book About Their First Post-Super Bowl Season
Pittsburgh's perfect season has prompted me to dig out one of my favorite football books of all time, About Three Bricks Shy of a Load. Written by sportswriter Roy Blount, Jr. nearly fifty years ago, the account follows the Steelers throughout their Post-Super Bowl championship season of 1973.
Expectations were naturally high for Pittsburgh, who just months before had witnessed what many consider the greatest play in gridiron history. It was forever after known as “The Immaculate Reception,” as Franco Harris caught a pass that had deflected from an Oakland defensive back and ran it it all the way into the end zone as time expired.
The Steelers would go on to win the AFC Championship as well as its first Super Bowl, but the following season fell well short of a repeat. Injuries to key players like Harris and some linemen, as well as a subpar season from quarterback Terry Bradshaw, resulted in an unremarkable winning percentage.
Nevertheless, About Three Bricks Shy is a delightful read, which Blount obviously had more fun writing than the players did enduring the season. Not only does he provide insights to the team and its coach Chuck Noll, but also to their opponents as well as the game itself.
1. Make the center eligible for a forward pass. “It would be interesting to see how a center would spike the ball,” Blount says. “Maybe between his legs.”
2. Require a man, before he is eligible to kick a field goal, to have participated in at least one play from scrimmage per quarter elapsed. “He can't try a field goal in the first quarter unless he's been in on one nonkicking play," Blount explains. It would allow the opponent to have a special defensive move ready to take advantage of that weak spot.
3. Put a flag in the quarterback's belt, and make pulling out the flag the only way to get him down.
4. Have one member of the forty man squad come out for halftime and do an act for two minutes. “He could make a speech, tell a story, sing, dance, tumble or do an imitation of a chicken that is amazing.
Blount's first two ideas I wholeheartedly agree with, as they could make football games even more relevant today. It would be a welcome diversion to see a center going out for a pass, and a kicker making a block on someone other than a special teams play.
His last two ideas, the quarterback flag and the halftime entertainment, I have no desire to see. Thus, I would two suggestions to replace those ideas, which would increase strategy and also eliminating some scoring replays.
In place of rule Blount's rule three, I advocate the adoption of a four point field goal. It makes no sense that a kick from twenty yards away should count the same as one from twice that distance, so make any successful boot from fifty yards or beyond worth four points.
It still carries less of a reward than a touchdown, but it gives an a much-deserved added point for coaches to consider when the situation arises.
As for the fourth rule offered in the book, I would replace it with one regarding touchdowns. Just as a player is required to have his feet in bounds for a reception to be counted, anyone trying for a touchdown should have to place at least one foot in the end zone for it to be ruled a touchdown.
Too often strong goal line stands are all for naught because a runner climbs on top of a pile, or somehow crawls under one. Even though no one watching the game actually sees his reach the end zone, the referees rule it a touchdown because he broke the proverbial and too-often subjective “plane of the end zone.”