My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Their Life’s Work is a good book by a good author about the greatest football team of all time — the ’70s Steelers. However, I think the book could have been better, which I’ll get to in a moment.
The book starts with the Rooney family. Art Sr. bought the club for $2,500 circa 1932 or 1933 from money he got gambling on horse racing. Of course, the Steelers have remained in the Rooney family ever since, and Art Sr. went on to become one of the most beloved team owners ever.
The Steelers stunk for years. It wasn’t until they hired Chuck Noll as their coach, and he made “Mean” Joe Greene his top draft choice that things started to turn around, and even then, not in their first year. Pomerantz writes at great length about many of the major Steeler players (and even not so major), such as Bradshaw, Harris, Blier, Swann, Stallworth, Webster, Greene, Greenwood, Holmes, Lambert, Ham, Blount, Shell, Russell and the others. That part of the book is enjoyable. So too is the part of the book leading up to their first playoff appearance and Franco’s Immaculate Reception against the Raiders, capped off by a detailed rendering of Pittsburgh winning their first Super Bowl (IX) against the Vikings. I expected more though. I expected a chronological account of each season of that magical decade, similar to other Steeler books I’ve read. But the author essentially stops with the first Super Bowl win and barely mentions the other three. He instead goes on to spend entire chapters profiling certain players, including Franco Harris, Terry Bradshaw, John Stallworth, Mean Joe Greene, and Mike Webster, all Hall of Famers. (Nine players from those Steelers teams made the NFL Hall of Fame!) The player profiles were in depth and largely interesting, but I couldn’t help wondering why he left other players out, most notably Jack Lambert, in my opinion, the greatest inside linebacker to ever play the game, and certainly the meanest. Why not Jack Ham, one of the greatest outside linebackers of all time? Why not Mel Blount, possibly the greatest cornerback of all time, for whom the rules were changed in 1978 to make it harder on defensive backs to defend wide receivers. Why not Swann? Donnie Shell? Dwight White? Why did he choose to profile these particular players while ignoring other equally important players? I don’t know the answer to the question; only the author does. He profiles Noll, who doesn’t come off well (cold hearted) (neither does Lambert, considered aloof and irritable by the author), and makes him seem pathetic in old age. He does this to discuss the player’s “life’s work,” a phrase Noll used when talking about what players should concentrate on after football. And I guess he does a good job with the players he does profile. It’s interesting reading, but I wanted more. I wanted more on the seasons, the games, the other Super Bowls, and the other players. I want to give this book five stars, but I can’t for the reasons I just mentioned. Still, it’s a decent book on the Steelers and you’re sure to learn a thing or two you didn’t know. Recommended for fans.