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Dick Haley: One of the unknown architects of "Steeler Nation" drafted the 1974 class, 13 NFL HOFers

… the 1974 draft remains the greatest ever

When contemporary Steeler fans talk about Steeler Nation, they often have no clue who should take credit for building it.

Some know about Chuck Noll, the coach who compiled a 1-13 record in his first year with the Steelers in 1969 and then won four Super Bowls in six years in the 1970s.

But, they still think that Mike Tomlin is better.

Or, they think about Dan Rooney, who like Noll, deserves credit for hiring the coach.

However, most have never heard of Dick Haley, the tremendous Director of Player Personnel for the team in the 1970s when they drafted ten hall of famers.

In fact, Haley presided over drafts in which 13 players were drafted and eventually reached the NFL Hall of Fame in Canton.

In addition, he played corner in the NFL for the Redskins, Vikings, and Steelers after graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1959.

That 1974 draft

Haley’s son Todd was a former offensive coordinator in the NFL, and he had to work to convince Coach Noll to draft Lambert in 1974,

Haley said his dad saw something special in Lambert, an undersized linebacker from Kent State. He said his dad pushed Chuck Noll hard to draft Lambert in the second round.

“I can remember a conversation my father had one day with Lambert on that dirt path leading up the hill at Saint Vincent College,” Haley said. “He asked Lambert what he was weighing. Lambert glared at him and said, ‘It doesn’t [bleeping] matter. ’ We both loved that.”

Ron Cook, Ron Cook: Todd Haley remembers his father as more than a

Super Steelers architect,” Post-Gazette, March 13, 2023

Haley and Art Rooney Jr. were the major players in the drafts in the 1970s. That 1974 draft included wideout supreme Lynn Swann in the first round, Lambert in the second, another wideout John Stallworth in the third, and center Mike Webster in the fourth. In addition, the Steelers signed safety Donnie Shell as a free agent that year, giving them five hall of famers from the group.

Was a humble man

According to Todd, his father, who died of Parkinson’s and dementia at the age of 85, never tooted his own horn,

Todd Haley guessed he was 13 or 14 when he answered the phone in his family’s Upper St. Clair home. The caller identified himself as a Sports Illustrated writer and asked to talk to Haley’s father about the Steelers’ historic 1974 draft, which produced Hall of Famers Lynn Swann, Jack Lambert, John Stallworth and Mike Webster. Dick Haley was the team’s director of player personnel at the time.

“I was so excited,” Todd Haley said this week. “I remember thinking, ‘This is great! My dad is going to be in Sports Illustrated!’ ”

Haley’s excitement didn’t last long because of his father’s exchange with the reporter.

“I appreciate you thinking about me, but call Art Rooney Jr. and Bill Nunn. They’ll give you everything you need.”

“That was my dad,” Haley said. “He never wanted credit for anything. I mean, never. He was the most humble person I’ve ever been around. I think he should be in the Hall of Fame because of his four Super Bowl wins and drafting 13 Hall of Famers, but being so humble probably hurt him. He never liked the attention.”

Ron Cook, Post-Gazette, March 13, 2023

The drafts were not as successful in the 1980s for a variety of reasons, but Haley was not the reason that the Steelers passed over Dan Marino in 1983, which might have given them another HOF’er.

That was all on Chuck Noll who wanted to focus on rebuilding his defense.

Haley played for the Steelers for three years.

RIP: My sympathy to the Haley family.

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