Wagner: No bounty system in place during Steel Curtain era
Mike Wagner played for one of the most feared defenses in National Football League history – the Pittsburgh Steelers’ Steel Curtain.
However, the former two-time All-Pro safety said during Friday’s 14th Annual Niekro Golf Classic at Belmont Hills Country Club that he could never remember the word ‘bounty’ ever mentioned in the lockerroom, or on the field.
“I haven’t really given it much thought. It wasn’t something that I saw on the teams I played on from high school to the pros,” he said. “It just wasn’t something that we saw during our era.”
He does, however, like what he’s seen from current Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has handed out several suspensions to members of the New Orleans Saints for the roles in an alleged ‘bounty’ system.
“I think the league is handling it pretty well,” he continued. “Meaning the zero tolerance.”
He also said Goodell has set a benchmark.
“The message has been sent strong and clear. I feel sorry for the players because I don’t think they thought this type of punishment would be leveled, but it just isn’t the right thing to do.”
As far as concussions go, the four-time Super Bowl champion said the ability to diagnose them back then just wasn’t there.
“During our era you didn’t get tested on the sidelines or taken into the lockerroom,” he said. “There wasn’t the technology that they have now.
“Now they can pull a player from a game or practice and determine he has a concussion and make him sit out, which I think is great,” the 11th round draft pick out of Western Illinois in 1971 said.
“Football is a great sport, and I loved playing it,” he added. “But the last couple of years I haven’t liked all the hits to the head or high on the body. We could’ve hit guys in the earholes during my era which happened some, but was legal.
“I think the league has said this isn’t part of the game and we’re going to take it out of the game.”
During his 10-year career, he was selected to the Pro Bowl twice (1975, 76), was a Pro Football Weekly first-team All-Pro (1973), and a second-team Associated Press All-Pro selection (1976).
He also picked off 36 passes, (which ranks sixth on the Steelers’ all-time list), recovered a dozen fumbles and forced five fumbles.
“It wasn’t about the money back then,” Wagner said of his love for the game. “Yea, I wish I had played the game today for all the money that the players are getting, but at the end of the day, I’d probably have played for free.”
Wagner is currently a defensive backs coach at Pine-Richland High School in Gibsonia, Pa.
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