Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania on December 23, 1980 · Page 13
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Pittsburgh Post-Gazette from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania · Page 13

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Issue Date:
Tuesday, December 23, 1980
Page 13
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Sports Today TUESDAY, DECEMBER 23, 1980 ' is Steelers By David Fink Post-Gazette Sports Writer SAN DIEGO - For the San Diego Chargers, it was a feast. For the New England Patriots, it was famine. For the Steelers, it was an all too fitting conclusion to their worst season since they were 6-8 in 1971. The Chargers, riding the trusted passing arm of quarterback Dan Fouts, the infrequently used legs of, Chuck Muncie, and the unerring foot of kicking specialist Rolf Benirschke, beat the Steelers, 26-17, before an overflow crowd of 51,785 at San Diego Stadium last night. The victory gave the Chargers an 11-5 record, the American Football Conference's Western Division title, and all the home-field advantages in the AFC playoffs. It also eliminated the Patriots from playoff conten- V.-''."' if r tfffit PhilMusick Next year comes early for Steelers Speculation on a juggled dynasty: Prior to the gnashing of teeth and donning of the hair shirt over the Steelers' failure to reach the National Football League playoffs, it appears advisable to consider the future rather than rail against the past, the former obviously brighter than the latter. Having negotiated the shoals of San Diego in an encounter fraught with delicious irony Oakland Al Davis beholden to his bitterest enemies and Houston in need of a Steeler win to avoid a wild-card road trip to the West Coast Chuck Noll and his assistants will begin the 1981 season today. If not in deed, certainly in thought. He will, of course, be aided by the customers, who fall into two basic categories: Those who counsel ripping up the club and those who wish to cleave to the status quo. Speculation: Noll will wisely strike a balance between the two. What happened to the 1980 Steelers is no particular mystery. For the first time in Noll's tenure, they suffered the sort of broad rash of injuries' which periodically cripples NFL clubs. Which makes onetime Steeler coach Buddy Parker a prophet of note. After coaching the kind of Steeler teams which brought Art Rooney's reputation into disrepair, Parker said, "When the Steelers finally get lucky, it'll last 10 years." He missed it by two years. Steeler good fortune began the year they won their first divisional championship, in 1972, and continued almost unabated through 1979. Speculation: This winter they knew all the greenstick fractures and tortured ligaments they had virtually avoided the previous eight summers. "Maybe all the overhaul we need is a long off-season," Noll mused the other day, although he was speaking defensively, responding to the mere intimation that a certain amount of rebuilding was necessary. It is. And was. At training camp this summer, more than one Steeler official was concerned that, his reputation to the contrary, Noll might lack the necessary dispas-sion to pare a few of those veterans who had contributed so much to his team's success. The previous summer, to retain his vets, he had cut promising rookie defensive end Dwaine Board, who prompty moved on to San Francisco and became one of the better pass-rushers in the NFC West. "The question is whether he is really tough enough to let some of the older guys go," worried a Steeler official. Speculation: Noll was not dispassionate enough to apply a prudent ax to the roster, but he will be in 1981. In some areas quarterback and linebacker come to mind the quickest the Steelers are solid. In others running back, the defensive line and the secondary they are not. Terry Bradshaw will lead the transition. His credentials remain superb. He has thrown for more than 3,000 yards in successive years, this one without the fulltime services of John Stallworth and Lynn Swann. , Speculation: Bradshaw's maturity iscom-plete, his personal life stable and, healthy, he remains the most valuable quarterback in the league. If the Steelers of the future will be able to throw, so will they be able to catch. While it is fashionable to note that Jim Smith has become an established receiver and suggest the Steelers trade Swann for valuable draft choices, Noll almost surely won't. Swann is simply too valuable to risk for unproven goods. Speculation: The quartet of Swann, Smith, John Stallworth and an improved T. Bell is matchless in the NFL. No? Quick, who is San Diego's fourth receiver? The situation is vastly different at tight end, where Bennie Cunningham may face a Rubicon in 1981 and where Randy Grossman continues to be unappreciated. Speculation: Cunningham's potential will have to surface this summer or he will go and Noll will shop for a replacement. Equally uncertain are the Steelers at running back. Franco Harris had the second-least productive season of his career. Rocky Bleier is retiring, Sid Thornton struggled with injuries, and neither Greg Hawthorne nor Russell Davis was able to take up the slack. Speculation: Look for Noll to make a running back his No. 2 draft pick. (Continued on Page 16) r 7f i bow out on losing note? tion and meant that Houston would visit Oakland Sunday in the AFC's wild-card playoff game. . The loss dropped the Steelers' record to 9-7. They were officially eliminated from playoff consideration for the first time since 1971 when New England defeated New Orleans Sunday afternoon. Fouts completed 21 of 37 passes for 308 yards. It marked the eighth time Fouts had thrown for more than 300 yards this season, which set a National Football League record. Muncie, the oft-maligned running back from Uniontown, Pa., joined the Chargers at mid-season, but had not been used often in Coach Don Coryell's pass-heavy offense. Last night, however, he churned and slashed his way for 115 yards on 26 carries. Muncie and Fouts each ran for one ' . , 4 f f"J - r San Diego wide receiver John Jefferson first quarter of last night's game. Duq uesne loses way in Special to the Post-Gazette SAN JOSE, Cal. - Duquesne's basketball team found the way to San Jose, but the Dukes didn't seen) to know what to do once they got inside the gym. In their worst performance of the season, the Duquesne Dukes were beaten by San Jose State, 82-60, last night in a game that was basically decided in the first half. It seemed that the Dukes left more than their hearts in San Francisco, where they lost a heartbreaker to San Francisco Saturday night. Duquesne left its shooting touch, too. The first half was nightmarish for the Was it Eagles 14, Cowboys 007? By Malcolm Moran New York Times News Service NEW YORK Just because the people who run professional football teams are paranoid doesn't mean that someone isn't spying on them. Whenever a radical change in a game plan is immediately solved, whenever players on the opposing team instantly recognize the formations in front of them, clipboards are thrown to the ground and the screams of distrust begin. Who was that in the office building overlooking the practice field? Were those people sweeping the stadium really sweepers, or were they hired observers? Were those fans on the hill taking pictures for themselves, or for next week's opponent? And did anyone check the bathroom for secret microphones? In one of Allie Sherman's final years as coach of the New. York Giants, in the 1960s, a man was spotted near the team's practice field in a tree, with binoculars and a notebook. It was not until long after Allie's assistants grabbed the intruder that they realized he was a priest, and the binoculars and notebook were for bird watching. As long as professional football is an American game, there will be someone looking for an edge, and someone else who is convinced he has been hoodwinked. A cassette tape with the Philadelphia Eagles' game plan disappeared the weekend before last from the desk of Coach Dick Vermeil shortly before a game the Eagles lost to Atlanta. "I don't know where it went," Vermeil said. "I'm sure it wasn't Atlanta. I can't figure out why someone would want to steal a cassette tape. I should have written 'Neil Diamond' on it." When mimeographed pages from the Eagles' playbook mysteriously wound up in the possession of the Dallas Cowboys earlier this season Vermeil said he was satisfied Steeler summary Steeler ... San Digo... San Diego Steelers . 0 3 7 717 - 3 6 10 726 - FG Benirschke 33 FG Bahr 32 San Diego San Diego San Diego FG Benirschke 26 FG Benirschke 26 Fouts 1 run (Benirschke kick) Steelers Thornton 2 run (Bahr kick) San Diego San Diego FG Benirschke 33 Muncie 10 run (Benirschke kick) Cunningham 16 pass from Bradshaw Steelers (Bahr kick) A-51,785 second-half touchdown while Benirschke was successful on all four of bis field-goal .3 r x s set' Associated Press reaches for a pass while Steeler safety Donnie Shell moves in daring the Dukes, who shot a miserable 26.6 percent from the field (8-of-30). Both teams started slowly in the sluggish half, but San Jose State's Spartans finally picked up the tempo by reeling off 16 unanswered points in a six-minute stretch to grab an insurmountable 28-10 lead. The Spartans, who dominated the boards and created numerous turnovers as the Dukes continually forced passes into the teeth of a zone defense, were never seriously challenged the rest of the way. San Jose State, now 7-2, made its first four shots at the outset of the second half to go ahead, 40-17, against the befuddled Dukes. The lead was stretched to 57-28 that the Cowboys had returned the information quickly, and believed they had not taken advantage of it. His players were not convinced so easily. "What can you do in this game that a well coached defense isn't ready for?" said Sid Gillman, an Eagles assistant coach and a former head coach with the Los Angeles Rams, San Diego Chargers and Houston Oilers. "They're ready for most anything. We get as many films as we want. Who needs more than that?" Information can even become available accidentally. As Bob Melucci, an amateur radio operator in San Diego, listened to his radio two weeks ago, he realized that he was Steeler Chargers 16 First downs , 27 18-27 Rushes-yards 44-180 253 Passing yards 308 11 Return yards 6 16-32-0 Passes 21-38-0 3-46 -Punts 2-35 2- 1 Fumbles-lost 1-0 3- 25 Penalties-yards 5-40 Individual Leader RUSHING Steelers. Harris 9-30, Bleier 2-13. Thornton 6-6. San Diego, Muncie 26-1 15, Thomas 17-64. PASSING Steelers. Bradshaw 16-32-0-272. San Diego, Fouts 21-37-0-308. Thomas 0-1-0-0. RECEIVING Steelers. Bell 5-127. Cunningham 3-59. Swann 3-49, Harris 3-16. San Diego. Wmslow 10-171, Joiner 3-52, Jefferson 3-46, Muncie 3-27. attempts. The Steelers, however, did not go down in - San Jose before the Dukes made a belated comeback. Duquesne (4-4), behind the hot shooting of Joey Myers, scored 10 in a row to make it 57-38 midway through the second half. The Dukes managed to get a little closer at 60-48, but the Spartans regained their touch with several easy baskets behind Duquesne's scrambling Dukes. The Dukes will have 17 days to wipe away the memory of last night's defeat because they don't play again until Jan. 8 against George Washington at the Civic Arena. NOTES The game was tied twice at 2-2 and 4-4 .. . Duquesne had 14 turnovers in the first half . . . Duquesne's John Moore fouled out early in the, second half. listening to Joe Gibbs, the offensive coordinator of the Chargers, during the game against the Eagles. The communications system had been created by Don Coryell's son, Mike, a physics major. The Chargers say it will be changed. 'Accidents will happen. George Allen, who as coach of the Rams and Redskins was both accuser and accused, remembered hearing about a Ram game against the Bears at Chicago. When one of the Ram assistants picked up a telephone in the press box, Allen said, there was a Chicago assistant at the other end. (Continued on Page IS) 1., ' 'x 1 ... ' i is - x v . - - i 1 26-1 7 disgrace. With only five seconds left, quarterback Terry Bradshaw, who finished with 16 completions in 32 attempts for 272 yards, connected with tight end Bennie Cunningham for their final touchdown of 1980. With the Steelers double-covering both of Fouts' gifted wide receivers, John Jefferson and Charlie Joiner, he concentrated on hitting tight end Kellen Winslow, the 6-5, 240-pound tight end. Winslow responded by catching 10 passes for 171 yards. The Chargers finished with 180 yards on 44 rushes for a nifty 4.1 yards per carry average while the Steelers managed only 49 yards on just 18 running plays. Mike Thomas added 64 yards on 17 carries for the Chargers, but the Steelers' leading ground-gainer Franco Harris had only 30 yards on nine attempts. Pitt's coach says players don't act like winners By Phil Axelrod Post-Gazette Sports Writer The ghost of Tim Grgurich appears to be haunting Roy Chipman, Pitt's new basketball coach. The Panthers are 3-5, losers of five of their last six and in danger of collapse, and Chipman is struggling with players who were recruited by Grgurich, emotionally tied to Grgurich and geared to Grgurich's style of basketball. "We are having a problem with motivation," said Chipman, as blunt and frank a coach as there is. "We don't have a winning attitude. "I can't blame it on the fact that I'm a new coach. I don't think it's a new problem. It is an old problem. It is an attitude that has prevailed in the past, and it's an attitude that I want to change as quickly as possible." It is a tenuous situation, at best, and Chipman realizes that this team is dangerously close to giving up, even though the season has a long way to go. Chipman is afraid that the Panthers, who started strong last season only to lose nine of their final 13 games, have developed a "loser's attitude" that may be carrying over to this season. "This is something I didn't expect," he said as the Panthers prepared for tonight's Eastern 8 game against Massachusetts (2-5) at the Pitt Field House. "I felt things were going pretty well and I felt we had a good rapport. But it (the attitude problem) sort of cropped up after the two-point loss to Lamar. Instead of being the result of a close loss, it has become the cause for the loss." Unlike Grgurich, who publicly smothered his players with praise, Chipman is candid in his appraisals. This change in philosphy could be affecting the older players, who are having to make an adjustment. "I'm trying to be fair with everybody," Chipman said. "I don't think I'm criticizing anybody just because I didn't recruit him. I have to be honest because I think these kids know when they've played badly, and they know when they've played well. "You (the media) are too intelligent to be fooled. If you see a player hasn't scored a point, I can't tell you he played a great game. That wouldn't be fair to anybody. I try to emphasize the positive, but I don't think I should hide the negative. I've always been that way." In an attempt to shake up and hopefully wake up the Panthers, Chipman has again revamped his starting lineup. John Ryan, a 6-foot-2 sophomore from Wilkinsburg, and Steve Beatty, a 6-8 freshman from Slippery Rock High School, will both be making their first starts of the season tonight. "Change may be a way to motivate," Chipman said. "But I'm not making changes just to make changes." Ryan, who underwent off-season knee surgery, is still limping ever so slightly, but he should give the Panthers better shooting from the backcourt than Dwayne Wallace, who has been in a slump. Beatty, the youngest and most aggressive of the Pitt centers, is getting his chance because Ed Scheuermann has failed to produce and Paul Brozovich is sidelined with a sprained ankle. With Ryan and Beatty in the lineup, the Panthers will rely more on offense than defense to win games. "They give us a little more shooting firepower," Chipman said. "But a little less quickness." Beyond the lineup changes, Chipman said he doesn't have any instant cures for what ails the Panthers. "It's getting more difficult all the time," Chipman said. "I haven't been able to pin it down. We're a little bit frustrated ... we have to be more mentally tough. "It has to happen internally. It has to come from the players." So far, the players have been consistently inconsistent. When the Panthers are playing well and with proper enthusiasm, they've been a good basketball team. They beat St. Bona venture by 18 and lost by two points each to Lamar and Virginia Tech, a pair of solid teams. "We don't have trouble getting the kids up for the big games," Chipman said. "But we have a letdown after that. I don't know why, but I know we can't keep doing this if we hope to turn the season around. I don't have the answers." "The only thing I ask as a coach is a good effort," he said. "And I'm not seeing that kind of effort yet."

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