Social Media Honors 10-Time Steelers Captain Andy Russell After Death

Andy Russell

Getty NFL media and fans reacted to the death of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Andy Russell on March 1.

The month of March started with a very sad day for Pittsburgh Steelers fans. WTAE reported that former Steelers linebacker Andy Russell passed away at the age of 82.

Russell was one of many iconic defensive players from the Steelers dynasty of the 1970s.  But his tenure with the team actually began long before the glory years of the franchise.

Russell made his Steelers debut in 1963. Then after missing two years due to military service, he returned to the team for the 1966 season. Russell eventually became the best player on the team and made his first Pro Bowl in 1968.

Even after the Steelers added numerous future Hall of Fame players through the draft after Chuck Noll arrived in 1969, Russell remained a starter and significant contributor until retiring following the 1976 season.

From 1968-75, Russell made seven Pro Bowls and second-team All-Pro in 1972. He served as team captain for 10 years, won team MVP in 1971 and was a Pro Bowler when the Steelers captured each of their first two Super Bowls during the 1974 and 1975 seasons.

Steelers fans reacted to Russell’s death on social media.

“Andy Russell was a Steelers team captain ten years in a row from 1967-76 (a team record) and played in 7 Pro Bowls,” Steelers fan Billy Hartford wrote on X (formerly Twitter). “He was voted to six consecutive Pro Bowls from 1967-76.

“He was the team’s defensive MVP in 1968 and 1970 and the team MVP in 1971. He’s also a 2X SB champion (IX, X).”

“One of the most underrated Steelers ever,” wrote Chris Dokish on X. “Two championships and 7 Pro Bowls.”

Former Steelers LB Andy Russell Passes Away at 82

In addition to fans, several notable members of Steelers media shared their memories of Russell on social media.

“Sad news. RIP Andy Russell, a borderline HOF linebacker who played on some of the worst and then best Steelers teams,” wrote retired Steelers insider Ed Bouchette.

“Andy Russell was one of the few Steelers who Chuck Noll took from the original roster he got to the Super Bowl 9/10 seasons,” The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s Christopher Carter wrote.

Social media reactions also came from writers who cover other Pittsburgh sports teams.

“RIP Andy Russell, an all-time Steelers great,” wrote Josh Yohe, who covers the Pittsburgh Penguins for The Athletic. “Incredibly intelligent, successful guy after football. Steelers royalty. Captain of the greatest defense of all time. Very sad day.”

Pittsburgh Pirates columnist and Heavy Sports MLB contributor John Perrotto shared a video of the only interception Russell returned for a touchdown in his career.

“The bridge from the bad Steelers to the good Steelers,” Perrotto wrote. “RIP Andy Russell.”

Russell scored one other touchdown in his career. During the division round of the 1975-76 playoffs, Russell returned a fumble 93 yards for a touchdown. That remained an NFL postseason record as the longest fumble returned for a touchdown for 47 years.

Russell’s long touchdown remains one of the most famous plays in Steelers history. In December 2000, it was named one of the top 10 football plays in Three Rivers Stadium history.

Russell Was Part of One of the Greatest LB Groups in NFL History

Jack Ham joined Russell in the Steelers linebacker corps in 1971. Then the team added Jack Lambert during the 1974 draft.

Ham and Lambert are each in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. From 1974-76, Russell played with both future hall of fame members in what is still considered one of the best linebacker groups in league history.

In May 2023, an NFL Power Poll panel voted Ham-Lambert-Russell the second-best linebacker corps ever. The 1980s New York Giants finished first in the poll.

The emergence of Ham and Lambert helped make Steelers linebackers a legendary position. But it may have hurt Russell’s chances of making the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

For decades, Ham and Lambert, along with defensive tackle Joe Greene and cornerback Mel Blount, were the players inducted at Canton from the 1970s Steelers defense. Then in the class of 2020, safety Donnie Shell received induction.

The Steelers named Russell to the team’s 50th and 75th anniversary teams. He also received induction into the team’s Hall of Honor in 2017.

But despite his teammates advocating for him, Russell has not received enshrinement at Canton.

“We talk about him being the third guy [at linebacker], but he’s really the first,” Green said in June 2018, via Steelers Depot’s Alex Kozora. “Andy Russell was there when we were the Steelers … you know, the team that everybody could beat. Andy suffered through some terrible years.”

WTAE reported that funeral arrangements for Russell have not yet been announced.

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