Steelers Legend Jack Ham Reacts to Slight From Team’s G.M. Candidate

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Last week Doug Whaley — one of the six finalists for the Pittsburgh Steelers G.M. job — appeared on 93.7 The Fan in Pittsburgh and said that former Steelers outside linebacker Jack Ham “would be a special teams backup” in today’s NFL.

“Oh my gosh! Oh my gosh!” was the reaction from one of the Morning Show’s co-hosts. “All of Johnstown is in their car driving here to kick your ass,” he continued, referencing Ham’s hometown, which is about an hour east of Pittsburgh.

“Show me a linebacker that weighs 215 pounds that plays in the NFL today,” added Whaley, trying to explain his line of thinking.

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Jack Ham: I Would Have ‘Adapted’ to Today’s Game

As it turns out, Whaley’s comments got back to Ham, and he texted Ron Cook (co-host of 93.7’s Cook & Joe Show) wondering why his game was being criticized when he hasn’t played in four decades.

Ultimately, Ham — who played outside linebacker in Pittsburgh’s 4-3 defense between 1971-82 — came on the show and addressed Whaley’s comments.

“It’s such a different game here today, but the one thing that I did have, that I think it transcends any era, I had quickness out there and I actually studied the game quite a bit and I had a great mentor in Andy Russell,” began Ham, referring to one of his Pro Bowl teammates.

Never mind that Ham’s physique would be a lot different if football was a full-time job for him, as it is for NFL players today.

“I would have been more involved in the weight training, I would have been more involved in nutrition, which I am involved in that now,” he added, having noted that his playing height and weight was 6-foot-2 and a half and 228 pounds, as opposed to the 215 pounds claimed by Whaley.

“I would think I would have adapted, I would have adapted to the game today,” he concluded.

Jack Ham Would Be ‘Perfect’ for Today’s Pass-Oriented NFL?

Moreover, Ham might be better fit for today’s NFL than he was in his era, now that passing is a much bigger part of the game.

“In my era you ran the ball twice and threw the ball on third down,” but that didn’t stop him from intercepting 32 passes over the course of his career, a big part of the reason he was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 1988.

“I could have been — like a lot of teams are using right now — that weakside linebacker is half-safety, half-linebacker, which would have been a perfect position for me because I loved the passing game,” he said.

All of the passing helps explain why the trend is towards smaller, quicker linebackers, who excel — or aim to excel — at defending the pass. Keep in mind that Devin Bush — Pittsburgh’s first-round pick in 2019 — is listed at just 5-foot-11 and 234 pounds. Two other Pittsburgh linebackers, albeit backups, are listed at 6-foot-2 and 215 pounds and 6-feet-tall and 230 pounds, those being Marcus Allen and Ulysees Gilbert III.

Anyway, Ham is pretty sure that all of his Hall of Fame teammates would be All-Pros in today’s NFL.

“Mel Blount would be the top guy who could turn from one era to another,” he said, hardly a surprise, as Blount — who played at 6-foot-3 and 205-plus pounds — would be a big cornerback, even today.

Ham also dismissed the idea that he would be a good special teamer.

“I was the worst special teams guy in the world, that’s why you tried to start for Chuck Noll — so you were off special teams,” concluded Ham, who was Pittsburgh’s second-round pick in 1971 (No. 34 overall) out of Penn State.

During Ham’s 12-year career he made the Pro Bowl eight times and was a first-team All-Pro six times, as noted by Pro Football Reference.

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