“We lost an amazing player and person this morning with the passing of Kevin Greene,” wrote Steelers President Art Rooney II in the wake of the sudden death of former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Kevin Greene late last month.
But Greene—who passed away on December 21, 2020, at the age of the 58—was one of a handful of members of the Steelers family who died last year.
Carlton Haselrig (1966-2020)
On July 23, 2020, former Steelers offensive lineman Carlton Haselrig died at his home in Johnstown, Pa. at the age of 54. The Steelers selected Haselrig in the 12th round of the 1989 NFL Draft, despite the fact that he never played college football. But his background as a six-time NCAA champion wrestler allowed him to succeed in the NFL, and he was named first-team All-Pro in 1992, when he helped pave the way for Barry Foster to rush for 1,690 yards, arguably the best season by a running back in franchise history.
In the wake of his death, Haselrig’s family donated his brain to Boston University’s Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy Center, which is one of the world’s leading brain injury research institutions. In November of last year, a bridge in his hometown was re-named in his honor.
Artrell Hawkins Sr.
Sadly, Artrell Hawkins Sr.—whose sons Artrell Jr. and Andrew are cousins of the late Haselrig—passed away two months later at the age of 63. Hawkins Sr. was a standout running back in high school in Johnstown, Pa. between 1973-75 before going on to play at the University of Pittsburgh. He went on to sign a free agent contract with the Steelers, but never appeared in an NFL game.
Artrell Hawkins Sr.’s sons were successful in the NFL, however. Artrell Hawkins Jr. was a second-round draft pick of the Cincinnati Bengals in 1998, and Andrew Hawkins played six seasons in the league, splitting his time between the Cincinnati Bengals and Cleveland Browns.
Jamain ‘Juice’ Stephens Jr. (1999-2020)
Another member of the Steelers family to pass away was the son of former first-round draft pick Jamain Stephens Sr., who died on September 8th at the age of 20. Stephens Jr. was a defensive lineman at California University of Pennsylvania. The school initially indicated that he passed away “after suffering from complications of COVID-19,” then later retracted that statement.
Ten days later, his family indicated that he died from a blood clot to the heart after testing positive for COVID-19.
Dave Smith (1947-2020)
On May 16, 2020, former Steelers wide receiver Dave Smith passed away at the age of 73.
Smith was an eighth-round pick of the Steelers in 1970, the same year the Steelers drafted Pro Football Hall of Famers Terry Bradshaw and Mel Blount.
He was the first player from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania to be drafted into the NFL.
He started 27 games for Chuck Noll, catching a total of 87 passes and scoring seven touchdowns (while wearing #88) before being traded to the Houston Oilers in the middle of the 1972 season. He went on to finish his NFL career with the Kansas City Chiefs in 1973.
Paul W. Michael (1935-2020)
On December 29, 2020, former Ohio State Buckeyes co-captain Paul William Michael passed away at age 85. He was a member of Ohio State’s 1954 National Championship team, and was drafted by the Steelers in the second round of the 1957 draft (No. 16 overall). He appeared in three games for the Steelers in 1957.
Kevin Greene (1962-2020)
As for the aforementioned Greene, he was a fifth-round draft pick of the Los Angeles Rams in 1985, but spent three seasons playing left outside linebacker for the Steelers (1993-95) opposite fellow OLB Greg Lloyd.
He started every game during his time with the Steelers, during which time he recorded 184 tackles, 35.5 sacks, six forced fumbles, six fumble recoveries and an interception. He was first-team All-Pro in 1994, and the Steelers advanced to Super Bowl XXX against the Dallas Cowboys in Greene’s last season in Pittsburgh. He was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2016.