Buddy Dial: Was the Classic NFL Deep Threat

Every professional team has made a major mistake on a player. The Pittsburgh Steelers had a penchant for such mistakes during the early years of the franchise. <br><br> Johnny Unitas, Roger Brown and Jimmy Orr are just a sampling of Steeler mistakes.

The Steelers benefited from someone else's error in the case of Buddy Dial. The New York Giants selected Dial as their second pick in the 1959 NFL Draft. Dial had garnered All-America honors at Rice and played with the College All-Stars in their game against the pro champs. Dial reported to the Giants camp after that game.

A relatively unknown rookie named Joe Biscaha had made an impression on the Giants coaching staff and Dial was cut before the season began.

He recalls packing to head back to Texas, "Sam Huff and Don Chandler came to my room," Dial explained. "They said boy are you lucky. I said ‘lucky'? I was cut. They said, ‘Pittsburgh picked you up. You get to play with Bobby Layne."

Dial arrived at the airport in Pittsburgh. "Young Dan Rooney picked me up in a station wagon," Dial said. "I didn't know he was the owner's son. He took me straight to practice at Forbes Field. The equipment man wasn't expecting me and didn't have a uniform for me. Bobby Layne spotted me and said, ‘get out here and show me what you can do.' I said, ‘I'm not running pass patterns in a suit.' The equipment man came over to me and said, ‘you better get out there. I will find you something to wear.'

"All he could come up with was a Pittsburgh Pirates baseball uniform and I had to wear my street shoes. I come back to practice and Layne said, ‘get behind that cornerback and I'll hit you.' So somehow I beat the cornerback and he hits me with a bomb.

"That was the beginning of a great passing combo. I developed a great relationship with Layne. He was something, what a leader with that gruff voice in the huddle. He liked to go deep, and he and I were really on the same page with timing."

Dial played in Pittsburgh from 1959 to 1963 and caught 229 passes for 4,723 yards and 34 touchdowns. He led the NFL in average yards per catch in 1960 and 1963 (24.3 and 21.6).

The Steelers got lucky with Dial, but true to form they traded Dial to Dallas in 1964 for the rights to Texas' All-America tackle Scott Appleton, Dallas had selected him in the draft. The deal backfired when Appleton signed with the AFL's Houston Oilers.

Pittsburgh played the New York Giants in the final game of the 1963 season, with the Eastern Division title on the line. Frank Gifford's spectacular one-handed catch for a touchdown sparked the Giants to a 33-17 victory.

Dial had asked to be traded so he could be closer to home and an off-season job.

"None of us made any money," Dial stated. "So the off-season job was important. I knew that I was going to be traded going into the game with the Giants, which was a little unusual."

Dial tore a thigh muscle in Dallas and in his words "did nothing." He played in Dallas from 1964 to 1966, spending two seasons on the injured reserve list.

Dial's career totals are 261 receptions for 5,436 yards and 44 touchdowns. His career yards-per-catch-average of 20.8 was ranked at one point number two on the NFL's all-time list behind former New York Giant Homer Jones.

Dial remembers his days in Pittsburgh fondly.

"We didn't have much," Dial recalls, "but nobody wanted to play us. We were a tough hard-nosed football team with some tough characters like: Ernie Stautner, Gene "Big Daddy" Lipscomb and Myron Pottios."

Dial is retired and living in Tomball, Texas, outside of Houston. He has suffered a series of health problems and is on kidney dialysis and recently suffered a stroke, which slurred his speech and left him with paralysis on his right side.

He doesn't follow the NFL too much these days.

"I don't like all the hot-dogging they do now," Dial explained. "Heck they celebrate making a tackle. I still remain in touch with some old Cowboys: Don Meredith and Lee Roy Jordan.

Dial still has a soft spot for the Pittsburgh fans and the Steelers' organization.

"The fans in Pittsburgh were just great," Dial said. "They treated my family and me real well and the owner doesn't get any better than the late Mr. Art Rooney and his family. Mr. Rooney was quite a man."

George Von Benko

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