Q&A: Jack Lambert, Part II

Hall of Fame middle linebacker Jack Lambert lives on his 125-acre ranch in Worthington, about 20 miles north of Pittsburgh, with his wife Lisa and four children. The retired Lambert is as busy as any parent with active teens, but had time to grant a rare interview. Some of the dialogue was held out for use in the book "Men of Steel," which will be released in August.


Steel City Insider: What stands out the most from your days with the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Jack Lambert: What stands out the most? Shit, can you narrow it down some?

SCI: Well, which year was your favorite?

JL: That's hard to say. The year that stands out the most for me was '76 because it was without question the best football team we ever had and we didn't go to the Super Bowl. There were a lot of people that year picking Baltimore with Bert Jones, Lydell Mitchell and those guys. They had a pretty good team but we went up there and just crushed them. I mean, we crushed them. But as you well know we lost Rocky and Franco. Then we went out to Oakland without Rocky and Franco and we were dead in the water.

I was just talking to a guy who came out yesterday to dig the grave for my dog, and he asked me what I thought about the Super Bowl. He asked if I thought they could do it again next year and I said it's awful tough to repeat. It's really tough because you're only an injury or two away from not making it. I told him about the '76 team, which was without question the best team we ever had, but we lost a couple guys and that was the end. That'll piss John Madden off because he thinks he had the best team that year, but without question we were a great team. It just goes to show you you never know what's going to happen. Look at the Steelers this year. It's a crazy game. That's why it's so much fun to watch.

SCI: In '79, your O-line was decimated and you overcame that. A lot of teams wouldn't have.

JL: Well I had to laugh. A lot of people were saying how ugly the Steelers won this Super Bowl, and it was ugly. There's no question about it. But they ought to pull out the films from '79 when we played the Rams. Terry Bradshaw was the MVP of that game and I think he threw three interceptions. He probably could've thrown two more but they dropped them. I mean it was an ugly game. They moved the ball on us, on our defense, up and down the field. It was an ugly game but we won and nobody really cares now if it was ugly or not. We won it, and that's all that matters with these guys. They're Super Bowl champs and God bless them. I think it's great. It's wonderful.

SCI: This team played its big game against the Colts.

JL: Oh, without question.

SCI: You guys probably had a game like that, didn't you?

JL: You know, for me, after the Raiders there were no playoff games. Those games were honest-to-God kick-ass playoff games. And after that the rest of them were something else.

SCI: What made those games?

JL: We had two teams that were very similar: a bunch of nasty, nasty football players. It was a war. It was a war when we played them. Those are still my most favorite games. Unfortunately they were the first three years of my career, but still the most favorite games I ever played in were against the Raiders. We were so similar in people: a bunch of nasty guys that liked to play. And the great thing about it – and I'm not saying all of them – but after the game Stabler would come into the locker room and we'd have a couple beers together. We hated each other on the field, but after it was over we'd say whoever wins wins. It's good stuff, not like it is today with all the yipping and yapping and stuff that goes on. You'd just shake hands and have a beer. That's what it was about.

SCI: Now they come in and out with their briefcases and entourages.

JL: I wouldn't know. I haven't been to a game since the last game at Three Rivers Stadium against the Redskins.

SCI: You seemed to be having a good time down in that bar afterwards.

JL: Oh, yeah, it was as great time. I hadn't seen a lot of those guys for a long time and it was great to see them. It was fun.

SCI: So if Oakland was all that, how would you describe the games against Dallas? Didn't you guys really hate each other?

JL: Yeah. Dallas was a fun team to beat because they seemed to have the impression they were better than everybody else, and I enjoyed beating them but I didn't have that rivalry feeling that I had with the Raiders, or even the Cleveland Browns. They were just some team that we wanted to beat. They had great athletes and we had some great games. They were America's team. But, God, we did have some great games against them. They were exciting Super Bowls to watch.

SCI: Do you miss it?

JL: The first year was terrible. It was the worst. I watched every game – every second of every game. The tough thing is I played football for 20 consecutive years and all of the sudden it was over. In a split second it's over, so that first year was really tough. I did a little bit of television, but you can't talk about them. You'd like to be a little bit critical, or say some things you really think, but you can't do it because those guys are still your teammates. You're only a couple months removed. It was not for me anyway. It was just something to do. But as each year goes by, it got a little bit easier. I don't watch a lot of football. I watch a lot of hockey, but I don't watch a lot of football, but I do watch the playoffs because I enjoy playoff football. I think it's the best football that's played, so I enjoy it.

SCI: But you have to enjoy coaching your kids, don't you?

JL: Oh, I do. I enjoy it and I enjoy watching them play. I try and stay in the background. I don't want to in any way, shape or form take any kind of thunder away from them. Everything my kids have accomplished thus far they've done on their own, and I try and stay in the background as much as I can. I'm not yipping and yapping at coaches or anything – not that I agree with everything they do. I was never a son or daughter of a Hall of Famer, so I just try and stay out of the way for these guys and let them do their thing. Everything they've accomplished they've accomplished on their own and I'm proud of them for that. They've got great grades and they're doing well in sports and they're good kids. Their teachers seem to like them; the kids seem to like them. I think they're good kids and I'm proud of them.

SCI: Okay, Jack, I'm done. This is great.

JL: Geez, I thought maybe you were going to get into some deep shit with me, but you're not going to do it (laughs heartily).

SCI: I don't know. That's as deep as I ever went.

JL: Wow. That's some deep stuff there.

SCI: Hey, thanks a lot.

JL: I'm glad I could help you out. Once again I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. It's been a rough week for us.

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