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How the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers and the Edmonton Elks Played Similar Football

During the 2012 CFL Season to commemorate the 100 Grey Cup, TSN unveiled an 8 – part documentary series called: Engraved on a Nation. The list of the episodes are as follows:

1. The 13th Man. A look at the Saskatchewan Roughriders loyal fanbase, and the almost 97th Grey Cup victory.

2. The Stone Thrower: The Chuck Ealey Story.

3. The Kid From La Puente: The Anthony Calvillo Story.

4. Playing a Dangerous Game. A look at the heart of the Front de liberation de Quebec (FLQ) Crisis during its peak in 1969, and the Grey Cup being played in Montreal.

5. The Crash. A look back at the 1956 Trans-Canada Airlines Flight 810 Crash after the 1956 Shrine Game.

6. The Photograph. A look at the Toronto Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) Hurricanes who won the 30th Grey Cup, and their departures to World War II.

7. Western Swagger. The Edmonton Dynasty of 5 Grey Cups in a row from 1978 – 1982, along with the economic hardships a province that was hit the most during an unimaginable recession.

8. The Greatest Team That Never Won. The story of the 1971 Toronto Argonauts on how Leo Cahill built a team full of all walks of life.

Although the mentioned episodes are somewhat hard to come by to view, if you do get a chance to them in full, it is highly recommended.


PITTSBURGH AND EDMONTON IN THE 1970s

When looking at the 1970s, both the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Edmonton Elks had tremendous success in the decade that stemmed into the early to mid-1980s. However, part of that success also stemmed from a historical blue-collar fan base that both encountered some economic hardships.

PETROLEUM AND GAS CRISIS

October 17th, 1973, was a date that began an oil and crisis for Western Countries.

The Organization of Arab Petroleum Exporting Countries ( OAPEC) decided not to export petroleum to Western Countries that supported Israel during the ongoing Yom Kipper War.

The result became a trickle effect to both the United States of America and Canada.

INTEREST RATES IN EDMONTON

Interest rates were estimated to be as high as 23% during the peak of a really bad and unprecedented recession. It was all so prevalent for many Albertans to default on their respected mortgages and business leases.

The housing market plummeted into a lot of equity losses for many Albertans who had no choice but to sell their respected homes to make ends meet.

This also became apparent in just about any Albertan’s salary. At times, many Albertans had an unknown fluctuating salary; in which there was a lot of uncertainty on what they were going to make monthly.

THE STEEL CRISIS

Between 1973 to 1975, the USA had suffered a detrimental blow to the steel industry. It became victim to a global steel crisis that will linger into the early 1980s.

During this time, steel prices dropped as if it was the 1929 Stock Market Crash revisited. A product once in high demand just became an afterthought in the American Rust Belt areas of the county.

In Pittsburgh, and the surrounding areas in Western Pennsylvania, jobs and factories were lost at a rapid rate.

Factoring in the Steel Crisis, Oil Crisis, and a skyrocketing interest rate almost simultaneously, you have a tale of 2 parts of North America that were immensely affected by their respected economies.

THE EDMONTON ELKS

The Edmonton Elks was founded in 1949 and was competitive in the 1950s being anchored by one of the greatest players of all time in the great Jackie Parker. The multipurpose player played Quarterback, Running Back, Defensive Back, and a Place Kicker. He is without a doubt the most important player to ever dawn the Edmonton Green and Gold Colours.

Their 1st Grey Cup win came in 1954. This will then be followed by consecutive Grey Cup victories in both 1955 and 1956. For a team that was founded in 1949, by 1951 Edmonton was already becoming a team on the rise with their 1st above 500 winning percentage seasons.

Although there was a decline in the 1960s in the early success that they had previously encountered in the 1950s; the early 1970s saw an Edmonton resurgence where winning became the norm.

Ray Jauch took over the Head of Coaching duties in Edmonton from 1970 – 1976. He won his lone Grey Cup in 1975. He finished with a total of 65 Wins, 43 Losses, and 4 Ties. Furthermore, the foundation was set for his predecessor in Hugh Campbell going forward in creating another dynasty for the ages that will never be duplicated in the CFL.

Hugh Campbell coached the Edmonton Elks from 1977 – 1982. In his regime, Edmonton won a staggering 5 Grey Cups in a row from 1978 – 1982.

The roster was complete with a lot of NFL talent-type players.

At Quarterback, Edmonton had one of the best 1 – 2 punches of all time. Both Tom Wilkinson and Warren Moon created havoc for a lot of opposing defenses.

At Running Back, a London, Ontario-born, and Toronto raised hard-nosed north-south type runner in Neil Lumsden.

At Wide Receiver, the go-to target on many clutch moments was Brian Kelly.

Although the offence was very electrifying to see. The heart and soul of the team was their defence.

The Defensive Line was anchored by both Dan Kearns and “Dr. Death” Dave Fennell. And yes, you heard it. The best nickname in all of football. And “Dr. Death” was a punisher similar to the Pittsburgh Steel Curtain Defense.

The Linebacking core had the best “Maestro” in the game in Dan Kepley. Let call him the smaller version of Pittsburgh’s Jack Lambert.

In the Secondary, Edmonton had one of the best all-time in the late Larry Highbaugh.

Add this all up, and you have a team that dominated a decade.

PITTSBURGH STEELERS

Although the Pittsburgh Steelers were founded in 1933, their success was a very slow and painful process for any growth.

It was not until 1969 with the hiring of Chuck Noll as a Head Coach, that The Pittsburgh Steelers began their fruition of success.

Under the guidance of Chuck Noll, the Pittsburgh “Steel Curtain” or “Iron Curtain” Defense was drafted piece by piece.

The Defensive Line consisted of “Mean Joe” Greene, LC Greenwood, Ernie Holmes, and Dwight White.

At Linebacker, one of the greatest of all time in Jack Lambert. “The Man of Steel”.

In the Secondary, The Steelers were anchored by hard-hitting Cornerback Mel Blount

On the Offense, Terry Bradshaw at Quarterback was the player in the perfect style of offence at the perfect time.

His weapons included a fineness and hard-nosed Running Back in Franco Harris. This was then followed by both Lynn Swan and John Stallworth at Wide Receiver.

Just like Edmonton, Pittsburgh won a lot in the 1970s winning the Super Bowl during their 1974, 1975, 1978, and 1979 Seasons.

THE LEGACY

Both football teams were so dominant in both the CFL and NFL in the 1970s. Their records spoke for themselves.

But it goes beyond sport. Here you have 2 areas in North America in which they were both hit by a huge economic impact due to politics.

What they gave to both of their respected cities was hope. As bad as the situation was economical, they both gave Edmonton fans and Pittsburgh fans something to cheer about. Even if it was just for 3 hours on a game day. The blue-collard style of football on the field was an extension of their respected fans.

Dino Sepe has been an avid sports fan since he was 9 years old. He has read multiple books regarding sports history from various past eras from origins of the game, great dynasties, great coaches, and great players. Dino does carry experience in writing through Humber Theater in which he studied Theater Performance. As an avid football fan, and follows the NFL, CFL, NCAA along with USports Canadian University Football. Dino is proud to be part of the CFL News Hub contributing team, and looks forward to be part of the CFL News Hub covering the Edmonton Elks team going into the future.

4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Tracy

    January 13, 2022 at 9:07 am

    great article Dino. I like that you linked the teams to their cities economic context.

    • Dino Sepe

      January 13, 2022 at 10:07 am

      Hello Tracy,

      Thank you for reading the article.

      I always felt that your football team should play as an extension of your fan base to a certain extent.

      In this case, both Edmonton and Pittsburgh played the game as if they were going through economic hardships also with there fans. They gave them something to lift up there spirits.

  2. David Tress

    January 13, 2022 at 10:38 am

    Edmonton had Warren Moon in a run and shoot style offense, whereas Pitsburgh had a straight drop back passer in Terry Bradshaw.

  3. Dino Sepe

    January 21, 2022 at 2:12 pm

    Hello Mr. Tress,

    I agree with you if you want to be more specific on what offence both teams were running.

    I was aiming for that they were similar overall.

    When you look at the NFL now, the style of offence is similar to a CFL style now. Just about every team in the NFL uses Play Action a lot which was prevalent even in the 1960s.

    What’s old is new again.

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