Mad World: Steelers Chose Neil O’Donnell Over Joe Montana


Joe Cool almost became a Steeler. Oh mercy what a time that would have been.

Former San Francisco 49’ers great, Joe Montana wanted to become a Pittsburgh Steeler in the twilight years of his career.  That’s right, Joe Cool wanted to spend the last several years of his career back in Pittsburgh for a truly storybook ending.  Except there was one problem, the Steelers didn’t want him.

In a recent interview on the Dan Patrick Show and subsequent write up by Arrowhead Addict, Montana stated his desire to finish out his future Hall of Fame career within earshot of his hometown of New Eagle, PA.  However, while the 49’ers were shopping him out, the Steelers did not have a desire to take the 4x Super Bowl Winner, 3x Super Bowl MVP Champion, and 7x (soon to be 8x) Pro Bowl Selection.  Whaaaaaaaaaaa???????

That’s right.  The Rooney’s and Tom Donahoe (then Director of Football Operations, aka GM) decided to stick with their current quarterback who was coming off of his own Pro Bowl year – Neil O’Donnell.  :rubbing eyes:  :shaking head:  :rubbing eyes:  blink blink blink…..

It’s hard to fathom that an organization would even think for .01 seconds of not trading for someone with Montana’s resume – even if he only had a few good years left in his career.  As I mentioned, the young O’Donnell was just coming off of his first (and only) Pro Bowl season.  Strangely, the Steeler organization decided that was enough to pass on Montana even though O’Donnell was 2-6 just the season before.  Montana lasted for two more seasons in the league as a Chief.  He took them to the playoffs both times and even to the AFC Championship game in the ’93 season.

O’Donnell’s career would pay some divedens by staying with the Steelers.  O’Donnell would lose to Montana and the Chiefs in 1993 during their playoff duel.  He took the Steelers to the AFC Championship and lost to the Chargers in ’94.  After then, Montana retired and hung up the cleats forever.  O’Donnell stayed with the Steelers for only one more season himself and took the Steelers to their first Super Bowl appearance since 1980.  The Steelers lost to the Cowboys in a very disappointing Super Bowl performance.  Steeler fans were left with a bitter taste for O’Donnell, who threw a key interception late in the game in what would have been a drive to take the lead.  He moved on to the Jets during free agency the following off season being the bad ass QB he was (please note the sarcasm…..).

At a time when the Steelers playoff hopes are in dire straights this season, it’s hard not to dwell on the good ol’ days and think ‘what might have been’ were Montana to join the Steelers in 1993.  Would he have played more seasons than just two?  Would the Steelers have added one for the thumb and then some?  O’Donnell was a bit of a sore spot on that Steeler roster with hot and cold games.  Perhaps NFL history would have been written a little differently if we ever saw Joe Cool in a black and gold uniform.

Damn you Donahoe……

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