Making the case for Rocky Bleier’s induction into the Hall of Fame

: Rocky Bleier Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
: Rocky Bleier Pittsburgh Steelers (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images) /

The Pittsburgh Steelers have no shortage of former or current players who are candidates for the NFL Hall of Fame. The list of arguments supporting their induction is just as extensive. One such player, not yet inducted,  is Rocky Bleier.

The Steelers drafted Rocky 417th in the 1968 draft from Notre Dame. Then ten games into the season Rocky ended up in another draft, one he would have loved to avoid. He got sent to Vietnam. This event would inexplicably change his life forever. August 20th, 1969, he got caught in an ambush receiving a gunshot wound and taking grenade shrapnel both to his left leg.

The first question he asked in rehab is, would he be able to play football. Doctors told him to consider himself fortunate if he ever walks again. This answer seemed inadequate, and Rocky started two years of rehab. Then for the 1972 season, he made his return, even though he played 14 games he only had one rush for 14 yards.

Still, Rocky managed to do what doctors thought impossible. He played until 1980 and a very pivotal player in all four Superbowl victories. When you look at his statistics over his career, yes, they are not Hall of Fame numbers. He had 928 rushes and 3865 total yards along with 136 receptions for 1294 yards. However, these statistics miss the one thing Rocky did very well, blocking.

He also blocked for a slightly more well known running back, a future inductee into the NFL Hall of Fame, Franco Harris. Franco, as we know, finished his career as the then third all-time leading rusher with 12,120 yards. He did gain many of those yards with the aid of a stellar offensive line bolstered by blockers such as  Mike Webster, Sam Davis, Jon Kolb, Gerry Mullins, Larry Brown. However, despite their blocking, Rocky always plowed the road laying pivotal blocks springing Franco for huge gains.

Then in 1976, Rocky and Franco made history both rushing for 1000 yards. An honor only shared by four other running back duos Larry Csonka and Mercury Morris 1972, Kevin Mack and Ernest Byner 1985, Derrick Ward and Brandon Jacobs 2008, and Jonathan Stewart and Deangelo Williams 2009. However, It did happen twice with a running back quarterback duo. Rocky then made a huge touchdown reception in Superbowl X. Steelers fans that remember watching them in that decade all feel has played a huge roll in that Steelers dynasty.

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If a player’s merit for the NFL hall of fame is simply statistics, then no Rocky should not be there. However, his statistics can not measure the one attribute he had lots of heart and courage. Starting leg wounds in the Jungle of Vietnam, he did what physicians thought could not happen, culminating in four Superbowl rings. That alone should merit induction.