This past weekend was a flurry of some of the best fun, outside of the game, that the National Football League could provide to fans. With the annual NFL Honors and Super Bowl build-up before the big game, Pittsburgh Steelers fans were waiting to find out what the 48-person Pro Football Hall of Fame Selection Committee would decide in regards to both modern-era nominees and the additional "Centennial Slate" members who would be selected to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the NFL. Once the finalists had been announced, three of the four individuals associated with the Steelers became inductees. Unfortunately, one nominee was once again passed over. Despite that, Canton (Ohio) looks like it will be full of members of Steelers Nation in August and September to celebrate.
Donnie Shell, former Steelers safety, was at home in South Carolina when he finally got the call that let him know his wait to get into the Hall of Fame was over. "I prayed a lot, spent a lot of quiet time," Shell said of the time he spent since he retired in 1987 from the NFL waiting to see if he'd join members of the famed "Steel Curtain" defense in Canton by being enshrined. "Good things happen if you wait."
Part of the famed Steelers' rookie class in 1974 that produced four Hall of Famers via the NFL Draft, Shell joined the team as an undrafted linebacker that converted to strong safety. His career interception rate of 51 interceptions is still the most in league history for a player at that position. As a five-time Pro Bowl selection, it seemed like Shell should have been a lock for a gold jacket long ago. Sometimes very good players do, indeed, have to be patient - fair or not - to "get in".
"I think we set a legacy defensively back in the early 70s that matched what the people of Pittsburgh were doing," Teresa Varley of Steelers.com quoted Shell as saying. "They were hard-working, steel mill people and they came out on Sunday to see us play." Shell called the tradition that has been passed from the Rooney family through coaches Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher, and Mike Tomlin, the "Steelers Way".
— Donnie Shell (@donnie_shell) January 18, 2020
While former Steelers guard Alan Faneca was once again passed over, after being nominated for the fifth year in a row, perhaps Shell is the perfect advocate for helping one of the best offensive linemen to play for the black and gold hang on for another shot at being inducted next year. After spending 10-of-13 years in the league with the Steelers, Faneca isn't the first - and likely not the last - player to wear the Pittsburgh black and gold that will wait for their name to be called. Jerome Bettis did not enter the Hall until his fifth attempt/nomination and both Lynn Swann and John Stallworth waited 14 and eight years, respectively.
Former #Steelers G Alan Faneca has been a Pro Football Hall of Fame finalist 5x while also being a 6-time First-Team All-Pro & 2-time Second-Team All-Pro. HOFer Brian Urlacher had this to say about Alan's football career: pic.twitter.com/Jscl7PusFz
— Burt Lauten (@SteelersPRBurt) January 27, 2020
Not long before the selection committee finalized the modern-era members of the 2020 class, we asked if this would be the year two of the NFL's best safeties would enter the Hall of Fame together. It turns out, they will.
2010 NFL Defensive Player of the Year and eight-time Pro Bowl, and two-time Super Bowl champion safety Troy Polamalu became just the second safety in as many years (Ed Reed, 2019) to be inducted into the Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility. He joins just ten other players who can be considered 'pure safeties' to be enshrined in Canton.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 1, 2020
To round out the list, former head coach Bill Cowher will also be inducted in 2020. Cowher, who coached the Steelers from 1992-2006, will enter as a part of the Centennial Slate.
"It's going to be a special summer, a special time in Canton... We will be celebrating a lot this whole year. It will be an exciting time for Steelers fans." - Steelers President Art Rooney II.
— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) February 2, 2020
Pittsburgh Steelers fans have expressed elation over the selections and are already making plans to turn Canton into a black and gold mecca this coming late summer. The modern-era members of the Class of 2020 will be formally enshrined into the Hall of Fame during a ceremony on August 8 (during enshrinement week which goes from August 6-9). The centennial candidates will be welcomed into the Hall from September 16-19.