Tough-as-nails linebacker Jack Lambert could intimidate opponents just by smiling at them. His missing front teeth epitomized Lambert's fierce play for the Pittsburgh Steelers' dominating defense in the 1970s.
A native of Mantua, Ohio, the 6-foot-4 Lambert was a quarterback and basketball star at Crestwood High School. He was recruited as a defensive lineman at Kent State before head coach Don James moved him to middle linebacker. This proved to be a wise decision, as Lambert won all-conference honors twice before becoming a surprise second-round draft choice of the Steelers in the 1974 NFL Draft.
As a rookie, Lambert received his big break when Pro Bowl linebacker Henry Davis went down with an injury. Lambert had an instant impact on the Steelers defense with his ferocious tackling style and lightning quick instincts. Led by a total of nine Hall of Famers on both sides of the ball, the Steelers went on to win their first Super Bowl in franchise history in 1974 as Lambert was named the NFL's defensive rookie of the year.
The Steelers captured their second straight Super Bowl victory in Lambert's second year in 1975. His best individual performance came in 1976, when the team captain led a defense that allowed an NFL record low 138 points for the season. During the bicentennial season, he was awarded with the league's defensive player of the year award.
Lambert's legendary career spanned 11 years and included four Super Bowls and nine Pro Bowl nominations. One of the most intimidating players to ever play the game, Lambert was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1990 and was voted to the NFL's 75th Anniversary team in 1994.
Visitors to the Western Pennsylvania Sports Museum at the Heinz History Center can see artifacts from the Super Bowl Steelers teams of the 1970s and learn more about the franchise's illustrious history. For more information, visit www.heinzhistorycenter.org.
First Published October 16, 2013 8:00 PM