Steel Curtain seeks heavenly help

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Fans eager to claim a fifth ring in Sunday's Super Bowl XL have pointed out that younger members of the Steeler Nation may not remember much from the heydays when those first four rings were won.

Greg Kronz does.

He remembers coming down to breakfast one morning in early autumn of 1971 and hearing sportscaster Myron Cope's voice crackle across the kitchen radio, announcing a contest to find a nickname for the Steelers' amazing Front Four.

"I turned to my mom and said, 'The Steel Curtain,' and 'I'm gonna win'." He was 14 years old, a ninth-grader at Montour High School.

His claim to fame -- naming the most awesome defensive line in NFL history -- was part of the introduction I heard last July as he approached the pulpit of Christ Church at Grove Farm, in Ohio Township.

Now 48, the Rev. Kronz hasn't lived in Pittsburgh since 1987. He's senior pastor of St. Luke's Episcopal Church in Hilton Head, S. C. -- a location sometimes referred to as "Pittsburgh South."

When I phoned last week to ask about his long-forgotten role in Steelers' folklore, Rev. Kronz was on his way back to the U.S. from Tanzania, in East Africa. In two days he'd delivered four talks to the Anglican clergy of the Dar Es Salaam diocese. His sermons were titled "Guard your heart and mind," "Guard your family," "Guard your people" and "Guard your spirit." Clearly, after all these years, he still values a strong defense.

Last Sunday, as Pittsburgh's newest Steel Curtain was lowered on the Broncos, Rev. Kronz was preaching in the Dar Es Salaam cathedral -- and he admits, "I was praying through the AFC championships, 'They have to beat Denver because I can't watch it and I want to see them play again'."

You could say he's on something of a streak. To be fair, though, he was just one of 17 people who submitted the "Steel Curtain" moniker to the WTAE contest, necessitating a drawing for the grand prize.

The now legendary Cope, who was feeling much better this weekend after a prolonged bout of pneumonia, remembers that back in '71 "people were making all kinds of suggestions" to name the fearsome foursome of "Mean" Joe Green, L.C. Greenwood, Ernie "Fats" Holmes and Dwight White.

"They were so tough they reminded me of blacksmiths," Myron says. "So I said, 'How about the Anvil Chorus?' It was a stupid suggestion -- didn't stand a chance."

Although Myron refers to the original front four as "charter members" of the Steel Curtain, he enjoys the term's "legacy" -- its relevance 35 years later. "Toughness has always characterized the Steelers' style," he says.

For Myron, other details of the long-ago radio contest have faded, but not for Greg Kronz. He was outside when Myron announced the winner on the radio. "My mom came running out the door yelling, 'You won! You won!' He [Myron] talked to my dad. I was a minor."

His age also meant that his parents got to enjoy the prize -- a four-day trip to Miami just a few weeks later to see the Steelers play the Dolphins. "I sent them on a second honeymoon," says Greg. "I think they owe us a trip," jokes his wife Meredith.

Greg's "notoriety" at Montour High lasted about a week. A self-described "geek," he started at the University of Pittsburgh as a chemical engineering major but switched to religious studies and philosophy because "the Lord changed my vocation." After attending Trinity Theological Seminary in Ambridge, he served a church in Texas before ending up in Hilton Head in 1992 -- but he has "never deviated" from his home-team loyalty.

Since an annual parish retreat will take Rev. Kronz out of the pulpit next Sunday, he was planning to preach yesterday wearing his black-and-gold poncho -- a leftover from the Steelers' unsuccessful trip to the 1995 Super Bowl. But he'll be back home in time to watch the big game, and like millions of us, he'll be praying that once again our Steel Curtain's powers prove to be nearly divine.


Ruth Ann Dailey can be rdailey@post-gazette.com or 412-2763-1733.


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