Ernie Holmes, a defensive lineman and member of the famed Steel Curtain for the Steelers in their dynasty years in the 1970s, died last night in a traffic accident in Texas.
Several news outlets in Texas are reporting that Mr. Holmes, 59, died after a one-vehicle crash on Highway 69 near Lumberton shortly after 9 p.m.
The Beaumont (Texas) Enterprise reported that Holmes was killed when his SUV left the road and flipped several times, ejecting him. Holmes was not wearing a seat belt, the Enterprise said.
Mr. Holmes was part of a front four that included Joe Greene, Dwight White and L.C. Greenwood.
"Ernie came through lot of struggles and it looked like he was out ahead of it and living the way he wanted to live his life," Greene said this morning. "Oh, Ernie was definitely an enforcer. I suspect that a lot of guys were kind of afraid of him, not so much what he did on the field but what they read about him off the field. He'd probably do anything to win.
"We're going to miss ol' Ernie, we'll miss him a lot."
Mr. Holmes was a two-time All Pro drafted by the Steelers in 1971 after playing at Texas Southern. He played 81 games for the Steelers from 1972 through 1977 and finished his career with one year in New England.
Jack Ham also remembered Holmes as a great player.
"That run we had in '74 and through the playoffs and our first Super Bowl, he just had a dominating performance, especially against Gene Upshaw and the Raiders in Oakland in the AFC championship game. I think they rushed for 29 yards in that game. It was the most dominating performance against a great offensive line. He's a big reason why we ended up winning that game.
"And what they did against Minnesota [in SB IX], the entire front Four!
"Joe Greene got a lot of attention and rightfully so, but Ernie was a great football player. We all knew it on the team.''
In a statement this morning, Steelers Chairman Dan Rooney said:
"We are deeply saddened to learn of the sudden and untimely death of Ernie Holmes. Ernie was one of the toughest players to ever wear a Steelers uniform. He was a key member of our famous Steel Curtain defense, and many people who played against him considered Ernie almost impossible to block. At his best, he was an intimidating player who even the toughest of opponents did not want to play against.
"Ernie seemed to be doing well in recent years and was always one of our most popular players whenever he returned to Pittsburgh for team events.
"Our prayers go out to Ernie's family and loved ones. He will be missed by the entire Steelers family."
More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.