FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- The new Pro Football Hall of Fame Class announced Saturday has a distinct Pittsburgh flavor. Three former players with connections to the city were elected to the seven-member Class of 2010.
Two former Pitt Panthers teammates, offensive lineman Russ Grimm and linebacker Rickey Jackson, joined longtime Steelers assistant coach Dick LeBeau in the seven-member class.
Grimm, from Scottdale in Westmoreland County and Southmoreland High School, played 11 seasons as a guard and ringleader of the "Hogs," the famous line that paved the way to three Super Bowl victories for the Washington Redskins in the 1980s and 1990s.
Jackson, who played defensive end at Pitt, played 15 seasons in the NFL for the New Orleans Saints and San Francisco 49ers.
LeBeau played 14 seasons at cornerback for the Detroit Lions and finished his career as the third-leading intercepter in NFL history. He has been an assistant coach for the Steelers for 11 years split over two periods since 1992. Eight of them have been as defensive coordinator, including the past six seasons. However, LeBeau was elected strictly on his career as a player, and the honor came 37 years after his retirement from the field.
"They say anything worth happening is worth waiting on," LeBeau said. "It's been a long wait. I could not express how happy I am about this evening."
Other players elected were running back Floyd Little, defensive tackle John Randle, wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Emmitt Smith.
LeBeau and Little were chosen as seniors candidates. Rice and Smith were chosen in their first year of eligibility.
Dermontti Dawson, a seven-time Pro Bowl center for the Steelers, took a positive step toward possible future election when he made it to the second round in the voting, advancing from the final 15 to the final 10.
The new class will be inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, at 7 p.m. Aug. 7 at Fawcett Stadium.
Grimm and Jackson are the fifth and sixth players from Pitt selected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. The others are quarterback Dan Marino, halfback Tony Dorsett, tight end Mike Ditka and linebacker Joe Schmidt.
Grimm, 50, was a quarterback and linebacker at Southmoreland High School and was converted to center at Pitt, where he became an All-American. The Redskins drafted him in the third round in 1981 and he went on to make the all-decade team of the 1980s as a guard. He retired after the 1991 season and immediately went into coaching. He joined the Steelers staff in 2000 as offensive line coach and was given the additional title of assistant head coach in 2004. He has been the line coach and assistant head coach of the Arizona Cardinals since 2007.
LeBeau, 72, played from 1959-72, including 170 consecutive games for the Lions at cornerback. He intercepted 62 passes. He has spent the past 51 seasons in the NFL, serving as a coach the past 37 years, including a stint as a head coach with the Cincinnati Bengals. He was one of the league's top playmakers during his days with the Lions and then became one of the game's most revered and innovative coaches. He developed the zone blitz defense that has become so prevalent throughout the league.
"It's a lifelong dream," LeBeau said. "I just can't imagine anything else that could be any more rewarding for any individual who has made football [his life]. It's a humbling honor and one I do not take lightly."
Jackson, 51, also was drafted in 1981, in the second round by New Orleans. He played outside linebacker for the Saints through 1993 and finished his NFL career playing defensive end for the 49ers in '94 and '95. Jackson had 128 sacks in his career and made six Pro Bowls. He started for San Francisco in Super Bowl XXIX when the 49ers defeated the San Diego Chargers.
Rice and Smith own the NFL record books at their positions. Rice owns career records with 208 touchdowns, 1,549 receptions and 22,895 yards. Smith, drafted by the Dallas Cowboys in 1990 after they swapped first-round picks with the Steelers, is the NFL's all-time rushing leader with 18,355 yards. Rice played 20 seasons, all but his final four with the San Francisco 49ers. Smith played 15 seasons, all with the Cowboys except his last two with the Cardinals.
Little rushed for 6,323 yards and caught 215 passes during nine seasons with the Denver Broncos, 1967-75, and made five Pro Bowls.
Randle played 10 seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and another four with the Seattle Seahawks in a career that covered 1990-03. He made seven Pro Bowls and was a six-time All-Pro while compiling 137.5 sacks from the interior in 4-3 defenses.
Steelers president Art Rooney congratulated LeBeau on his selection.
"Few men in the history of the NFL have contributed more to the league as a player and coach than Dick LeBeau during his 51 years in the league," Rooney said in a statement. "All of us with the Steelers are thrilled with his selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010."
Ed Bouchette: firstname.lastname@example.org First Published February 7, 2010 5:15 AM