Ernie Stautner Pittsburgh Steelers

I gotta be mean. At my size, I can’t afford to play any other way. Unless I’m meaner than these big guys, unless I can intimidate them, I’d have no chance in the world against them.”

At 6-1 and 230 pounds, Ernie Stautner was smaller than most defensive linemen of the 1950s. Still, the Pittsburgh Steelers were willing to take a chance on the undersized lineman and drafted him in the second-round of the 1950 National Football League Draft.

It turned out to be a sensational pick. Blessed with excellent mobility and burning desire, the Boston College star went on to excel in the game of giants. For the next 14 years, Stautner was a fixture at defensive tackle, a veritable folk hero with long-suffering Steelers fans and a major factor in the Pittsburgh defense, one of the most punishing in the NFL at the time.

His outstanding play earned him first- or second-team All-NFL honors nine times. Selected to nine Pro Bowls, Ernie had the unusual distinction for a defensive tackle of winding up not once, but twice, in the NFL record book. His three career safeties tied him for a then all time high, and his 23 opponents' fumbles recovered placed him third on that list.

Yet Ernie's true worth on a football field could never be measured in lines in a record manual, for statistics can't measure such assets as competitive nature, team spirit, grim determination, and the will to win. Extremely resilient, the native of Bavaria missed only six games during his entire NFL career. That’s not to say he didn’t suffer a number injuries. His maladies included broken ribs, shoulders, hands, and a nose broken too many times to count.

When Ernie finally retired, the Steelers honored him by retiring his No. 70 jersey. It was something the team didn’t ordinarily do. But then, Ernie Stautner was hardly ordinary. A “throwback” to another time, Stautner was considered by teammates and opponents alike, as one of the toughest competitors the game ever produced.