Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now

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Overview

With immersive reporting, respect, and honesty, Pomerantz tells the full story of the greatest dynasty in football history—the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s won an unprecedented and unmatched four Super Bowls in six years. A dozen of those Steelers players, coaches, and executives have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and three decades later their names echo in popular memory: Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, ...

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Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, Then and Now

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Overview

With immersive reporting, respect, and honesty, Pomerantz tells the full story of the greatest dynasty in football history—the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Pittsburgh Steelers of the 1970s won an unprecedented and unmatched four Super Bowls in six years. A dozen of those Steelers players, coaches, and executives have been inducted into the Hall of Fame, and three decades later their names echo in popular memory: Mean Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, Mike Webster, Jack Lambert, Lynn Swann, and John Stallworth. In ways exhilarating and heartbreaking, they define not only the brotherhood of sports but those elements of the game that engage tens of millions of Americans: its artistry and its brutality. In 1981, when the Steelers failed to make the playoffs for the first time in nine years, acclaimed author Gary M. Pomerantz, then a sportswriter for The Washington Post, interviewed them in training camp. At that time, Pomerantz asked himself, "What will life be like for these guys when they're sixty?" Without knowing it, he began writing this book.

The heroes of those days sat with Pomerantz for new interviews. Greene, in his living room, explained Super Bowl IX, when the Steel Curtain held the Vikings to 2.4 feet per carry. In his man cave, Count “Frenchy” Fuqua recounted the "Immaculate Reception." Dan Rooney came to the den of his childhood home to tell of the profound influences of his father, team founder Art Rooney, Sr., and of why he fired his brother Art Jr., mastermind of the NFL's most successful draft ever. In Hollywood, Bradshaw strained to explain his falling out with Coach Chuck Noll, his kinship with old teammates. The result is Pomerantz's richly textured story of a team and a sport. The book shows in full what the game gave these men, and what it took from them.

Intimate, poignant, and thrilling, Their Life's Work does for football what Roger Kahn's The Boys of Summer did for baseball. It is a story of victory, fortitude, renown, and, above all, the brotherhood of players who said they'd do it again—all of it.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The Pittsburgh Steelers won four Super Bowls between 1974 and 1979, thanks to a talented team that featured 12 Hall of Famers and some household names like Terry Bradshaw, Mean Joe Greene, and Franco Harris. Overdrawing from more than 200 interviews, Washington Post sportswriter Pomerantz (Wilt, When Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn) seeks to uncover why the ’70s-era Steelers are considered one of, if not the, best NFL teams ever assembled. He finds that their success was built on a mixture of skill, attitude, and camaraderie. When recounting the team’s glory days, like the play that came to be known as the Immaculate Reception, Pomerantz often goes beyond straight-ahead sports writing to achieve intricate storytelling. The book provides much in the way of character studies, with the author delving into the backgrounds and psyches of some of the Steelers’ most important cogs—from colorful owner Art Rooney Sr. and dour head coach Chuck Noll to Vietnam vet/running back Rocky Bleier. By describing the players’ unique on-field and off-field relationships, Pomerantz reveals a brotherhood that transcends wins and losses. B&w images not seen by PW. Agent: David Black, David Black Agency. (Oct.)
ESPN - Scott Brown
"Pomerantz has written what may be the definitive book of the 1970s Steelers."
The Rush Limbaugh Show - Rush Limbaugh
"Pomerantz has just done a terrific job writing about the city, the Rooneys, everybody that mattered on that team. … It's just fascinating"
Portland Oregonian
"The author calls the Steelers of the late '70s the best team ever, and it's hard to argue. Four Super Bowls in six seasons, an 80-22-1 record, a dozen Hall of Famers, and a dozen more unforgettable characters. Pomerantz tracked them down the way Roger Kahn did in the baseball classic "The Boys of Summer" and lets them speak their peace. It's lively, moving and tragic."
Pittsburgh Quarterly - John Allison
"Their Life's Work is a thoroughly reported and clearly written account of the Steelers' sensational '70s, framed through the "brotherhood" of the players and their interplay with the owners."
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette - Gene Collier
"[O]ne of the great sports books ever written…. [P]repare to be stunned by how fresh and compelling [Steelers history] looks with Mr. Pomerantz's near-maniacal research, searing interviews, and more of the highly polished writing for which he's become famous and esteemed…. By parts history, comedy, tragedy and sweeping 40-year epic, Pomerantz's is a loving work that somehow refrains from being romantic, never flinching from the brutal realities of both the game and too real brutalities of some of its greatest players…. As with David Maraniss' "When Pride Still Mattered," a monumental work about Vince Lombardi, Mr. Pomerantz has taken a story way overtold and done it the way everyone wished they had.”
Football Outsider.com
"There have been many books written about the 70's Steelers. But it’s hard to find one better than Their Life’s Work."
The Oklahoman - Mike Patterson
“Pomerantz is a smooth story teller and the pages fly by like Lynn Swann in his prime.”
Kristofer Collins
“[An] excellent new book . . . A necessary read for anyone with an interest in the Steelers and professional football. There are many great pleasures to be had in the company of these men – in the tales of their youth and now in their later years. What may surprise you, as it did me, is just how moving the story of the 1970s Steelers remains.”
Bob D’Angelo
“Here is a book as hard-hitting and powerful as the ‘Steel Curtain’ dynasty that Pomerantz depicts so deftly. It’s the NFL’s version of The Boys of Summer, with equal parts triumph and melancholy. Pomerantz’s writing is strong, straightforward, funny, sentimental and blunt. It’s as working class and gritty as the men he writes about.” (Top 10 Sports Books of 2013)
Bob D’Angelo
“Here is a book as hard-hitting and powerful as the ‘Steel Curtain’ dynasty that Pomerantz depicts so deftly. It’s the NFL’s version of The Boys of Summer, with equal parts triumph and melancholy. Pomerantz’s writing is strong, straightforward, funny, sentimental and blunt. It’s as working class and gritty as the men he writes about.” (Top 10 Sports Books of 2013)
Ernie Accorsi
Their Life's Work is a behind the scenes and revealing look at what I consider one of the three greatest NFL football teams since World War II. Having competed against the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn't think it was possible to learn more about this team, but Gary Pomerantz has uncovered so many intriguing details on how this great ball club was masterfully put together, along with fascinating new insights into the great characters who played on these championship teams, I see them in a new light. This is one great football book.
Frank Deford
What sets Their Life's Work well above other books that tell us about teammates in their glory and their dotage, is that Gary Pomerantz not only brings such flair to the Steelers' glory days, but he also instructs us so vividly how, in football, teammates don't just grow old, they grow in pain and fear.
Roy Blount Jr.
What has become of the best team ever? Pomerantz has the story, the lowdown and the afterglow. A wealth of prime Steeler stuff.
David Maraniss
Their Life's Work is that rare book that is brutally authentic, vigorously reported, smoothly written, and hauntingly sympathetic all at the same time. Sport , coach, team, city, sensibility all powerfully rendered.
Peter King
"I've been waiting for a book, written in an exhilarating and cogent and intelligent way, on the best football team of my adult life, and now it's here. I loved the Steelers way back when, and now that I know them in their middle age and beyond, I love their story. That's not just because Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert are compelling figures. It's because Gary Pomerantz wrote it the way Roger Kahn wrote 'Boys of Summer.' This book will be 'Men of Fall' for my football generation.''
Kirkus Reviews
2013-09-15
The saga of the rise and fall of the 1970s NFL powerhouse. Pomerantz (The Devil's Tickets: A Night of Bridge, a Fatal Hand, and a New American Age, 2009, etc.), a veteran sports and general journalist (Washington Post and elsewhere), steps back and forth in time, blending moments from specific games—Franco Harris' celebrated 1972 "Immaculate Reception" and its aftermath get a nine-page treatment—with interviews and observations from recent days. The author's focus is, unsurprisingly, on the principals in the production: the Rooney family (Art Rooney is "The Chief" throughout), coach Chuck Noll, quarterback Terry Bradshaw, receivers John Stallworth and Lynn Swann, running back Harris, center Mike Webster, linebacker Jack Lambert and defensive lineman "Mean" Joe Greene. (An interesting section covers the filming of Greene's noted commercial for Coke.) But the other players—and some wives—get their moments, as well. Pomerantz's diction is sometimes excessively enthusiastic and forced—the Rooneys were like John Adams and John Quincy Adams, Lambert was like both King Arthur and Hemingway, Pete Rozelle like Caesar, Webster, a gladiator. The great strength here, however, is the author's hard but sympathetic look at what's happened to everyone since those years: the drugs (Joe Gilliam), the madness (Mike Webster), the estrangements, the financial successes and failures, the effects of injuries and the many deaths. The author reports on the surprising number of former Steelers who have died before reaching age 60, as well as the many Steelers inducted into the Hall of Fame. Pomerantz ends with a series of portraits of his key subjects, and Stallworth imagines just one more sauna experience with the old crew who used to gather there to avoid celebrity's crush. A work of great affection—for people, a violent sport and magical moments.
Behind The Steel Curtain - Neal Coolong
“Gary Pomerantz's Their Life's Work: The Brotherhood of the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers is the vessel in which the current generation can travel back to those days and immerse itself in the history of this franchise…. [A] dramatic, inspiring and wondrous tale of brotherhood, camaraderie and spirit…. It's the text book for Steelers 101. It's the Bible for Steelers Spirituality 201. It's the reading material necessary to pass a citizen's test for entry into Steeler Nation, and all residents should be issued it upon their arrival.”
David M. Shribman
“This is a special book about a special moment in a special town. You cannot understand one of America's great cities today without understanding the special place the Steelers hold in Pittsburgh—and, unless you have season tickets, you cannot fully understand Pittsburgh without Their Life's Work.”
David Maraniss
"Their Life's Work is that rare book that is brutally authentic, vigorously reported, smoothly written, and hauntingly sympathetic all at the same time. Sport , coach, team, city, sensibility all powerfully rendered."
Frank Deford
"What sets Their Life's Work well above other books that tell us about teammates in their glory and their dotage, is that Gary Pomerantz not only brings such flair to the Steelers' glory days, but he also instructs us so vividly how, in football, teammates don't just grow old, they grow in pain and fear."
Peter King
"I've been waiting for a book, written in an exhilarating and cogent and intelligent way, on the best football team of my adult life, and now it's here. I loved the Steelers way back when, and now that I know them in their middle age and beyond, I love their story. That's not just because Joe Greene and Terry Bradshaw and Jack Lambert are compelling figures. It's because Gary Pomerantz wrote it the way Roger Kahn wrote 'Boys of Summer.' This book will be 'Men of Fall' for my football generation.''
Roy Blount Jr.
"What has become of the best team ever? Pomerantz has the story, the lowdown and the afterglow. A wealth of prime Steeler stuff."
Ernie Accorsi
"Their Life's Work is a behind the scenes and revealing look at what I consider one of the three greatest NFL football teams since World War II. Having competed against the 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers, I didn't think it was possible to learn more about this team, but Gary Pomerantz has uncovered so many intriguing details on how this great ball club was masterfully put together, along with fascinating new insights into the great characters who played on these championship teams, I see them in a new light. This is one great football book."
Booklist (starred)
"Their Life’s Work will be compared to Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer (1972), a nostalgic look back at the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. As good as Boys is, this is better. . . A wonderful book."
Booklist
"Their Life’s Work will be compared to Roger Kahn’s The Boys of Summer (1972), a nostalgic look back at the 1950s Brooklyn Dodgers. As good as Boys is, this is better. . . A wonderful book."
Library Journal
Following the lead of Roger Kahn's classic The Boys of Summer, author and journalist Pomerantz (visiting lecturer, communication, Stanford Univ.; Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn) recounts the exploits of an iconic team from the past and revisits the players decades later to see how the years have treated these now middle-aged former sports heroes. He devotes the first half of the book to a discussion of how the 1970s Steeler championship teams were built and were able to rule the NFL. Then he profiles some of the stars today, as well as the team-founding Rooney family and former coach Chuck Noll. He pays special attention to the physical impact the game has had on the subsequent lives of those he interviews. Both parts are richly examined and the subjects movingly depicted, but Pomerantz limits his primary attention to just five players: Joe Greene, Terry Bradshaw, Franco Harris, John Stallworth, and Mike Webster. Readers will want the stories of more players, both stars and journeymen. VERDICT Pomerantz insightfully gets at why so many of these aging, damaged men would do it all again. For all sports fans.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781451691627
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 86,761
  • Product dimensions: 6.70 (w) x 9.46 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Gary M. Pomerantz

Gary M. Pomerantz is a nonfiction author and journalist and has served the past seven years as a visiting lecturer in the Department of Communication at Stanford University. His work has appeared in The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and The Washington Post. Pomerantz has written four books, including the New York Times Notable Book of the Year, Where Peachtree Meets Sweet Auburn (1996).

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Read an Excerpt

Their Life’s Work

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 5 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 5 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2014

    I Also Recommend:

    Great

    Previewed a library book before buying my own copy for allllll the older Steelers players info. Great book for older Steelers fans

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 2, 2013

    if your a steeler fan or football fan its a must read

    if your a steeler fan or football fan its a must read

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 8, 2014

    I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning a

    I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning about the life of pro football players. If you followed or know about the Steelers of the '70s. you should read it.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 12, 2013

    The books (2) were gifts for others. I did not read them myself

    The books (2) were gifts for others. I did not read them myself. The recepients were pleased to get them, but haven't reported on the content. The experience of ordering from B&N on line was very good.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 22, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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