Rocky Bleier

Discussion in 'Pittsburgh Steelers' started by Don Wassall, Aug 16, 2019.

  1. Don Wassall

    Don Wassall Administrator Staff Member

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    A one-hour documentary on Rocky Bleier will air on ESPN2 on Tuesday at 8 pm EST. From what the local paper says about it, a good portion of it will feature Bleier going back to the place in Vietnam where he was shot through the thigh and suffered a grenade blast to one of his feet. He was never supposed to be able to play football again but persevered through non-stop training and willpower.

    He played RB at Notre Dame and was on their 1966 national championship team but wasn't a big star and then was drafted by the Steelers before being drafted by the military. As I recall very few pro athletes were drafted to fight in that despicable, totally unnecessary war, but Bleier was and defied the odds by playing again and becoming a fixture on the great Steelers teams of the 1970s. After retiring following the 1980 season he continued to make a name for himself as an inspirational speaker.

    Rocky had five hundred yard games and ran for 1,036 yards in 1976, teaming up in the backfield with Franco Harris, who was half-black half-Italian. There's not a snowball's chance in hell that a White running back with Bleier's measurables would get a sniff at running the ball in today's NFL, war hero or not.

    This is a brief clip I found about Bleier on YouTube:

     
  2. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Don, thanks for the heads-up.

    Many NFL players who made the team were placed in a National Guard unit. Others were "4-F" due to a bad knee, etc. You would be amazed how many star football players were officially 4-F. I know of two who admitted to it in their autobiographies.

    Pat Toomay, in his 1975 Dallas Cowboy expose, boasted of flunking the army physical. He indicated Cowboy management would "arrange" for a player to flunk.

    Regarding Rocky Bleier, his case was slightly different. Rocky was a late round draft choice., a special teamer if he made the team at all. This type player lasts for a year or two, and is replaced by someone similar with a fresher body and legs.

    Rocky Bleier played mainly special teams on the 1968 Steelers. Late that year, his Appleton, Wisconsin draft board sent him a "Greetings" letter. Rocky took it to one of the Rooneys who promised to get Rocky in a national guard/reserve unit. They had waited too late. There wasn't an opening. so Bleier went in the army. In his 1975 book, Rocky said several team mates told him "Raise some s***." You shouldn't have to go." Rocky Bleirer declined this advice.

    But even in his book, Rocky admits he would have gotten in the reserves had there been an opening and he tried to so. Had he been a high draft choice, the Steelers would have made sure Rocky was in the reserves and not in the regular army. Since Rocky was just a special teams player, there was no urge to protect him from the draft.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
  3. Flint

    Flint Mentor Staff Member

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    I remember Joe Namath being the most famous example of players being 4-F. He was the number one player in the draft, the highest paid rookie in a bidding war between the NFL and AFL, yet he couldn't even pass the physical to be inducted. It was very controversial at the time.
     
  4. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    He was also the tailback while Harris was the fullback.

    White tailbacks such as Bleier seemed to dry up in the early 80's, I remember Bill Ring who was originally a tailback had a similar scrappy style to Bleier.
     
  5. sport historian

    sport historian Master

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    Bleirer wasn't a "tailback." The Steelers didn't use the I-formation. They used the standard pro set with the halfback and fullback side by side. Harris, at fullback, was the major runner with Bleirer at halfback with a fair amount of carries.

    The Steelers had sputtered on offense the first half of the 1974 season. They had the Joe Gilliam experiment at QB. The Steelers reinstated Terry Bradshaw at QB and decided to try Rocky Bleirer in the backfield with Franco Harris.

    The Steelers began their Super Bowl run and the Harris-Bleirer combination became the best pair of running backs in the league for the next several years.
     
  6. white is right

    white is right Hall of Famer

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    You are right, I used lazy terminology I don't recall the Power I formation in the running schemes. He was a half back(similar but not the same).
     

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