Mel Blount would be an imposing presence if he played in today's NFL. A half-century ago, when Blount began what turned into a Hall of Fame career, he was unlike any other cornerback who proceeded him. The prototype for a perfect NFL cornerback, Blount had the size (6-foot-3 and 205 pounds), speed (he ran a low 4.4 in the 40-yard dash) and natural athletic skills to dominate opposing receivers.
Blount also had an unquenchable thirst to succeed after not getting selected in the 1970 draft. All of this resulted in a career that has been immortalized in Canton, Ohio. And while he is already in the conversation as one of the greatest cornerbacks in league history, the career Steeler feels that he would be infinitely better in today's NFL.
"If I was playing in today's game, and they're playing 16 games and they're throwing the ball what, 80% of the time, I'm coming out of every game with, I'm not lying, two interceptions or more," Blount said on the All Things Covered Podcast with Patrick Peterson & Bryant McFadden. "I had 11 interceptions in 1975. On average, they were throwing the ball 13 times a game. … I might get sometimes two, three [targets] a game. They did not throw the ball a whole lot."
Refuse to be denied.— Pittsburgh Steelers (@steelers) October 26, 2019
Hitting #️⃣4️⃣6️⃣ on the #NFL100 Game Changers list is Mel Blount! pic.twitter.com/5VxLcUPknt
Blount, who picked off 57 passes during his 14 seasons in Pittsburgh, was just as bold when he weighed in on the greatest quarterback of all time conversation.
"To this day, I'd take Terry Bradshaw, and I'd go out there and I'd be just as comfortable and confident that we could win a game with that guy that we can with anybody else," Blount said. "Because he was one tough cookie."
Unlike Blount, Bradshaw was a highly touted prospect coming out of college. The No. 1 overall pick in the 1970 draft, Bradshaw struggled to live up to expectations during the first several years of his career. In fact, he was benched during the Steelers' first Super Bowl season. Bradshaw eventually regained his starting spot that year and went on to help lead Pittsburgh to four Super Bowl wins in six years. Bradshaw was his best in big games, as he was the first player to win Super Bowl MVP twice. His masterpiece was in Super Bowl XIII, when he threw for 318 yards and four touchdowns against the Cowboys' vaunted "Doomsday Defense".
He didn't throw as much as today's quarterbacks, but the passes Bradshaw did throw were oftentimes the difference. He threw the game-clinching touchdown pass in the fourth quarter in all four Super Bowls. The first quarterback to go 4-0 in Super Bowl competition, Bradshaw is arguably the best deep-ball thrower of all time. Of his nine Super Bowl touchdown passes, four of those traveled at least 47 yards. His 75-yard touchdown pass to John Stallworth in Super Bowl XIII was at the time tied for the longest touchdown pass in Super Bowl history. His 61-yard bomb to Lynn Swann in Super Bowl X clinched Pittsburgh's 21-17 win over the Cowboys. Bradshaw's 73-yard touchdown to Stallworth in Super Bowl XIV spearheaded the Steelers' come-from-behind win over the Rams.
"I just said it, Terry Bradshaw," Blount said when asked who is the best quarterback in Steelers history. "Ben Roethlisberger, he is a great player. He's been a great player ... . A guy's record should speak for itself. Terry won four Super Bowls. He did his thing. Ben has won two. He's done his thing, so he's a great player.
"When I'm asked, 'Who's the greatest player?' Everybody has a different opinion. My opinion is the guy that I played with."
Before Super Bowl LV, Steelers Hall of Fame running back Franco Harris inadvertently detailed what made Bradshaw so great as a quarterback when asked about Patrick Mahomes and Tom Brady.
"When you see Brady and Mahomes, how they control the ball and take their team downfield with their passing, it's just incredible," Harris said during an appearance on CBS Sports HQ. "When I look back to when we played, passing wasn't at the scale that it is today. But when they did have some passes, they were big plays, big bombs that changed the course of the game."
As great as he was, Bradshaw didn't have an NFL rule named in his honor. Blount does hold that distinction, as the NFL created a rule change in 1978 that prohibited the contact between defensive backs and receivers. From its inception, that rule has been known in history as the "Mel Blount Rule". And while he really didn't like it at first, Blount has grown to enjoy that part of his playing legacy.
"When that happened, to me, I took it as an insult," Blount recalled. "As if, 'OK, so you're putting this rule in because you think that's the only way I can play and that it's going to slow me down.' We were so dominant … Joe Greene, L.C. Greenwood, Jack Lambert. We were so dominant. They were trying to find ways to slow our defense down. … I didn't really like the rule, but I wanted to prove that there was another gear that I could go to, another level. So we were able to go win two (more) Super Bowls after they changed that rule.
"My kids, my grandkids, they just think it's the coolest thing to have an NFL rule named after their papa, as they call me. The older I get, the more than I appreciate that I had that kind of impact on the game."