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Pittsburgh’s Shell named to centennial Hall class

NFL

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth attempt.

Tagliabue and former New York Giants general manager George Young made it to the hall in Canton, Ohio, as contributors. Ex-Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris and former Cleveland receiver Mac Speedie completed the centennial class announced Wednesday. The class of 10 senior candidates, three contributors and two coaches are part of the hall’s celebration of the NFL’s 100th season.

Tagliabue replaced Pete Rozelle as league commissioner in 1989 and served 17 years, during which there was labor peace, expansion to 32 teams and widespread upgrades in stadiums. The NFL’s television revenues under Tagliabue skyrocketed, and he helped establish a pension system for former players.

The issue that seemed to keep him from earlier selection to the hall was how the NFL dealt with concussions and head trauma. But, as with all commissioners, Tagliabue was doing the bidding of his bosses, the team owners. He made some unwise comments about the connection between concussions and football for which he later apologized.

Current Commissioner Roger Goodell noted that Tagliabue is “a guy who made such a difference to the game. I think when you look back at his career, he brought it into the modern era and not only from a business standpoint. He understood how a community and the NFL have to operate together ultimately.”

Young, who also worked under Tagliabue in the league office, was a front-office executive for the Colts and Dolphins before joining — and turning around — a moribund Giants franchise. New York won two Super Bowls under his guidance.

Harris was one of the hardest-hitting defensive backs in the NFL, a major part of the Dallas defenses of the 1970s who made three All-Pro teams and six Pro Bowls. He played in seven conference title games and five Super Bowls, winning two.

Speedie was part of the unstoppable Cleveland Browns offense in the AAFC and then in the NFL. As one of two primary targets for quarterback Otto Graham, along with Dante Lavelli — both already are in the hall — Speedie averaged 16.1 yards on 349 receptions and scored 32 touchdowns. Twice he gamed more than 1,000 yards receiving.

Another member of the Steel Curtain, safety Donnie Shell, made it as did fellow safety Bobby Dillon and defensive tackle Alex Karras. Shell is the 10th man from the Pittsburgh dynasty of the 1970s to be elected, and the fifth from the defense that dominated the NFL.

Also, Duke Slater, one of the NFL’s first black players, defensive standout Ed Sprinkle and NFL Films pioneer Steve Sabol were announced. So were wide receiver Harold Carmichael and offensive tackles Winston Hill and Jim Covert.

Over the weekend, the election of coaches Bill Cowher and Jimmy Johnson as part of the special class celebrating the NFL’s 100th season was revealed. Four more 2020 members are upcoming.

Shell had to be special to keep up with the likes of Joe Greene, Mel Blount, Jack Ham and Jack Lambert on the Steel Curtain. A punishing hitter with terrific ball skills, Shell played 14 seasons, had 51 interceptions, made three All-Pro teams and five Pro Bowls. He also won four Super Bowls.

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