Edmund Nelson, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1982-1987/Steelers Broadcaster
First, can you let readers know what you are doing these days? How are you enjoying the announcing work and what other ventures are you involved in?
I am a twenty-two year State Farm Insurance Agent and we provided insurance and financial services to mainly the South Hills area of Pittsburgh, but we have clients all over Pennsylvania.
I also work for the NFL as the Uniform Inspector and game day compliance. I make sure the players are dressed pretty on game day and make sure all equipment on each sideline is compliant with NFL rules.
Finally I’m fourteen years in my broadcasting career at KDKA TV and have been fortunate to be the color analyst on the Steeler preseason broadcasts, and I co-host a pregame and two postgame shows with Bob Pompeani during the regular and post season. I love the announcing because it’s my way of staying in touch with my first love which is football and my team. The Steeler organization is second to none in the league and the Rooney family has been very good to me and my family over the course of the thirty years I’ve been involved with them.
As someone who’s played the game and now follows the team closely, what are your thoughts on this team defensively – especially on its struggles on third downs, turnovers and holding leads?
There are several parts to the defense’s struggles: 1) they are getting a bit aged and the time has come to focus in on the positions that need help, cornerback, nose tackle and safety, 2) the rules in the game support offense and scoring and 3) the Steelers have drafted some great young talent who need a year or two to develop.
You were drafted a year after defensive line stalwarts like Greene. Greenwood and Banaszak retired. Who were the guys on the defensive line that took over those leadership roles when you got there and how did they do so?
Actually Keith Willis and I made the team the same year L.C. Greenwood and John Banaszak were released. Gary Dunn was the leader on the defensive line in those early ‘80s and Jack Lambert was still at the helm of the defense. It was really no change to the intensity of the Steel Curtain in the ‘70s, but we changed to a 53 defense instead of the stunt 4-3 of the glory days.
It took a different player to play the new defensive front which is part of the reason I made the team in the first place.
You were drafted during a strike season in 1982. How did that affect camp and your first season – what was the mood of the players?
Free agency was a huge sticking point back then because player movement wasn’t really allowed unless a team decided to trade you. We fought for it then and again in 1986 when we had a little victory and since then free agency has blossomed into what we have now.
The players were united in 1982 but the league basically broke us in 1986 when they signed the scab players and many players lost their jobs when we finally went back to work. We also had a lot of defectors cross the picket lines, many were well-known and popular players nearing the end of their careers and they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any paychecks.
What coaches and players took you under their wing as a rookie – and how did they help you adjust to the NFL?
Oddly enough I owe my development to John Kolb who of course was a standout offensive tackle during his playing years in the ‘70s, but became our defensive line coach when George Perles went to Michigan State.
Coach Kolb was a technician and very detail oriented. We played really good defense in those years as well but we never won the big one or got to a Superbowl. We played hard though and we were still respected as a tough team. Despite the departure of some future Hall of Famers, guys like Ham, Stallworth, Webster, Shell and other great players still remained on that team in 1982.
What lessons were you able to learn from those guys and how intimidating was it playing alongside those players as a rookie?
Those are the guys who taught me what it takes to play and stay in the NFL. It was a great thrill of my life to be able to be on the same team and be in the same huddle with such great players.
What was your biggest adjustment to the NFL game – and how did you prove yourself as a rookie?
The speed of the game accelerates when you get to the NFL and the intensity is unbelievable! That’s quite the adjustment to make for a rookie.
I was never the fastest or the strongest, but I was a smart player and there were few meaner than I was. Both of those attributes served me well during my career.
1982 was the first season that the Steelers started implementing the 3-4. What brought on that change and how difficult was it for that team to adjust to such a new and complex scheme?
I had known nothing else so it was an easy adjustment for me. The veterans took it in stride…I never knew it was a big deal because Jack Lambert still played at a pro bowl level, Donnie Shell was still awesome, Gary Dunn was at the nose and it wasn’t much different than playing the stunt 4-3 tackle who would line up over the center.
What are your best memories of your time in Pittsburgh – either on or off the field?
My first sack which I think came against the Browns, I came around on a stunt and sacked Brian Sipe for a big loss and the crowd went nuts. I had four sacks against the Rams when Eric Dickerson came to town, we shut him down as well.
In 1984 season we had a huge playoff win over the Broncos in Mile High Stadium that put us in the AFC Championship game at Miami…we know how that game went. Soooooo close!
You went on to play for New England in 1988. Why did you leave Pittsburgh and how hard was it to adjust to a new team?
Worst year of my playing career, I hated the Boston area and they didn’t treat me very well. I was released by the Steelers and picked up by the Patriots in the 2nd week of the season. I was released by the Patriots the last game of the season and picked up by the Browns…THE BROWNS of all teams and I played my last game there which was a wildcard game and happened to also be Marty Shottenheimer’s last game in Cleveland.
Any last thoughts for readers?
We are in a great time for Steelers football. All the pieces are in place for several more Superbowl runs in the near future. Come along and enjoy the ride with me!! Go Steelers!!!