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John Rowser, Steelers Cornerback, 1970-1973

December 1, 2011
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John Rowser:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days?

I’m retired – I live outside of Detroit. I see Frenchy {Fuqua} here all the time. I’m sixty-seven years old and had some businesses out here but now I’m retired and enjoying life.

You were traded to Pittsburgh in 1970 from Green Bay. What prompted the trade?

I was stuck behind Hall of Famers and All-Pro guys like Herb Adderley and Willie Wood there. I didn’t  sign my new contract so they traded me to Pittsburgh.  I had lots of knowledge and experience playing behind those guys that I think made me a good fit for Pittsburgh.

How did it feel going to a team that was struggling so much at the time?

Pittsburgh was in last place but they were rebuilding. They just got Joe Greene, Preston Pearson, Henry Davis…. I was able to take a leadership role on defense there. Not total leadership – players take on their own roles. But people asked me a lot of questions due to my experience in Green Bay and dedication to the game – the way I played. Guys like Mel Blount tended to listen and follow my example.

I was supposed to start in Green Bay when Adderley and Williams retired. But they kept on persevering. It’s better to start on a losing team than be a backup on a winning one, after all. There’s no opportunity to make money as a backup – especially then. You can’t just wait for your turn – you never know what can happen. There’s always people coming to replace you or you can get injured – you have to take your opportunity when you can.

You were there as the team was starting to turn itself around. What were the major factors in that turnaround, in your opinion?

I was there in a growing situation – it was fun to be there. The key was learning not to lose, really. My first couple of years there we would lose games in the last quarter because of mistakes.

I had a talk with Joe Greene about not making excuses, I remember. I told Joe that if Paul Warfield makes the winning catch at the end of the game, that’s supposed to happen, but I’m not going to let that happen. If I tip the ball, make a shoe-string tackle, whatever it takes. I wouldn’t let it happen – we couldn’t make excuses.

The situation got better as we got better players. Fuqua, Pearson, Dave Smith, Ron Shanklin, Hubie Bryant…we got more athletic people – especially from the South. Mixing those guys up with the veteran players gave us lots more talent and less mistakes.

That first year, Bradshaw made a lot of mistakes. But he improved and his wide receivers and line got better, and the defense let up few points.

What was the mindset of those teams?

We were very loose. – and that was from the coaches too. Noll played the best people and let them be themselves. The Steelers were the first team to go without team blazers. All the other teams’ players had to wear team blazers, but Noll let the team express itself as they wanted. That showed up in play- they let athletes be athletes. They didn’t let the system confine you.

What kind of player were you like?

I was a solid player – gifted against the run. I played a lot of Cover 2 in college. I was pretty good in man-to-man too, but not as good as guys like Mel Blount – I didn’t have his speed. I could anticipate though. I was the starting cornerback on the best defense in the league, that has to say something. Some of that success was due to the pass rush, but some to me too.

You left Pittsburgh after the 1973 season. What happened and how hard was that for you?

It wasn’t a choice. They drafted someone in the first round that they thought could replace me.

It’s a mercenary game. You go where you are paid. There  was lots of good camaraderie I had with those guys. We should have won a Super Bowl when I was there. Of course they had to win it after I left. Bradshaw came around – made less mistakes to help them win it.

I made more money in Denver though and played with some good players there too.. You can’t bemoan the situation – you just take advantage of it. In Denver I helped  the team develop the Orange Crush defense. Denver really valued me there as well.

Anything stand out most about your time with the Steelers?

It was  a beautiful experience. I had some tight relationships there. One unique thing about the team was that no one group stayed together – the defensive backs and the lineman didn’t stay to themselves. I’m still close to L.C. and Joe Greene. We all mingled and stayed together. It was a nice team and real good playing there.

Any last thoughts for readers?

I owned a shuttle service for Ford and had opened up a Playboy club – a nightclub – for ten years here too. Some Steelers would stop by when they came here. I went to the University of Michigan and came back here after football. I would have loved to stay in Pittsburgh, but my main connections were here in my hometown.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. December 1, 2011 5:24 pm

    cool work, love your layout, suits the blog well 🙂

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