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Craig Bingham, Steelers Linebacker, 1982-1984, 1987

January 20, 2012
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Craig Bingham:

First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself these days and how you got involved with DCI?

I am currently in sales with DCI selling construction related products.

You were born in Kingston, Jamaica. How important is the Jamaican heritage to you and what about that background (if anything) do you think has influenced your approach as a football player?

My Jamaican heritage is VERY important to me. My parents always taught my siblings and I to always work hard…especially when we came stateside. I still have lots of relatives there. As for what influence it had relating to “American football” I’m not sure. In the Islands, we call soccer football. One kicks a ball with one’s foot…I suppose there in lies the name.

You were the sixth round pick of the Steelers in 1982. Were you surprised to be picked by the Steelers? What were your thoughts and concerns on getting to play for Coach Noll and the Steelers organization?

I was a sixth rounder and very thankful for it. I knew nothing about the Steelers or Chuck Noll. When I went off to college, football was the means to an end…that was to graduate from college. That was accomplished.

Who helped take you under their wing and mentor you as a rookie – and how did they do so?

When I came to Pittsburgh, there were many great linebackers here. Jack Ham and his wife took a liking to my fiance’ and I. They helped us adjust to the city.

You were said to be one of the most spirited, difficult players to go up against in practice. Any thoughts/examples on why players felt that way – and how much did that help you to make the team?

I would say that I was difficult on the field. We could be the best of friends off the field. If we were on different sides of the ball, if you came in my area, plan on getting hit…and hit hard. Chuck Noll always said, perfect practice makes perfect. Whatever you did in practice, more than likely, is what you will do in the game.

Your second season you suffered what was almost a career-threatening knee injury that required three surgeries and a great deal of rehab. How did you suffer the injury and how were you able to get back on the field so quickly after three surgeries?

Ah, the knee injury. That happened in a game against the Packers. I was spinning out of a block, my whole body turned while my foot remained planted in the grass. I heard and felt the pop. I asked the person blocking me to call the trainers. Gotta tell ya, it did hurt.

I was able to get through the surgeries and rehab by grace of the good Lord.

Secondly, I was motivated by many who said that I would never play again. In fact, my knee was not fully repaired until I was finished playing. I played the later years without an ACL, or should I say, a very few strands. Thanks to Dr. Richard Steadman, Lake Tahoe, who helped to give me the motivation to get it done and get back out on the field. I was the second person from PA…the other being the Senator, and the first pro football player he had operated on.

How worried were you during the rehab process that you would not be able to play again, and how did the coaches, players and front office support you through the rehab process?

After I made the team again in ’84, one of the trainers came to me and said they had written me off a being finished and that I proved both he and them wrong. They did not think that I would have recovered from the injury.

Who were some of the biggest characters of those 80’s teams you played for and what made them so – any examples?

Sidney “Bull” Thorton, FB, was one guy…very happy go lucky kinda guy. How he carried himself at times, would make you wonder if this was an athlete. Come game time, he was all in.

You were released by the Steelers in ’84 – how difficult was that for you and how did the other teams you played for compare to the Steelers?

I was released on the last cut down day in ’85. I heard about it that morning on the radio. What was interesting, a couple of days prior to being let go, one of the coaches asked me how’s my knee. The question seemed odd, because it came from a coach who was not my position coach.

You were re-signed by the Steelers again in ’87 during the strike as a replacement starter. How difficult of a decision was it for you to cross the picket line and play and how did your former teammates react to your decision?

During the ’87 strike year, I received a few calls from the Steelers to come back and play. I phoned a few people, including player rep Tunch Ilkin to let them know what was going on. They had no objections to me crossing…since Mike Webster had already crossed.

What are some of your best memories of playing for Pittsburgh – both on and off the field?

Greatest moment. I’m not sure. As I reflect back, there were too many to pick one. The simple fact that I was a part of a great organization, with many Hall of Fame players, was a blessing.
 
What are your thoughts on today’s NFL and the new rule changes….?

The new rules, especially for defensive players, are not favorable. Unfortunately, the Steelers have become the poster team for rule enforcement.

I can appreciate, the concern for concussions…I’ve had a few. Some of these plays happen so fast. Offensive players who aware that they are about to be hit, will try to protect themselves by ducking the head. When that happens, the target area for contact changes very quickly.

This is something they will have to work on during the off-season.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Dan Herrmann permalink
    February 11, 2013 4:56 pm

    I had two employees that we gave approved time off to particpate during the 1987 strike, Bret Shugarts who was one of our National Sales Managers and Ben Lawrence who worked directly under me at the time. This was at Southwestern Bell Media or today’s AT&T.
    Bret has continued to excel at AT&T and is responsible for Southern Georgia while Ben unfortunatly has passed on.
    During your interview with Dan Reider he mentioned Bret helping him get started in his business career.
    Both Dan and Bret’s Sons have done quite well in football. Bret’s son JB started three years at Ohio State and was on Cleveland and buffalo Practice squads with his roommate Mike Adams rookie of the year for the Steelers, and Reiders son who is going into his senior year is being sought after by several major schools including Penn State while Bret is trying to get Lou Fickel to take him at Ohio State.
    Intereseting stories about that Steeler replacements of ’87. Playing with Webster, Peterson, and several other who crossed the line. Bono turned out to be a decent QB also.
    Contact Bret for a story about that experience- One day calling on customers and the next day in full pads in Johnston.

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