Michael Minter, Steelers Defensive Lineman, 1987
First, can you let readers know what you have been doing with yourself since your time in the NFL and how you got started in this profession?
I moved back to my home state of Texas when I left Pittsburgh. With my sports background, I felt led to coaching. I wanted to give back to the youth.
So, I returned to school to finish up my degree and got a teaching certification from the University of North Texas. I coached football and track for about ten years at Denton High School.
I currently teach at Denton High School . This is my 20th year of teaching. I also own a driver’s education school (NorTex Driving School). I spend a lot of my time coaching select baseball on my son’s team. I have seven kids (four boys, three girls).
You were signed by the Steelers in ’87 . How did the team discover you and approach you to play for them during the strike?
I was signed as a free agent in 1987 before the strike but I was released during training camp due to contractual issues. I was attending college in Texas when the strike began and Pittsburgh called and offered me a contract as a replacement player. I felt that would be a chance for me to get my foot back in the NFL door.
It was an easy decision for me to play during the NFL strike. It was a second chance for me to make a living by playing the game I loved. Pittsburgh was my favorite childhood team, so I could not imagine turning down that opportunity.
How difficult was the decision to play for you considering the strike, and how did you handle those veteran players that were upset at the replacement players?
I had gotten to know many of the veteran players during training camp before I was released, so they were pretty respectful to me considering the situation. We had a couple of the veteran players in Pittsburgh cross the picket line, so I think the focus was more on those guys.
I was one of a few replacement players left in camp when all of the veterans returned to work. There was not enough locker space available, so I was assigned to share a locker space with the late Terry Long. I remember that he was not too happy when he found out about that decision. He attempted to take it out on me on the practice field. I think I gained his respect after a few battles.
What aspects of your game did the coaches work on with you most, and how? What was your role on the team?
I think the biggest weakness of most rookies in the NFL is learning how to identify tendencies of your opponents. I had to learn how to pick their tendencies within hours of film study. Coach Noll and Coach Green taught me to pay attention to the detail in my techniques.
I played the nose guard position on running downs. On passing situations, I was able to move out and play some defensive end. My primary role on the team was as a run stopper. Playing in that 3-4 scheme that is a must.
Who helped you adjust as a Steeler – both on and off the field – and how?
I felt at home on the field because I knew Thomas Everett from high school and Bubby Brister from college. This made the transition to a NFL locker room much smoother.
Off the field Earnest Jackson, Keith Willis and Mike Webster were very helpful by holding conversations about the game and life in general.
How big of a part did humor play on those teams and who were some of the biggest characters on that Steelers team and what made them so? Any examples of the hijinks?
We had a very good locker room. Bubby was the biggest practical joker. I think that was his way of saying he liked you. Ernest Jackson was very funny also. Ernest was not much of a practical joker but it was just the unique way he had of presenting his messages.
Who were some of the toughest players you faced as a player – both in practice and on game days? What made them so?
In practice Mike Webster was one of the toughest guy to go against. He had such good technique and intelligence it made him hard to beat. His size was deceiving. He was not as big as he looked but a real tough blue collar player.
You played three games before the strike ended. What were your hopes of making the team after the strike ended and what were you told by the coaches upon your release?
I was on the inactive list for two games after the strike. I was told that they had to release me but they wanted to bring me back to camp in 1988. My hopes where to remain in Pittsburgh and make a name for myself. I thought that I could continue to be a help on the defensive line, so I was disappointed to be released.
The Steelers brought me back to camp in ’88 as they said they would, so I still had hope.
What are the biggest misperceptions you think people have about the replacement players of the ’87 season?
That we were a bunch of rag tag guys. There were a lot of talented players throughout that group. Some went on to play years after the strike.
What are some of your best memories as a Steeler and what made them so?
Just walking into the locker room for the first time seeing Donnie Shell, Mike Webster, John Stallworth, Luis Lipps and knowing you are apart of that team. Being coached by the legends of the game like Chuck Noll, Tony Dungy and Mean Joe Green.
What are your thoughts on today’s NFL – both on the rules and the players themselves?
I think the rules have really made it hard for the players like James Harrison to play the game the way he has been taught to play his entire life. I think the NFL is more concerned with its image in the changing of these rules than the safety of its players.
The players are bigger, faster and stronger in this generation but the market has influenced them to be more selfish. Its more about themselves then the team.
Any last thoughts for readers?
It was a joy to play for the Steelers organization during that short period. I have a lot of respect for the Rooney family. They paved the way in the NFL. This was also one of the best cities to play professional football. They love their Steelers and yes, we felt the love!