Bobby Shaw, Steelers Wide Receiver, 1998-2001
First, can you let readers know what you are doing with yourself professionally since your time in the NFL and how you got started in this line of work?
I’m doing very little now – I was working in real estate for a little while, but the way the market is…I’m not doing that anymore. I had a golf shop for a year and a half – from 2007-2009, That was my primary thing then. I had lots of fun doing it, but unfortunately I had to close it.
I’m enjoying being a husband and dad now. I have two boys – 5 1/2 and 1 1/2 year olds – and am really enjoying being a full-time dad. I enjoy spending quality time with them – it’s all about my boys.
You put up some big numbers in college at Cal – what made you so successful in college and how frustrating was it for you to be a sixth round pick?
You know, I was projected to go much higher, even as a junior in college. You never know how things are going to go on draft day. What team needs what.
I was definitely disappointed but I never felt that my draft status would define me. It just increased my desire to succeed and passion to prove people wrong. I did that all through my career. There were many people who didn’t think I’d be nearly as successful as I was in college at Cal. And even more people with those same kind of thoughts about me in the NFL.
I worked harder at the little things – routes, catching the ball, making people miss….It drove me more. And I’m sure I’m not the only player to ever be disappointed on draft day. You just have to make the best of it and don’t let it define you. You just have to improve your self and make yourself better, regardless of where you were drafted.
You wound up in Pittsburgh in ’98 after being drafted by Seattle that same season. How did that come about and what made you decide to sign with the Steelers?
It happened by accident really, but I ultimately had no say-so in the matter. I have no regrets and am happy it happened.
I was on Seattle’s practice squad for the first six weeks of the season. One of their receivers had a bad game against the Raiders and got released. So they got me off the practice squad an on to the active roster for two weeks. Then they had lineman issues – one got hurt and they needed room on the roster that week. They technically cut me and tried to sneak me back on the practice squad through waivers, and then re-sign me to the active roster in a couple days…but the Steelers caught it. There were about three or four teams that tried to sign me but the Steelers had the worst record at the time so they got to sign me.
Who helped you to adjust to the NFL as a rookie both on and off the field in Pittsburgh, and how so?
The best thing about Pittsburgh – and I now this from being on a few teams – is that it’s a football town. From the organization to the fans. It’s truly a family affair – that’s what sets Pittsburgh apart.
The players all bond together. And I had friends on the team I had known for a long time before. I didn’t feel alone due to the atmosphere. They were comedians and all accepting guys.
Will Blackwell – he and I are like family. We’ve known each other since high school. He helped me most with adjustments and the city. There were no egos on that team.
After a tough first few seasons in Pittsburgh where Pittsburgh failed to make the playoffs, the team turned it around in 2001 and went 13-3. How did the team and coaching staff handle the struggles and turn things around in 2001?
It starts from the top down. The family atmosphere keeps the team centered. The family support system makes the tougher times easier. It was frustrating but we all hung out and did what we needed to do to create that winning chemistry. We talked about the frustrations and dealt with them in a positive and productive way – we didn’t always leave it to the coaches to solve things. We self-policed ourselves.
How tight was the receiving corps – especially with the depth at the time and the focus on the running game, was it frustrating getting less pass thrown your way?
The receivers had a lot of fun, to say the least. We were extremely tight – I can’t put into words how much fun we had. We had no egos. Me, Hines, Courtney Hawkins, Will Blackwell, Charles Johnson….you never knew where the next joke was coming from. All of us were pranksters.
How did humor play a part on those Steelers teams and who were some of the ringleaders behind the humor and hijinks – and examples?
We knew how to joke and be professional at the same time. I was a good balance. Bettis was funny – but with his status as a proven vet, he could get away with more than we could (laughing).
Cowher was great at allowing some leeway for fun – to take a moment to allow guys to laugh then let players self-police themselves afterwards. That balance allowed us to enjoy the game and being with one another on and off the field.
Tell us about your connection to the Bay Area music/rap scene – especially with Andre Nickatina who referred to you often in his lyrics?
We represent each other out here! Andre is my cousin – I mean, my real cousin. We’ve been tight like that since birth. He’s always been there for me and I’ve always been there for him – a lot of people don’t know that. People should definitely be up on Dre and support his music. He’s a real pioneer that has major fan support all over the country.
You left Pittsburgh after the 2001 season. What prompted that departure and how hard was that for you, especially after the recent success of the team?
Unfortunately, that’s the business side of football. Especially after a great season, it’s the unfortunate side of the business.
In my second and third year I put up good numbers considering our run-oriented offense. I had the highest yards per catch, and was near the top in receptions and touchdowns too. In my fourth year, we switched offensive coordinators from Kevin Gilbride (now the New York Giants coordinator) to Mike Mularkey, and my playing time and numbers were drastically cut down.
I felt I wanted to be a bigger part of an offense. That’s the tough part of the business – weighing comfort versus doing all you can do to be all you can be, Re-signing would not have allowed me to do that. I didn’t want to take the safe route in my career.
I had a career year after that in Jacksonville, and then Buffalo after that. I was able to accomplish a lot of my goals by leaving, but it was still unfortunate. I don’t regret it though.
What are your favorite memories of your time in Pittsburgh, and what makes them so?
Going ninety yards versus Baltimore to win the division was definitely one. Wallace just broke that record last season! Prior to that, it was a long-standing thing. It was a Sunday night and a big game. The timing of the play was such a big moment for me – my biggest moment.
Also, the relationship with the guys. Today or tomorrow, if we all met for dinner, it’d be like we never left each other. The love we had for each other made it a great experience beyond just playing football.
It was a great place to be – the best place I ever played. I always wanted to reciprocate the love I got from fans. I never tried to showboat, I just wanted to show them my appreciation.
Any last thoughts for readers?
It was fitting – Hines’ retirement speech and his talkingabout the love he had for the fans. I understand that. I’m just another player in the long line of that “Black & Yellow”, that appreciated every bit of his time in Pittsburgh.