The return of Barry Bonds to Pittsburgh for the Pirates Opening Day almost overshadowed the celebration of Opening Day because of the anticipation of what kind of reaction he’d get from the crowd. Bonds was greeted with a combination of boos and cheers from the Pirates fans at PNC Park and it got me thinking if there was any former Steelers player who could garner that kind of reaction from Steeler Nation?
Barry Bonds is obviously one of the most polarizing figures in Major League Baseball. That’s without any of his history as a Pittsburgh Pirate. The hatred of Bonds from Pirates fans stems from the final play in Game 7 of the 1992 NLCS where a late throw by Bonds allowed Sid Bream to score the winning run and sent the Atlanta Braves to the World Series instead of the Pirates. Immediately that offseason, Bonds left the Pirates to sign the biggest contract ever at that time with the San Francisco Giants. The Pirates then went on to two decades of losing seasons. Even if he had never been uttered in the same sentence as steroids after that, you can see why diehard Pirates fans might have some hard feelings there.
To think of who in the Steelers organization could be worthy of such emotion and anger I had to think of a player who had contributed to some successful times but then was directly involved in some not-so-good times following that. Thankfully, the Steelers haven’t gone through the struggles the Pirates have in the last twenty years and going back to their early days of the Steelers before their championship years in the 70s would be useless because of the age factor. Barry Bonds is still relevant with most of the Pirates fans because he’s still fresh in everyone’s memories. Steelers history before say, the Immaculate Reception, which was over 40 years ago, is not something that’s fresh in everyone’s memories. Given that, there are very few players that come to mind that would give Steeler Nation a similar reaction that Bonds gives to Pirates fans. Here are some that come to mind for me.
Honestly, I don’t think Kordell would even actually get booed. While Kordell did contribute to some god awful seasons for the Steelers, it wasn’t all entirely his fault. He had a revolving door at Offensive Coordinator and while he showed flashes of being good, never amounted to much during his tenure with the team. He certainly didn’t have nearly the same kind of effect on fans that Bonds would.
While Terry Bradshaw helped bring the Pittsburgh Steelers to the Promised Land, his departure from the Steel City was certainly less than friendly. Bradshaw retired from football in 1983 and even though he was part of one of the most celebrated teams in NFL history, he rarely made appearances with the 70s Steelers, aside from presenting Mike Webster at his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame. It would be 20 years from the time he retired until Bradshaw returned to Pittsburgh, for a Monday Night Football game in 2002. My grandmother constantly called him an a-hole whenever she saw him on screen because she felt he disrespected the city by leaving after he retired and never returning to support the city after that. I don’t think that Bradshaw did or ever would get booed whenever he returns or will return to Pittsburgh but I have a feeling that my grandmother, in heaven, is still calling him an a-hole whenever she can.
If there’s anyone that could stir up the same kinds of sentiments that Barry Bonds evokes in Pirates fans for Steeler Nation its Neil O’Donnell, without question. The similarities are pretty clear. Neil O’Donnell was the Steelers quarterback from 1990-1995. O’Donnell had tremendous success with the Steelers during his playing time. They went to the playoffs four out of six years and back-to-back AFC Championship Games in 1994 and 1995. O’Donnell could have brought home “The One for The Thumb” but instead he threw 2 costly interceptions to Larry Brown of the Dallas Cowboys in the same friggin spot on the field, the second one when the Steelers had the chance to take the lead. The Steelers went on to lose their first Super Bowl ever and Neil O’Donnell left during the offseason in free agency to sign a ridiculous contract with the New York Jets.
There it is, he fell short in a big game and then bolted in free agency immediately after. Also I’ll never be convinced otherwise that O’Donnell didn’t accept a bribe from Jerry Jones to throw the game like that. The man threw like 2 interceptions the entire 1995 season and then all of a sudden in the Super Bowl he can’t throw it to anyone but Larry Brown?! Ok I never said I was a reasonable thinker.
What are your thoughts, Steeler Nation? Anyone else come to mind that would get booed if they returned to Pittsburgh?
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