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Mike Webster Pittsburgh Steelers Hall of Fame
"He was the prototype center"- Mean Joe Greene

Mike Webster

Mike Webster nicknamed "Iron Mike" anchored the Steelers offensive line in their dynasty era and is considered by some as the best center in NFL history. Webster was regarded as the best center in the Big Ten during most of his career at the University of Wisconsin. At 6-foot-1, 255 pounds, he was drafted in the 5th round of the 1974 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers. Serving as a backup at center and guard for two years and being mentored by veteran Ray Mansfield, Mike became the team's starting center in 1976, where he would remain for 150 straight games until 1986. These years included four Super Bowl wins by the Steelers, and Mike and Terry Bradshaw are consequently one of the most well-known center-quarterback pairs in history. Webster was honored as an All-Pro seven times and played in the Pro Bowl nine times.

Mike Webster was also one of the favorite Steelers among his teammates and a great locker room influence to the younger players.Terry Bradshaw was one of his best friends on the team and they had a strong bond on and off the field. So strong on the field Terry would look for Mike after many touchdowns during their career to celebrate. If Terry did not see Mike soon after the touchdown he would yell out "Webster" so they could celebrate together.

Webster is also perhaps the best-known of a long line of All-Pro centers for the Steelers from 1964 to 2006, which primarily included just four men in 43 years: Mansfield, Webster, Dermontti Dawson, and Jeff Hartings. In his last year in Pittsburgh, Webster returned the favor by mentoring the then-rookie Dawson in the same manner Mansfield mentored Webster earlier in his career.

Mike Webster was a free agent after the 1988 season. He was signed by the Kansas City Chiefs, who initially made him an offensive line coach before allowing him to return as the starting center. His career ended after the 1990 season, with a total of 245 games played at center. At the time of his retirement, he was the last active player in the NFL to have played on all four Super Bowl winning teams of the 1970's Pittsburgh Steelers.

One of his teammates said he was the prototype center for today's game. Joe Greene remembered when he and Ernie Holmes used to be able to beat him up. They couldn't do that after about 4 years. While the Steelers no longer officially retire jerseys, Webster's #52 has not been reissued by the team since he retired and it is generally understood that no Steeler will wear that number again. In 1999, he was ranked number 75 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Football Players. The football stadium at Rhinelander High School, his alma mater, is named Mike Webster Stadium in his honor.

Mike Webster was proven to have been disabled before retiring from the NFL. After retirement Webster suffered from amnesia, dementia, depression, and acute bone and muscle pain. He lived out of his pickup truck or train stations between Wisconsin and Pittsburgh, even though his friends and former teammates were willing to rent apartments for him. In his last years Webster lived with his youngest son, Garrett, who though only a teenager at the time, had to act as the parent to his own father. Webster's wife divorced him six months before his death in 2002. He was only 50 years old.

Webster is seen as an example of the difficulties American football players suffer when their careers are over. Other players who retired because of head injuries include Johnny Unitas, Merril Hoge, Troy Aikman, Steve Young, Joe Gilliam, Dave Pear, Wayne Chrebet, and Al Toon. Webster was cremated after his death, and his ashes split among his wife and their four children.

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