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Shell, Cowher to be inducted into hall of fame

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Former Pittsburgh Steelers safety Donnie Shell is going into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

He joins former Steelers head coach Bill Cowher. They will be inducted as part of the hall’s celebration of the NFL’s 100th season.

Steelers President Art Rooney released this statement to congratulate Shell:

“I want to congratulate Donnie Shell for his election to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. He was a dynamic defender for our historic Steel Curtain defense in the 1970s.

“As an undrafted rookie Donnie immediately earned the nickname “the Torpedo” for his physical special teams play. Donnie became a starter and a force from the strong safety position both as a tackler stopping the run and a ball hawk having 51 interceptions – a record for the strong safety position. Donnie is now the fifth member of our 1974 rookie class to be inducted.

“We are excited he will be honored with our sport’s highest individual honor this summer in Canton.”

Shell played for the Steelers from 1974-1987.

“I’m really excited about Donnie Shell and Bill Cowher going into the Hall of Fame,” Rooney told KDKA’s Bob Pompeani. “Donnie we felt was long overdue. … we’ve been on cloud nine.”

In addition, former Pitt player Jim Covert is the ninth Panther to be elected to the Hall of Fame. He joins legendary names like Mike Ditka, Tony Dorsett and Dan Marino.

Former NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue made the Pro Football Hall of Fame in his fifth attempt. Tagliabue and former New York Giants general manager George Young made it as contributors.

Ex-Dallas Cowboys safety Cliff Harris and former Cleveland receiver Mac Speedie completed the centennial class.

The class of 10 senior candidates, three contributors and two coaches are part of the 100th season celebration.

Also going into the hall are Harold Carmichael, Steve Sabol, Bobby Dillon, Winston Hill, Duke Slater, Ed Sprinkle, Alex Karras and Jimmy Johnson.

Bill Cowher left an indelible mark on the Steelers’ organization, a fact that was reinforced shortly after Pro Football Hall of Fame president David Baker, on national television, personally informed Cowher that he would be part of the Hall of Fame’s centennial class of 2020.  Cowher and former Cowboys/Dolphins coach Jimmy Johnson are the two coaches who will be included in the 20-member class of 2020. The 10 senior inductees and three contributors in this year's class will be unveiled Wednesday morning on NFL Network, while the five modern-era nominees will be announced on the eve of Super Bowl LIV. 

Art Rooney II, who was instrumental in his late father Dan Rooney's decision to hire the then 34-year-old Bill Cowher to succeed Hall of Fame coach Chuck Noll in 1992, congratulated Cowher on his Hall of Fame election. 

"Congratulations to Bill Cowher on his election into the Pro Football Hall of Fame," Rooney said in a statement released by the team. "One of our most successful coaches in team history, Bill's energy and dedication for coaching was evident in every practice and every game. His Pittsburgh roots were perfect for our organization because he knew the history and passion of our fans, and he wanted to bring a Super Bowl back to his hometown. He accomplished that feat in dramatic fashion in Super Bowl XL.

"Bill was always a family man and made the tough decision to walk away from coaching at a young age to focus on them. I am so happy for his entire family, and I'm sure this summer in Canton will be a special time for Bill and all of Steelers Nation."

Mike Tomlin, the man who succeeded Cowher in 2007, also issued his congratulations via Twitter. 

"I am so happy for Bill Cowher," said Tomlin, who like Cowher has guided the Steelers to multiple Super Bowls. "Bill had an incredible career and left his mark on the Steelers, Pittsburgh and the NFL. The Pro Football Hall of Fame got themselves a great addition with (Coach Cowher). Congrats Bill. You deserve this great honor." 

A slew of Cowher's former players in Pittsburgh also took to social media. Among those former players was Jerome Bettis, who retired after winning a Super Bowl with Cowher at the conclusion of the 2005 season. Cowher also spoke on Bettis' behalf when Bettis received his Hall of Fame ring at halftime of a Steelers' game in 2015. 

Cowher earned induction into the Hall of Fame following a vote taken by the NFL's recently formed "Blue Ribbon Panel" that voted on the coaches, senior nominees and contributors who will help make up the largest induction class in the Hall of Fame's history. Among the members of the panel was Dick LeBeau, a Hall of Fame defensive back who won a Super Bowl as Cowher's defensive coordinator in 2005. 

"Bill has no weak­nesses but his great­est strength is how he was in front of the team and how he in­ter­acts with the team," LeBeau recently in an interview with Gerry Dulac of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "He had the abil­ity to keep ev­ery­body fo­cused on the next snap, the next quar­ter, the next game. He had a rare vi­sion. I thought he was re­ally tal­ented in those ar­eas."

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